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Storytelling, journaling bring comfort from grief

“Tell the story of death and you begin to acknowledge it.”

“The love doesn’t die when the person does.”

“When people die, we inherit their stories.”

These are but a few of the pearls of wisdom a Buffalo mom, Mara Koven-Gelman, and one of her Toronto friends, Liz Pearl, share in the recently released third edition of “Mourning has Broken,” a collection of poems and short essays from dozens of people who have lost a spouse, or parent, or child.

The book came on the heels in 2002 of the death of Koven-Gelman’s first husband, Jonathan Koven, at age 39 of a heart attack.

“I think there’s something here – and Alan Wolfelt talks about that in the foreword – about the power of storytelling. We tell stories of people and we keep their memories alive,” said Koven-Gelman, 52, who will sell and sign copies of the book from 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday during the second annual Local Author Festival on the Larkin Square boardwalk. The book also is available online at

Q. Can you talk about your belief in the importance of journal writing after the loss of a loved one?

I think in those quiet spaces when someone is in such pain, it’s a wonderful relief. It doesn’t solve anything, but somehow to write something down and later to review it is a helpful tool. Anyone can access that.

Over those months after he died, people would write me and talk about a personal loss or stories they knew about Jonathan. I would put that all into the realm of journal writing, which is really helpful, healing.

Q. How have your son, Noah Koven, now 19, and daughter, Maya Koven, 16, adjusted?

They’re doing OK. They have here friends and are connected to our friends in Toronto. Noah went to City Honors and he loved it. Maya is a junior at Nichols and loves it. We can live in hindsight, but I think everybody has adjusted. And they have an incredible stepdad (Irwin Gelman). I think they would say that, too.

Q. One theme I see in the book is that those who mourn are not alone.

The idea is death is inevitable, and the creative writing process has the potential to be a powerful healing tool. The whole hope is to get people to access it.

– Scott Scanlon

On the Web: Read about the difference between grieving and mourning at