Women’s History Month: These women are changing the grief game

interviews Mar 19, 2023

In honor of Women’s History Month, we are shining a spotlight on some women who are changing the grief game (there’s two words you probably never thought you’d see together). These women inspire us to continue to bring conversations about grief and grieving to the forefront, and push the envelope on how we approach grief support, research, and education. 


We’ve had the pleasure of connecting with some of these incredible grief leaders already, and we hope to welcome the rest of these powerful women to Grieve Leave in the future. And now, without further ado… 


1. Tembi Locke


Author & Producer, From Scratch | www.tembilocke.com | @tembilocke 

We can’t talk about grief game changers without talking about Tembi Locke. You might recognize her name from her bestselling memoir and Netflix film, From Scratch. Subtitled A Memoir of Love, Sicily, and Finding Home, Locke’s memoir is a raw and real depiction of her love story with her late husband, as well as her journey through grief and grieving. Locke was her husband’s caregiver before he passed, and has since gone on to dedicate herself to transforming the way America handles grief and illness, from giving TEDx talks on the topics of love to launching The Kitchen Widow, an online platform that reclaims the lost art of comfort to support those confronting illness and loss by focusing on nourishing the body, heart and soul. Through the platform, Locke shares recipes, resources and inspiration to make the journey through illness and grief more bearable and more human.

Sharing the intensely personal story of your own grief requires incredible amounts of vulnerability, and Locke’s courage has helped to support essential caregivers and bring the grief conversation to the mainstream and to our living rooms on television. 


2. Charlene Lam 


Founder, The Grief Gallery | www.thegriefgallery.com | www.charlenelam.com | @curating_grief

Here at Grieve Leave, you know how passionate we are about trying on all different grieving hats, and finding peace in the unexpected. For Charlene Lam, losing her mom suddenly in 2013 caused her to lean into her creativity and curatorial instincts to grieve and guide herself through the healing journey. So many of us have experienced the immense stress and reopening of wounds that is brought on by clearing out a loved one’s home or space. The Grief Gallery was born out of Lam facing the impossible task of emptying her mother’s house, when she asked herself: “If I were to do an exhibition about my mother, which 100 objects would I choose?”

Not only did that question help Lam finally make needed progress clearing out her mother’s belongings and start her grieving journey, but it sparked an idea that’s turned into an art and cultural movement. The Grief Gallery believes that we are all curators after a loved one dies, and presents exhibitions, installations and events featuring the belongings of loved ones lost during international design festivals. Lam also works as a certified grief coach, where she uses her “Curating Grief” framework inspired by The Grief Gallery to spotlight the objects left behind after a loved one dies as a powerful source of connection, awareness and healing. 


3. Nnenna Freelon 


Jazz Singer and Host, Great Grief Podcast | www.nnenna.com | @nnennafrelon

Nnenna Freelon’s gorgeous music is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the incredible impact she’s making on the grief community. If you haven’t had the opportunity to listen, her 2021 album, Time Traveler, chronicles her experience losing her husband to ALS, but instead of trying to get rid of the grief, the album’s songs are about letting grief take root and flower. Freelon intended Time Traveler to be a journey through the past, where she allows the listener to truly be curious about their grief and the feelings and memories it brings up. Since then, Freelon also started Great Grief, a podcast dedicated to exploring grief, loss, and healing through music. Freelon is changing the game by creating a space for grievers to explore their grief and remember what they’ve lost in a loving light. 

We’ll leave you with a quote from Time Traveler that many of us grieving can relate to, “I love you in a space where there’s no space or time…lead me there…let me be a time traveler.”


4. Marisa Renee Lee 


Author, Grief Is Love | www.marisareneelee.com | @marisareneelee

Grief Is Love helped us feel seen in a world of many grief memoirs. Her voice is needed and beloved. Marisa Renee Lee is poignant, calm, and relatable and uses her experience grieving her mother, a pregnancy, and her cousin to offer wisdom to those grieving. In the book, Lee guides readers through the pain of grief while teaching them how to hold space for grieving and learn to love their loved one even more in death than in life. Grief Is Love also approaches the still often unexamined topic of Black grief and the unique impact of grieving in the Black community.  Lee writes about compounded grief, which is something many of us can relate to (and something we spoke about in our IG Live with Karla J. Noland.) Lee’s work to help others navigate their grief, and to raise awareness for the needs of grievers in marginalized communities, is making an impact far and wide. She’s a real grief gamechanger. 


