Hi! I’m Charlene
GRIEF COACH | SPEAKER | CURATOR
After my mother died suddenly in 2013, I leaned into my creativity and instincts as a curator to guide myself through grief.
Now I help other people with their grief and experience of loss. I share my Curating Grief framework to help people heal in a creative, accessible way.
I want to tell you about my mom.
In the same way that you may desperately want to talk about your loved one. To remember them as they lived, to savor the good times, to make sure they’re not forgotten.
My mom Marilyn was an amazing woman who enjoyed international travel, delicious food and helping people. (She was training to be a social worker when she died, reinventing herself in her 60s.) I personally think the world lost a lot when she died — I sure did.
Dealing with the practical and emotional aftermath of my mom’s death — her house, the estate, the paperwork, all the belongings — was the hardest and loneliest period of my life.
Almost 10 years after losing her, I now help other people with their grief — because none of us should have to go through this alone.
Can you relate to:
- Feeling burdened by all the physical stuff
- Being overwhelmed by the many decisions we’re faced with making
- Conflict with relatives about the stuff and the decisions
- Putting your own grief and life on hold to take care of everyone and everything else
- Feeling resentful about a lack of support
- Avoiding dealing with boxes of “too painful” items
- Missing the one person who would have supported you in the way you want and need
The exact circumstances of the loss and your relationship with the person who died will vary, but these situations are familiar to many.
IN MY CASE, THE FIRST BIG OBSTACLE I HAD WAS CLEARING OUT MY MOM’S DREAM HOUSE.
IT’S A COMMON PROBLEM. I HAD AN UNCOMMON SOLUTION.
“If I was to curate an exhibition about my mother, which 100 objects would I choose?”
That’s the question I asked myself when I was faced with the impossible task of clearing out my mom’s 3,000 square foot dream house. After she died, everything in that house became precious, and I couldn’t imagine letting any of it go.
When my mom died, I was working as an independent curator in London, producing exhibitions featuring the work of designers, makers and artists. Giving myself a creative brief was exactly what I needed to start making decisions. That question “If I was to curate an exhibition about my mother, which 100 objects would I choose?” was a useful question — and a beautiful question.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but it gave me a path to healing.
With my Curator hat on, I managed to empty the house to sell it. And a year after selling it, I did present an exhibition about my mother, in London in 2015. It was the memorial I really wanted to give her.
That first exhibition in 2015 was the start of The Grief Gallery, my platform for exhibitions and events. And it was the start of my grief work.
I believe we are ALL curators after a loved one dies.
When I decided to start helping other people with their grief, I analyzed WHY it was so helpful to curate my mother’s belongings.
I found all kinds of connections with contemporary grief research, like Continuing Bonds theory, Meaning Reconstruction theory, and principles of Narrative Therapy. We can geek out about the science of it if you’d like, but essentially:
- I found ways to stay connected with my mother. Not in a woo-woo, seance way, but in an integrating her memory into my life way.
- I made intentional choices. Recognizing the choices we have in the face of circumstances outside our control is important.
- I chose how I wanted to remember my mother and by extension how to define my relationship with her.
- I was conscious about which stories I had and told about my mother (and myself). I shifted the narrative about her life and her loss.
I now help my clients to make similar shifts. I integrated all I’ve learned from hard experience and my training into my Curating Grief coaching framework. I work with clients worldwide via Zoom, and also offer in-person coaching here in Lisbon, Portugal.
I designed the Curating Grief coaching framework to help people heal in a creative, accessible way.
WORK WITH ME
UNPACKING YOUR GRIEF AND LOSSES
Have you made space and time for your grief? Whether your significant loss(es) are months, years or decades ago, you might have unacknowledged or unprocessed grief that’s weighing you down. Let's unpack so you can feel lighter and more equipped to move forward.
CHOOSING WHAT TO KEEP AFTER A LOVED ONE DIES
Struggling with hard choices after the death of a loved one? How do we decide what to keep, and what to let go of? I can help.
CREATING THE MEMORIAL YOU REALLY WANT TO GIVE THEM
Facing a significant date? Whether it's a birthday, the anniversary of a death, or a major holiday, creating a memorial or commissioning artwork can be the best way to remember your person.
Or contact me at hello[at]charlenelam.com
I get more aha's from you than my therapist!
It's felt like an impossible task to try to sort through my mom's belongings. I feel like I have a place to begin this process now and it doesn't feel so terrifying. Thank you.
I love this approach as a creative outlet for grief - I'm totally inspired.
MY UNIQUE APPROACH
Curating Grief After Loss
Curating Grief™ is the name of my unique approach to grief support. Why "curate" grief? Find out in this video.
We can do hard things, with a soft heart.
I help people to navigate grief with grit AND grace after the death of a loved one.
Because we will have hard experiences and hard choices after bereavement. We need grit to get through them. And grace –– for ourselves and for others.
Here’s my hope for all who have been bereaved: To emerge from the practical and emotional aftermath of losing a loved one with your health, career and relationships intact, so you can move forward to live your own fullest life.
Because a beautiful life on the other side of loss IS possible.
I can help you get there.
Ways to Work With Me
1:1 grief coaching for personalized support
Online worldwide or in-person in Lisbon
For groups, events and conferences
Online or in-person
THE GRIEF GALLERY: Installations and events about grief, death and loss
Charlene is a thought leader with a fresh, unique voice on how we can hold space for our grief –– and I could not be more grateful for her contributions to the grief, end-of-life and creative industries.
Charlene was a guest speaker on a Motherless Daughters Community call and wow! — she delivered so much more than we ever could have imagined! Charlene is creative, innovative, and warm, and her story is instantly relatable. Call participants raved about her visit for days
Charlene is a wonderful speaker! As part of a panel at the Good Grief Festival, she spoke eloquently and movingly about her mother’s death, exploring the ways we can intentionally curate our grief and connect with those who have died through objects and places. Charlene and the other members of the panel were universally praised for their warmth and wisdom.
I am a certified grief coach, curator, speaker, and the founder of The Grief Gallery. I help grieving people to feel lighter and less burdened by all the physical and emotional "stuff” after a loss, using the lens of curating.
After my mother died suddenly in 2013, I leaned into my creativity and instincts as a curator to guide myself through grief. I developed my Curating Grief coaching framework to help people process their grief in a creative, accessible way.
My certifications and ongoing training include Claire Bidwell Smith’s Grief and Loss program, Megan Devine’s Grief Care training through PESI, What’s Your Grief’s continuing education, and the Portland Institute of Grief and Loss programs in using art and meaning reconstruction in grief work.
I'm the author of the forthcoming book Curating Grief: A Creative Guide to Choosing What to Keep After a Loved One Dies. My podcast guest appearances include Grief Out Loud, the Feminist Wellness podcast, and the What Works podcast with Tara McMullin. A proud Chinese-American New Yorker (like my mom), I'm currently based in Lisbon, Portugal.
Get in touch hello [at] charlenelam.com
MONTHLY GRIEF GATHERING
Join us for The Grief Gallery's free, supportive grief group gathering the last Wednesday of the month, 2pm ET (7pm UK).
CURATING GRIEF PODCAST
- Listen to the Curating Grief podcast
Need help with grief? I can help.
Get in touch: Email hello [at] charlenelam.com
Note: Coaching and coaching consultations are not a substitute for counseling, psychotherapy, psychoanalysis, mental health care, substance abuse treatment, or other professional advice by legal, medical or other qualified professionals. If you are experiencing a mental health emergency, contact 911 or your local emergency services.