Heartbreak to Hope by Kara Bowman

Heartbreak to Hope: Poems of Support for Grief and Loss by Kara Bowman is a collection of original poems designed to help people through the grieving process.

People who are mourning a loss often don’t have the mental ability to focus on books so the short length of a poem is a perfect fit. Each of the poems in Heartbreak to Hope captures a different aspect of grief. Readers will find their experience reflected on the pages in accessible and easily understood vignettes. They will feel less alone knowing that others have experienced the same feelings. They will move through the process of grief, having words for their emotions. And they will treasure this volume, coming back to their favorites time and time again for comfort and understanding.

“Kara Bowman’s Heartbreak to Hope is a wonderfully sensitive and poetic accompaniment as we journey through grief. It captures so much of the darkness and difficulty of that journey while holding out hope that through those difficulties one can still get to a sense of peace–even growth. I wish every individual struggling with grief could have a copy!” -Professor Kenneth J Doka, PhD, Grief Researcher and Author, Grief is a Journey, When We Die: Extraordinary Experiences at Life’s End.

“Kara Bowman understands the inner experience of grieving. If you are looking for a book of poetry that captures the heart of what the journey of mourning is about, this is it. It will mirror back to you the experiences you are having, and it will also help you to teach others what you are going through. If you are deep in mourning, you will see yourself recognized by this powerful book of poetry about the experience of loss. As Shakespeare once said in Macbeth “Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak knits up the o-er wrought heart and bids it break” In Heartbreak to Hope, Kara Bowman has, indeed, given sorrow words.” -John R. Jordan, Ph.D., Grief Researcher and Author, Devastating Losses


I was sitting in a comfortable chair across from an impeccably dressed, petite, white-haired woman. She was crying gently as she described her husband’s death and the sharp pain she felt in her heart whenever she thought of him. She suddenly paused, looked me straight in the eye, and plaintively said, “I just don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to grieve.”

An hour later, a soft-spoken, intelligent young Latino man was in the same spot describing the agony of his life without his mother in it. His face looked desperate as he asked me, “Will this get better? What should I be doing?”

In my work as a grief therapist, I often receive these heart- felt questions. I wrote this poetry collection as a response to my clients and every person who wonders how to help themselves through the difficult process of grief. There are many things to learn but the most important thing to know is that grief is not something we need to do; it is something we simply need to allow. If we feel our feelings without judgment, bathed in self-compassion and allowing in compassion from others, the sharp edges will soften with time.

This collection grew out of the many hours I have spent with people who are mourning every imaginable type of loss, as well as my own experiences of grief. I tried to capture what I have heard: the expected emotions, such as sadness, longing and pain, and the sometimes surprising emotions, like numb- ness, anger and relief. My reflections are offered in bite-sized pieces, each capturing one part of the kaleidoscope-like expe- rience of bereavement, allowing you to take in as much or as little as you choose at one time.

We mourn both acutely alone and invisibly connected to everyone who has ever lived and grieved. In these poems, I hope to name some things you are experiencing and may not yet have words for. I also hope to help you recognize parts of your inner world that you didn’t realize existed. Finally, I hope that, as you read these poems, you will know others have felt similar things and you will feel less alone.

While it is now known that there are no set stages of grief, the poems are organized broadly in terms of some common reactions. The first section reflects when the wound is new, the second when grief has settled in for a long visit, and the third when adjustment to a new reality begins to take hold. As you read, you should find some recognition and comfort in these pages. Like the two clients described above, my wish is for you to ultimately arrive at a place of acceptance, peace and love.

Sample Poem: 

The Surreal

Everything is the same,

but nothing is familiar.

I am plucked from the life I am living,

And ushered into another world entirely.

Not knowing the rules,

not understanding how things function,

not knowing what to do.

I am in uncharted territory because

just as every person is unique,

every grief is unique, too.

Nobody knows how to act,

what to say,

and when to say nothing in this bizarre world.

There are strange forms to fill out

and equipment to return

and clothing to sort through

and estates to settle.

Nobody asked for this existence and nobody wants it.

And yet, here I am,

in this world without a solid ground,

in this world where things keep moving,

in this world with new places, like the mortuary,

and new tasks, like writing an obituary.

The people are different and weird.

Not the same ones as before.

They talk about donating organs.

And bring Yule logs in July.

And ask about power of attorney.

I want my normal back:

my morning coffee on the back porch,

my minor irritation when I’m running low on gas,

my one and only love.

I want to go home to the world I knew.

Kara Bowman, LMFT, CT, CCTP, C-GC, is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who specializes in grief and trauma. She holds advanced certifications in Grief Counseling, Trauma, and Thanatology (the study of death and dying). Kara is passionate about helping people who are grieving through her private practice, as a hospice volunteer, by giving talks to the public and training therapists. Kara lives with her husband in Santa Cruz, California. For more information, please see https://www.griefpoetry.com and www.karabowman.com.