Mourning Has Broken: A Book Review


I read this book during a time of loss and sadness. When my spirits were so low neither music nor books could enter my heart. Numerous books remained unread, the words and stories therein unable to penetrate the wall. 

Then I recalled reading about Carol Balawyder and ‘Mourning Has Broken’; her book on loss and grief. On a whim I bought it.

My attention was seized from the very first few sentences and as I devoured it within two days ‘Mourning Has Broken’ left a deep and profound impact on me.

The writing is exceptional and beautiful. Poetic in places, full of wisdom. Her words spoke directly to me, then at times mirrored my experiences of loss exactly. I have never highlighted so much in a book since my student days. Nor have I I talked so much about a book – I am sure my family by now feel they have read it too!

Within nine months Carol first lost her mother then her sister, Diana, to cancer.  Years before her father had passed away. As she struggled to cope with the ensuing grief, she turned to writing. These turned into two essays which are collected here in one book. Carol calls them essays; for me the word is too heavy, ponderous.

The writing flows with ease and is never ‘preachy’ in tone. Whilst the book is about how to deal with the pain of losing family members; it becomes much more – a personal exposition of Carol’s life and familial relationships and ultimately ‘Mourning Has Broken’ is as much a book on living and surviving grief as on mourning and loss.

Through skilfully crafted snippets Carol provides detailed images of her life when young with her father, mother and sisters (elder one, Louise). At times funny, at times sad, the overwhelming feeling regarding her parents is one of sadness and mourning – even before their deaths. Always kind, considerate and giving Carol realises she never had the relationship she wanted with them.  Averse to showing any physical or verbal affection she regrets her parent’s lack of hugs and ‘I love you’. Where her father was a secret alcoholic, her mother lived by an array of confusing rules, many of which young Carol inadvertently ran foul. 

pinkrose2The second part of the book opens with the ‘unfathomable’. That after five years of fighting lymphoma her sister’s battle is soon over. As the family and the two sisters gather for Diana’s final days in hospital I cried. The helplessness, despair is portrayed with Carol’s usual deep sincere honesty. 

As she recounts her sister’s fight with cancer (whilst Carol was at the same time also being treated for a ‘safer’ form of cancer) the reader follows her soul-searching; both to understand the past, its guilt, joys and lows and to comprehend present pain. Searching for spiritual meaning, searching for a way to live on. Her self-awareness is at times unforgiving, always touching. 

Throughout Carol’s gentle and compassionate nature shines forth. The book is both heart-felt and heart-warming. 

I cannot recommend it highly enough. It is not, as I thought, a only book for those suffering loss. It is for everyone, whenever. I wished I’d read it earlier. 

Now I will let some of Carol’s wonderful writing in ‘Mourning Has Broken’ provide a glimpse of this life-changing book. 

I know that we were circling, like birds of prey, around his death.

I remember once telling a therapist that my father was my hero. “It’s hard,” he answered, “for any man to stand up to that kind of idolization.”

I love therapy sessions where I am allowed to lie down, just as I love corpse pose in yoga. Why can I not give myself permission to lie down in my own home without a feeling of guilt that I should be doing something else? Something productive?

Morphine. Morpheus. One who shapes dreams. In a dreamlike state but still aware. What are you thinking of in these last hours of your life? What are you feeling? Where are you?

I don’t tell her I think my sister is hanging on like a leaf hangs on to a branch in late November. Sooner or later it will have to let go.

What needs letting go is a future with her.

Death changes everyone.

Before entering a bookstore,  I always ask for guidance that I may find the book which I need to be reading at this time in my life.

Still, at her funeral service, I read these lines from Thich Nhat Hahn: Time is too slow for those who wait/too swift for those who fear/too long for those who grieve/too short for those who rejoice/but for those who love, time is eternity.

Do we ever really bury those we loved dearly? Is there really any such thing as closure?

Mourning, I realize, must come in small parcels. To realize the immensity of the loss at once would be too overwhelming and unbearable. It must be done in bits and pieces of dreams disappearing one sliver at a time.

In the spring before Diana died, she and her partner, Jean-Louis, planted a wild rose bush at our parent’s gravesite. Now, as I walk towards the grave I am struck by the single rose in glorious bloom amidst all the dead ones. My immediate thought is that Diana’s spirit is in the pink wild rose for in her own life, she was a pink wild rose.

In this void, the voice of Karen Armstrong, one of the most progressive thinkers on the role of religion in our society, reaches me. God was not something you could prove with rational thought or words. God was something to be experienced, and you could have this God experience through music, poetry, silence, compassion, and kindness.

