Voices of the Grieving Heart by Mike Bernhardt is a compilation of work that allows a reader to meditate through the words of others during a time that is often the most difficult of our short lives. This is, of course, the grieving process following the death of someone we love. Bernhardt has carefully constructed this book with pieces contributed by other writers and artists, a collaboration that provides a range of touching entries that, in one form or another, readers of all backgrounds can connect with. Broken down into eight sections, Bernhardt gives readers poetic solace with pieces such as Dixie Pines’ heartbreaking ode to suicide in “How So?” to Maggie Jackson’s “My Next Love,” which depicts the defiant desire to love freely against the unrealistic determination to never feel pain again.
I had to set Voices of the Grieving Heart aside for the whole of last week as it touched upon my own grief following the recent loss of a loved one. It was my husband who started to read it out loud to me. Mike Bernhardt gave me a soothing ointment for the soul, and I am grateful for it. The artwork is gorgeous, with several pieces of photography by Cassandra English being the standouts. The sheer volume of contributors is mind-boggling with a headcount of eighty-three. It’s a tribe of individuals coming together as a collective in solidarity and in grief, but also in hope. It is permission to take all the time and space necessary to accept life, moving forward with a chunk of your heart missing, but also a bit of hand-holding so you know that when you are ready, there are others willing to listen. This is a beautiful anthology of work and I imagine many will find solace in its beautiful effort to help heal.
On September 12, I was honored to present a talk about Voices of the Grieving Heart at a monthly Author’s Corner event for the National Association for Poetry Therapy. The audience was primarily mental health professionals who use poetry to support their clients. We talked about grief, what people who are grieving need, and how reading—and writing—poems about our grief can be a mirror in which we can see ourselves with more understanding and compassion.
I read eight poems from Voices, and I led a writing exercise that participants found helpful. This edited video is about 38 minutes long.
On August 23 I spoke to one of the Rotary Clubs of San Luis Obispo, CA about grief, how we can support ourselves and others who are grieving, and of course Voices of the Grieving Heart. You can watch a video of my talk here.
Six contributors to Voices of the Grieving Heart read their poems at this moving and intimate event. We were joined by my friend John Fox as well as special guest Kris Kington-Barker, end-of-life doula and former Executive Director at Hospice of San Luis Obispo County.
On Zoom, of course. On May 23, five British contributors to Voices of the Grieving Heart read their poems, including some that are not in the book. Thank you so much to Rosemary Palmeira, Rose Drew, Maggie Jackson, Gill Garrett, and Yvonne Ugarte! I read a few poems as well, including one from a sixth British contributor who couldn’t make it, Lucy Trevitt.
Have you ever had someone who died appear in one of your dreams? Joshua Black, PhD did his dissertation on the topic of grief dreams. In this podcast, we spoke about grief, about my book “Voices of the Grieving Heart,” and especially about several dreams I had in which my late wife appeared and checked in on me. One of those dreams became a poem, called “Resurrection,” which appears in the book. In the chapter called “The Garden of Dreams,” other contributors also wrote about their grief dreams.