5 People Opening New Innovative Spaces for Grief

August 30 marks Grief Awareness Day, a day established by grief expert Angie Cartwright in 2014. Cartwright, who lost several family members, says healing can only take place “when grief is not shamed, rushed or tabooed.” She is leading a petition drive to make Grief Awareness Day nationally recognized.

Solace has had the privilege of meeting many people working to normalize conversations around death, dying and grief. Here we share some of our favorites who are opening new ways and places to grieve in community and in nature.

Ned Buskirk, YG2D

Buskirk’s grief over the loss of both his mother and mother-in-law prompted him to begin a journey that started as an open mic poetry show in his basement in San Francisco. “You’re Going to Die” (YG2D) is now a non-profit providing concerts, a podcast and workshops to spark creative conversations and community around death, dying and grief. September events include a monthly open mic in San Francisco and a concert in Berkeley.

Corey Dembeck, Telephone of the Wind

After the death of one of his daughter’s young friends, Dembeck within hours placed a disconnected, rotary phone in an Olympia forest where people could “call” loved ones. He placed the first call to his mother “It’s a little awkward at first, but I walked away, feeling better,” he said. The phone was inspired by a similar one in Otsuchi, Japan visited by thousands. He’s received permission to place a phone booth in the San Juan Island Sculpture Garden in the future.

Dan Fischer, One Last Wave

Fischer was grieving his father when he took his surfboard out near his Rhode Island home and had his father’s name with him. He was inspired to offer this “One Last Wave” experience to others in a TikTok post and received thousands of requests. He’s now brought out three boards filled with names and is continuing to take submissions. He’s busy writing names on a fourth board now. More than 7,000 have taken a ride with Fischer for one last wave.

Stacey Givens, Sideyard Farm

Givens was also grieving her father when she began inviting friends to join her for dinner at her urban farm. The “Lost Table” events grew and became a monthly staple at the Sideyard Farm. The welcoming environment of the farm created a space where grief could be shared. “We all felt kind of lost, we’re laughing, we’re crying, we’re sharing pictures and are able to connect to one another and not feel lonely in our grief.” You can find more information about the “Lost Table” on the farm website.

Crystal Menses, ‘Last Words’

Last year, Menses set up four altars near the Oregon Coast for people to leave letters for those they’d lost through her nonprofit, Activate Arts. She took those letters and has created songs, sharing them in concerts with audiences in historic Portland cemeteries. She aims to “create community around death through song and conversation.” Menses encourages people to bring picnics to the cemetery as people did in previous generations.

Grief is different for everyone. We applaud those finding unique and innovative ways and places for all of us to travel through our personal grief journeys.

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