“Faith and hope,” she once told me, “are gifts of grace. They are the lighthouse which shines on our days of darkness.” 

carolFrom ‘Mourning Has Broken’ by Carol Balawyder

Note: Use of the quotes are reproduced from the book by kind permission of the author.

RATING:   5 out of 5 stars!

PRICE:        £ 1.99   Kindle       –   Amazon UK          $ 2.99   Amazon US

                     £ 6.02   Paperback – Amazon UK         $ 8.50     Amazon US



90 thoughts on “Mourning Has Broken: A Book Review

  1. Thank you, Annika, for a terrific review of a book I will certainly get. I like that Carol Balawyder’s book is uplifting because at the beginning and the end of all the grief is a need to figure out how to go on living for those of us left behind.

    1. Sharon, you’ve hit the nail on the head with your last sentence – ‘a need to figure out how to go on living for those of us left behind.’ This was very much Carol’s search, as well as an understanding and closure on many fronts of her earlier life. A deeply moving book and really the only one I could read for a few months – everything else just seemed superficial.

    1. Christy, it is a wonderful book fully complete in its own right and the personal intermingled with the spiritual and philosophical lifted it to another level. A real support and interesting valid read whatever ones circumstances. Thank you so much for your comment.

    1. I am reading her books the other way around – looking forward to reading one of Carol’s fiction books on holiday! This one really has helped me and I find myself quoting parts of it to friends and family.

    1. Thank you Luanne, lovely to come across another blogger who has read Carol’s book. It was definitely lyrical, poetic almost in places and yes, a wonderful reminder about the value of living as well as helping to make sense of loss.

  2. Pingback: Mourning Has Broken: A Book Review – Annika Perry’s Writing Blog | writerchristophfischer

  3. JoHanna Massey

    Excellent review. So glad this book showed up in your life when needed. Books have a way of doing that. And now you have shared it with so many, and I just bet some for whom it is just what they need to read right now. All my best to you Annika. 🐞

    1. Johanna, I do hope that others find it of as much help as I did. I also wanted to point out that it read so well for everyone, not just those suffering immediate loss – a thought-provoking and engaging book. Maybe Carol and you are right – the books you need turn up at just the right time! Thank you so much for your warm words.

  4. I’m so glad you found something that touched your wounded heart. I’ve thought of you often. Hope you’re doing better and that your family is as well. Love and hugs coming your way… ❤️

    1. Thank you, Jessica. We are doing better – shaky days and all feels very unreal but think that is how humans cope – otherwise to paraphrase one of Carol’s quotes, it is too much to take in all at once. Thank you so much for your care and love.❤️

      1. That makes sense. I’m not a big fan of Grief, but perhaps that’s why she shows up, unpacks her bags, and parks herself on the couch. So that we can absorb loss a little at a time.

  5. I’m sorry you’ve been going through a difficult time. This lovely book seems to have come along at a time when you needed it most and will probably thus be dear to you forever.

    On a completely different note. . . Annika, I placed a library hold on the book we’re going to read together, The Girl With all the Gifts. It might be a couple more weeks before I get my hands on it. I was recently surprised to learn that The Girl with All the Gifts is dark and at times gruesome. Do you still want to read it with me? I’m in if you are.

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words, Eve and I think you are right. This book came at just the right time, was the first of its type I’ve ever read and on top of that was so well written. Each year I read so many books but years later only recall a handful from each year. This will definitely be one of them!

      I had remembered about the buddy read of this book and so glad you did too.😀😃 The cover and review on the book does not give any hint to the gruesome nature of the book – many thanks for the warning! They only mention the thriller aspect and how gripping it is. With everything that has gone on for me recently I wonder if this is not the best time to read this type of book. Is that okay with you? Warmest wishes and hope you’re having a lovely weekend.

    1. One of the great joys of blogging is discovering other bloggers. I so very much love your blog and your beautiful way of expressing silence, magic and dreams. It is such an uplifting blog that touches our universal souls.

    1. Thank you so much for the reblog Abbie. The title of the book struck me immediately, being a play on words of this famous song. It holds particular resonance for me as we sung it nearly everyday all through primary school (being the headmistress’s favourite). Thank you sharing the link to this version. I hope Carol’s advice on finding a readable format for you works.

    1. Julie, you touch briefly on your loss sometimes in your posts and each time my heart goes out to you. I hope this book might be of some comfort and help to you. Hugs. xx

    2. So sorry, Julie, to hear about the pain from your mother’s passing. Losing a mother is a tremendous loss – it is where we came from and no longer having a mother makes us a little bit less rootless. All the best. Carol

    1. Thank you so much for your comment, Debby. It’s not often I give books 5 stars – but no question about this one. I would love to read your review but couldn’t find it on your blog. Any chance you can post link?

