Grief Dialogues

OUR MISSION: Grief Dialogues, an artistic movement, offers a safe space, a compassionate, empathetic environment, to share our honest stories of death and grief


OUR VISION: Through live theatre we begin to erase the stigma surrounding death and grief


OUR GOALS:

  • Produce live theatre experiences that open or change our conversation around dying, death, and grief 
  • Share music and film to help those grieving
  • Publish anthologies of essays, poems, and visual art

OUR MOTTO: Out of Grief Comes Art


Death as a Societal Problem

The number affected by the death of a loved one is staggering. According to the Centers for Disease and Prevention[1], the U.S. records 2.8 million deaths per year. For each death, there are on average twelve mourners. This translates into almost 34 million people in one year alone who deserve to tell their story.

[1] “Deaths and Mortality.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC, January 2020


Grief and the fear of Death have become major societal problems in this country causing extended illness and suffering. Studies1 show a connection between grief and complications such as social alienation and disaffection, depression, violence and abuse, and family breakdowns. In fact, the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) defines grief as a mental illness while other psychiatricists and psychologists are conflicted by this generalization and “illness label.”

Recent publications also report that Americans are reluctant to discuss death yet there is “evidence of the ability of story and of social change to engage people in a meaningful way if trust and respect are built over time.”


Most recently, in September 2015, the Institute of Medicine in Washington, D.C. published “Dying in America: Improving Quality and Honoring Individual Preferences Near the End of Life. Committee on Approaching Death: Addressing Key End of Life Issues.” Their research shows:


As more people in the baby boom generation reach age 65—some 10,000 a day until 2030 (Pew Research Center, 2010)—public interest in and acceptance of information on death and dying will likely increase. This rising interest presents opportunities for reaching people more effectively with tailored information directed at those who access different media … and those for whom lay educators … may be the most effective and culturally appropriate educational approach…


How is Grief Dialogues part of the solution?

Grief Dialogues is an artistic movement to create a new conversation about dying, death, and grief.  Theatre is the great empathy generator.  Using theatre to start the conversation, we build a safe environment. Its goal is to offer compassion, understanding and resources to those who mourn. 

With my collaborators and partners, we give voice to individual grief experiences and to organizations who help people in the process of dying and/or dealing with grief.


Who am I?

I am Elizabeth Coplan, a 40-year public relations and marketing veteran and a member of the Dramatist Guild. I’m also an award-winning writer dedicated to bringing death and grief out in the open. I suffer from profound loss myself, I help others explore their grief through writing, and I am the subject matter expert and curator of Grief Dialogues.


After decades of experience, I arrived at the following beliefs:

  1. Grief is not merely an emotion. It also has physical, cognitive, behavioral, social,and philosophical dimensions.
  2. Grief never ends. It changes. It’s a journey, not a destination nor a single event.
  3. Grief is not a sign of weakness nor a lack of faith/hope.
  4. Art has power. Its power transcends self-interest and relates to the world with honesty and strength, with curiosity and enthusiasm.


Why me?

This project possesses me. The grief stories find me. Each time I talk about this project someone shares his or her own grief journey. Even people eavesdropping one table over, complete strangers, come to me and ask to be involved.


Something is clearly unfolding. Both spiritual and practical. Stories were tumbling out and people were excited to talk, mainly because no one ever asked them with the willingness to actually listen before.


I believe people want to talk about their loss and their own fear of death… even those who never spoke of their grief before.

This desire to share brought home to me the beauty in grief. Beauty you say? Yes, after witnessing the retelling of many death and dying stories as they unfold, and reflecting on my own experiences, I realized in order to grieve, you must first love.


How can the community and/or producing theatre further benefit from a production of the play?

Each community/theatre has the opportunity to submit monologues and plays from local contributors and writers. Our Advisory Council will judge those submissions and endeavor to select one play in each community to add to the local production of The Grief
Dialogues. We will consider each added play for the following year’s updated version of Grief Dialogues.


For more information, please contact:
Elizabeth Coplan elizabethcoplan@gmail.com

 

References

Thompson, Neil, Grief and its Challenges, Palgrave Macmillan, 2011.

Barth, F. Diane.(2012, April) Is Grief a Mental Illness? Psychology Today

Pies, Ronald, M.D. (2018, July) Is Grief a Mental Disorder? No, But it May Become One! PsychCentral

Dying in America: Improving Quality and Honoring Individual Preferences Near the End of Life. Committee on Approaching Death: Addressing Key End of Life Issues; Institute of Medicine. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2015.