5. Dr. Julie Shaw 


Certified Grief Educator and Founder, Hello I’m Grieving | www.helloimgrieving.com | @helloimgrieving

Dr. Julie Shaw is one of the amazing women in the grieving community who we’ve been lucky enough to connect with. Dr. Shaw lost her sister to Lupus in 2020, and left in the aftermath full of grief and confusion of where to turn next, Dr. Shaw launched Hello I’m Grieving, a community dedicated to raising awareness and visibility for grief. Using her expertise and endless compassion, Dr. Shaw holds space for her community to share their stories and support each other through grief. 

Have you ever heard of a grief tsunami? Dr. Shaw shared a great quote on her website: “When grief hits, you can never be prepared for the grief tsunamis that bring difficult emotions from the depths of your soul to the soft waves of beautiful memories.” Beautifully explained, Dr. Shaw.  


6. Dr. Peggy Whiting 


Professor, Counselor, Grief Researcher | NCCU

Dr. Peggy Whiting is a researcher, professor, and runs a clinical practice in crisis, trauma, and grief counseling. Professor Whiting is a pioneer and trailblazer in grief education. In 2016, she received the University of North Carolina Board of Governors Excellence in Teaching Award, after she developed graduate campus and distance education courses in grief, trauma and crisis counseling that are now required in the clinical curricula of all three universities where she served. 

Dr. Whiting’s own personal journey inspired her work, which began in 1984 with a two-year doctoral internship assignment through Vanderbilt Hospital Pastoral Care counseling hematology patients and their families. She was profoundly moved by the often-neglected needs of the bereaved and those providing care to them, which led to her groundbreaking research and coursework development. 

Dr. Whiting is a member of and previously held leadership within the Association for Death Education & Counseling, whose mission is “promoting excellence and recognizing diversity in death education, care of the dying, grief counseling and research in thanatology.” Dr. Whiting is still a changemaker these days, currently conducting research for a national study examining grief education in accredited counselor education programs and a qualitative study on how NCCU students with an incarcerated family member might experience ambiguous/disenfranchised grief. 


7. Kate Bowler 


Author, Professor, Public Speaker | www.katebowler.com | @katecbowler

Everything happens for a reason. Everything happens for a reason? Understandably, that quote is difficult for many of us grievers to relate to. It’s extremely hard to believe that the loss of a loved one or a medical diagnosis can be meant to be, and that’s exactly why Kate Bowler works to challenge this idea in her work. Bowler was diagnosed with stage IV cancer at the age of 35, when she was already well on her way to success as a professor and NYT bestselling author. Through her writing and her podcast, Everything Happens, Bowler combines her faith and contagious optimism to help others focus on gratitude and find blessings and hope in the imperfection of life. Bowler is a fellow Durhamite and Duke alumna, and a Duke professor. We’re so lucky to have a game-changer like her. 


8. Nora McInerny 


Author, Bad Vibes Only, and Host of Terrible, Thanks For Asking | www.noraborealis.com | @noraborealis

Terrible, thanks for asking. How many times have you been in the depths of grief and someone has innocently asked you how you are? We get it. And so does Nora McInerny. McInerny is widowed, and self describes her work as, “centering around emotional honesty, embracing bad vibes and the duality of being a happyish person in a hard world.” It takes guts to go against the grain of toxic positivity and optimism. McInerny is honest, raw, and hilarious, and the grieving community needs her fresh perspectives. 


9. And lastly, we want to honor all of YOU.


Just by being here and joining our Grieve Leave community, you are changing the culture around grief and grieving. YOU are amazing. You are the reason we’re inspired every day to wake up and keep doing the thing. You are changing the lives of other women in our community and in the world through your strength, wisdom, and vulnerability. You are a grief game changer. 


Happy Women’s Month, ya’ll! Grieve on. 



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