        1. Debby, I had looked around your blog and tried to find it so glad it wasn’t me! You wrote a wonderful touching review, brilliantly summing up the book. I’ll look out for your post next week.

          1. Oh thanks Carol, it’s my pleasure. And I’m glad Annika had asked about my review of your book because I noticed I hadn’t put it up on my blog like all your others. So if you’re buzzing by in the next week or so (after my prescheduled posts) I’ll be featuring Mourning has Broken 🙂 Now go and enjoy yourself! ❤

  6. I have sad feelings for both of you, having gone through tough losses of special people in your lives.
    Carol has been a warm, caring friend and often shows her kindness in wonderful comments. I feel blessed to “know her” through blogging.

    Annika, I am sorry about your loss, may have expressed it before but an sending you and your family warm hugs.
    I think you gave such a fantastic, detailed and favorable review!

    1. Robin, thank you so much for this lovely warm comment. Carol will be heartened to read your words about her. I came across her blog early on and ever since have always been touched by her thoughtful considered comments. She is a seriously talented writer and this book profoundly affected me. Thank you too, Robin for your words and hugs; they mean so much. I’m treasuring the feeling of ‘normal’ days again, albeit tinged with sadness and loss.

    1. It was definitely comforting and whilst reading it felt as if a button was switched in my brain – slowing down from the whirl of thoughts and beginning to find some inner peace.

  7. What a wonderful review of the book. It sounds like one that would be of value to anyone, but especially meaningful for those who are struggling to cope with losses of their own. I think it must be a very difficult topic to write about well, and almost certainly requires tremendous sensitivity and care with tone.

    1. Although it is obviously aimed for people who have lost a loved one, the more I read the book the more I felt it would be one treasured by many. The topic is handled with tenderness, balance and sincere honesty throughout. I felt I learnt so much and am looking closer at several thinkers and writers mentioned in the book. Thank you so much for your comment.

  8. I bought Carol’s book, Not By Design, a few weeks ago and it’s moving up my TBR pile. Now, I’ll have to read this one too. I don’t have anyone to mourn (thankfully), but I love reading how ordinary people handle horrid circumstances with strength and dignity. This book sounds wonderful.

    1. Jacqui, I think this is a book that deserves to be rushed to the top of the tbr pile and I don’t say that lightly. Her own story is extraordinary and told with such honesty and awareness that is hardly seen in writings today. I’m looking forward to reading Not By Design over the holidays which I won earlier. We’ll have to compare notes!

    1. Carol, there you were just having signed off for a well earned blogging break and I come along and ruin all your plans!😀😃 Great about the reblog and many thanks for the shout out. Wishing you a peaceful break.

  9. This is a beautiful review of a lovely heart-wrenching book on loss and grief. Blessings and love to Carol. May God give you strength to deal with your losses. Thank you for sharing this book. I will check it out soon. 😘😗

    1. Thank you so much, Janice. It definitely is heart-wrenching and even tougher to read as this was from a writer whom I feel I know (even if only virtually!). My heart goes out to her. Your warm kind words I am sure will be a comfort to Carol. Thank you so much for your warm and heartfelt comment, Janice. Hope you have a chance to read the book soon.

  10. Anonymous

    Having recently lost my father this post certainly struck a chord and the quotes from the book really hit home. Having read your review Annika I intend to buy this book as I feel that it is not only relevant to how I’m feeling and going through at the moment but will help me understand how to accept and come to terms with the loss.

    1. I am so sorry for your recent loss and can only empathise with your pain and unreal state of mind and soul. If you have the chance please do take a look at this book – I am sure it will help you to see you are not alone and there are many nuggets of wisdom and help. My thoughts and prayers are with you. Warmest wishes.

    2. In the introduction of the book I write this;
      My wish is that whoever may read this book – either in part or in full – will find relevance and be able to draw comparisons with his or her own experience of grief so that in some significant way I may touch and help them heal.
      My warmest sympathies for the loss of your father.

