Who I am.

I write about the landscape of grief, nature, and the wisdom of fools. The author of four books, my essays, poems, and reviews have been published in over 50 journals, including in the Huffington Post and Colorado Review. I’ve won the River Teeth Nonfiction Book Award, the Chautauqua and Literal Latte’s essay prizes, and my work has been nominated for four Pushcart Prizes and named a notable by Best American Essays. My account of hiking in Yosemite to deal with my wife’s death, Mountains of Light, was published by the University of Nebraska Press. http://www.markliebenow.com.

Wednesday, March 27, 2024


           I don’t know how to pray. I only know to sit in a quiet place and listen.  - Mark

Monday, March 11, 2024

Find a Bench

              Find a bench where you can pause your busyness.

Thursday, February 29, 2024


 In the morning, before you begin your activities, find a quiet place where you can listen to the day opening up. 

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Dinner Table


Come to the dinner table where you have a place among others who have cancer or are grieving the loss of someone they love. Dine with those who are living with uncertainties and fears. They understand what you are feeling. Here you do not have to explain.

Sunday, December 24, 2023

The Woods at Dusk

 (I posted this last year. I still like it.)

It’s late December and the woods are quiet. 

I stand in my backyard lost in the mystery of trees. Two squirrels chase each other through the snow and deepening shadows. I listen to trees creak in the breeze, and hear the soft click-click-click of empty sunflower shells land on each other, dropped by wrens and finches at the feeder. The magenta of sunset flows across the sky, then shifts to rose. 

Monday, December 18, 2023

Blue Christmas


The holiday season is a time of renewing our faith in people and in matters unseen, scraping together enough hope to get us through the coming year.

But for those who lost loved ones this year, it will be a blue Christmas, a blue Hannukah. 

Saturday, December 16, 2023

Weeping While Sowing

 When we are living with great heartache, it’s difficult to imagine ever feeling happy again. Suffering takes our life over, and we’re tempted to wrap it around like a blanket to protect us from being hurt even more.

This passage in Psalm 126 (echoed in Matthew 21) speaks of two realities of life: sorrow and hope. Someone is weeping, yet they go out to plant a new crop so that people will have something to eat in the future. 

Thursday, December 14, 2023

Grief That Moves Like Water

 I did not understand death or grief until my wife Evelyn died unexpectedly. She was in her 40s when she had a heart attack. Her death uprooted my life and left it in ruins.

As I slowly made my way through the landscape of grief, I began to find words that were capable of expressing the depths and devastation of the grief I felt, and how it flowed and meandered like water.

“Like Water” is my essay on losing Evelyn and how we like to tease Death by taking risks, some of the dangerous, until someone we dearly love dies. It was published this month by the superb Linden Review, one of the few literary journals that is dedicated to exploring the complexities of the word health.

You can read my essay at this link: https://www.lindenreview.com/liebenow-like-water

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Pushcart Prize Nomination


I’m thrilled to share this news with you! 

Under the Sun literary journal chose my essay as one of its nominations for the Pushcart Prize. 

The essay recounts my hike up to the top of Clouds Rest in Yosemite, at nearly 10,000 feet, when I was trying to find a place of acceptance after the death of my wife Evelyn:

Steven Church – “Pooling Resources”

Ren Cedar Fuller – “Naming My Father

Wes Lee – “Maybe Tomorrow”

Mark Liebenow – “Walking West with a Mountain”

Kathleen Melin – “Strangely Wonderful”

Elaine Palencia – “Right Here with E.T.”

You can read the essay at this link:


Mark Liebenow writes about nature, grief, and wisdom of fools. The author of four books, his essays, poems, and critical reviews have been published in numerous literary journals. His work has been named a notable by Best American Essays and nominated for four Pushcart Prizes. Mark has won the River Teeth Nonfiction Book Award, and the Chautauqua and Literal Latte’s essay prizes. He studied English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and creative nonfiction at Bradley University. markliebenow.com

Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Prostate Cancer History

Helen Valier, A History of Prostate Cancer, 2016, Palgrave MacMillan.

    This is the best book I’ve found that covers the scope of prostate cancer—history, treatments, research. There are quite a few articles that deal with specific topics in a limited way, but Helen Valier has brought everything together, and her book answers most of my questions. I say most because her book came out in 2016, and medical advances have continued to occur over the last seven years. One example is the development of the PSMA-PET test that can detect trace amounts of cancer cells that traditional scans miss.

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Lethargy After a Death

  for Colleen

After the death of a spouse or a loved one, lethargy quickly sets in. It’s hard to find the motivation to do anything. The normal activities of living—shopping for food, cooking, cleaning the dishes, doing laundry—feel like a weight that drags our entire body down. 

Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Breast Cancer


Anticipatory Grief

Anne Boyer’s book about surviving aggressive triple-negative breast cancer, The Undying, takes the reader inside what it feels like to endure chemotherapy without any promise of surviving. Boyer covers a wide range of topics—the physical suffering, fears about dying, figuring out how to cope with pain, research into the medical treatments, the philosophy and history of breast cancer procedures, and the social inequalities of a for-profit health care system. 

Wednesday, August 23, 2023


Laurie Fitz, Rick Bernardo, and I were talking on their Connections Radio show recently about how the symbolism and ways of Coyote are helpful when we’re coping with loss and grief.

Wednesday, August 9, 2023

Lost in the Darkness


(a post from four years ago)


            Robin Williams died on August 11, 2014 from suicide. It’s hard to believe that it’s been that long.


Williams was dealing with Lewy body dementia that progresses quickly and is marked by depression, anxiety, paranoia, and hallucinations. His death brought light to a difficult subject, and the discussions I heard afterward spoke of the mental illness aspect of suicide. Recent studies have taken the blame off those who kill themselves, and removed the guilt from family and friends who felt there was something more they could have done to save them.


Tuesday, July 25, 2023


 Birds of a Feather: A Children’s Story of Love, Loss, and What Came Next, by Tom Crice, illustrated by Ellen Rakatansky, 2018.


            The two biggest problems when a child is grieving is that the child’s feelings are often discounted and that adults try to protect the child from feeling pain by lying to them about what happened.

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Dying, Not Dying

 Can I speak about dying if I’m not dying, or do all my thoughts stay speculative rather than grounded in reality? At least, I don’t think I’m dying, and my oncology doctor says I won’t die from prostate cancer. Yet, sometimes men do. The American Cancer Society expects that 288,300 American men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2023, and 34,700 men will die.

Thursday, June 15, 2023

The River of Grief

“The river of grief is the heart of the ocean that continues to surge after the ocean is gone.”                                              - Mark Liebenow

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Seeing Our Life in a New Way

 Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and William James were thinkers and writers, and each of them faced the traumatic death of a person they loved. They responded to grief differently, but the deaths caused them to change direction and each discovered his life’s work.