  11. Annika, your review of my book – along with the heartwarming comments above – come at a perfect time. A time when I am pulling back from my writing in order to reflect upon which direction to go with it – if at all.
    A writer’s greatest gift is to know that her words touch her readers.I am so very grateful that my book has been of comfort to you, Annika, in your own period of grief.May your own writing help you in your healing process.
    Thank you for reading Mourning Has Broken and for taking the time to write this beautiful review and post it on your blog. I am very, very touched by your words. ❤

    1. Carol, it was an honour to review your book and to be honest it just about wrote itself – I was scribbling down notes even before I’d thought to write a post. Your story, your words have given me more peace and calm then I have felt in a long time, almost a reassurance it was okay to be feeling the way I am. I hope your time away from blogging and writing will give you the space and quiet to find the answers you seek. Which way you will go forward. You have real talent as a writer but understand there are many more issues to take into account. Personally, I am finally beginning to feel I can work on my writing again – coming back to the blog has helped a lot, especially the contact with everyone here. With warmest wishes

  12. What a wonderful work in dealing with loss. I enjoyed reading the excerpt you shared. It is very cathartic to write about these things, I find myself writing a great deal about it. I lost two grandparents and my father all in the space of three years when I was young. It was a hefty blow that I have felt throughout my life, and of course, on this life’s journey there has been more loss. Thanks so much for sharing this!

    1. Lana, that is a terrible amount of pain and sorrow in anyone’s life, no matter when still so young. I feel I had rather a sheltered life, being in my twenties before my grandmother who I was very close to passed away. That shook me, my world. My son has already lost four people close to him since he was seven – I’ve felt rather helpless not being able to protect him from this pain. You are right this is an inevitable part of life’s journey – I felt this book gave me new skills, insight how to cope, manage, to adjust my thoughts. I am glad that writing about it gives you some comfort and help. Take good care.

      1. I guess the bottom line is loss is so painful regardless of age. I was 10 when my beloved grandmother passed away followed by my grandad, then my dad. So I was a little older than your son. I think the book would be a wonderful resource. xo

    2. No one can escape death and the loss of loved ones. I have found writing about these losses to be of great help in my grieving process. Losing people we love at a young age, like you have, leaves indelible marks on our souls and perhaps makes us grow up a bit too quickly. May you encounter peace and comfort on your life’s journey. ❤

  13. “Before entering a bookstore, I always ask for guidance that I may find the book which I need to be reading at this time in my life.” What wise words and a wonderful way to peruse a bookstore. –Curt

    1. Isn’t it just! I have never followed this approach but next time I go into a bookshop I’ll definitely try it and see where it takes me. Probably to some books I didn’t even know I needed!

  14. A wonderful review, Annika, and so moving. Books about loss and grief always bring peace and relief to me. Loss is a profound experience, and the sharing of it, in my life, has been healing. Congrats to Carol for a heartful book and review. Be well, my friend. ❤

    1. Thank you so much, Diana. This is the first book I have ever read on loss and grief – don’t know if I need to read many more now! I have always feared they would be rather didactic but Carol’s book couldn’t be further away from that approach. It warms my heart if even some of your pain can be helped and healed in sharing and reading. Warmest wishes to you, Diana. You’re often in my thoughts.

      1. I’ve read quite a few, Annika, and most are very anecdotal – even the text books. The human emotions around grief are similar and for me, reading them made me feel more “normal” and less isolated in my experience. That alone was healing. Carol’s book sounds like a great read. Sending you hugs, Annika. ❤

  15. delphini510

    Annika, what a sensitive and beutifully written review of this very sensitive book. I am reading it now and am 3/4 through. Can only agree with all you have said.
    It is helping me also to see clear my own feelings after losses in my life. At times we suppress and go on for that is the only way to cope at the time. Not a good way in the long term.

    The quotes you selected are so strong and comforting. As is the perfect rose.

    1. Mirja, how wonderful that you are also reading this book and I hope it brings you comfort and wisdom. How true that for so many people the only way to cope is to suppress all feelings and continue like a zombie – works for the short term but I alway worry about the longterm fallout. So glad you liked the quotes – there were many more I’d also highlighted! Hugs

    2. Mirja, I am so pleased and grateful that my words are helping you see clearly your feelings regarding the losses in your life. I hope that I will one day have the good fortune to read about your own losses and the strength you have drawn from them. ❤

      1. delphini510

        Carol, your kind answer triggered the answer that probably was just waiting to be seen.
        Writing about the losses; maybe. Yes. Internal debates. Now, I write poetry. Could this
        possibly fit into a poem…or. Will see.
        Interestingly though, when I saw the quote from your book about “the leaf in November”
        I immediately thought of a poem I wrote called “Dancing Leaves”. On the same subject.

        I love the way you say “the strength you have drawn from them”.

    1. Thank you, Jill. This review came spontaneously and nearly wrote itself, I felt so passionately for the book – only the other day I quoted a section to try and help my son and then yesterday I recommended it to my friend who lost her father in Spring. You thoughts and prayers are very welcome and appreciated. A heartfelt thank you.

    1. Bernadette, I must admit I felt quite humbled reading Carol’s book – for two reasons. First the writing is terrific, secondly she is so well read and knowledgeable – I have a list of new books I now want to read as a result!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s