The Grief Gallery


Presented by Grief Grit Grace


The Grief Gallery at DesignTO

 Toronto, Canada, Jan 21-30, 2022

During DesignTO, Toronto’s annual design festival, The Grief Gallery welcomed visitors to acknowledge personal and collective losses through the contemplation and celebration of objects: the belongings of loved ones lost. 

This edition of ‘The Grief Gallery’ explores the bridging of distance: Between personal and collective grief, between loss and recovery, between physical locations and disparate cultures, between then and now, and between the dead and the living.

‘The Grief Gallery at DesignTO’ is presented by Lisbon-based grief curator Charlene Lam, who’s originally from New York City, as part of the inaugural FLDWRK x DesignTO Residency ‘6ft (a)part’. It was selected for a Juror’s Choice Award by designer and researcher Samira Matan in the 2022 DesignTO Awards, presented by Yabu Pushelberg.

Add your loved one’s object to The Grief Gallery: The community was invited to contribute to The Grief Gallery’s collection at the in-person exhibition at MADE Design, and via the online gallery wall (ongoing). Fill out the contribution form at bit.ly/grief-gallery-form

Gallery with white plinths and assortment of objects on them

Designer Chairs

The Soy Sauce

Soy Sauce bottle on gallery plinth
Architectural Floor Plan with red pins, threads and labels

My Mom’s House

After she died, the house became my refuge and my anchor, as I found myself largely adrift. In the end, I had to sell the house and empty it of her belongings.

Looking back at the architectural plans for the expansion, I’m struck by the range of associations I have with the rooms and features of the house. Some positive, some painful, all still very vivid in a now-imaginary space.

On Attachment

Soy Sauce bottle on gallery plinth
Architectural Floor Plan with red pins, threads and labels

On Anchors

After a year, I started to feel the weight of being anchored to my mom’s house and her belongings.

I felt like I was drowning.

Sometimes an anchor can stabilize you and keep you safe, keep you from drifting out into the open ocean.

Sometimes, an anchor keeps you stuck, in one place for too long.

And I was stuck. Stuck in my dead mother’s unoccupied house, away from my own life.

It was time to let it go.

– Charlene Lam, grief curator

Red vintage travel bag in a gallery
Tomato pin cushion


Contribute to

The Grief Gallery’s Collection


What objects and belongings did you keep after a loved one died?

Contribute your selected object and stories to The Grief Gallery’s online collection (ongoing).

In Toronto

Individuals in Toronto were also invited to bring an object to be photographed and recorded by the curator.


Silver watch on white background

Laura’s Watch, contributed by Robyn


White Stone from her great-aunt’s farm in Italy where her uncle was raised, contributed by Alex

Model Boat

Model Boat, contributed by Vanessa in memory of her father


Metal Container with Cat Fur, contributed by Vanessa


White Stone from her great-aunt’s farm in Italy where her uncle was raised, contributed by Alex


Model Boat, contributed by Vanessa

Tomato Sauce

Nonna’s Tomato Sauce, contributed by Patricia

Nonna’s Tomato Sauce

“Every year my immediate and extended family would wake up at 5am and get together in my grandparents’ garage to make tomato sauce for the year. It was a serious affair with my nonna, the matriarch, as our fearless leader, dividing up tasks and keeping us all in check so that our labour would be complete in time for pasta lunch.

My nonna was a force: self-assured, loving, commanding, beautiful. I have four jars left of the tomato sauce we made together just before her passing, 9 years ago.

Knowing that you will never be able to taste the food of a beloved one that has passed away is almost unbearable. The jars will likely sit on my shelf for many more years, unopened. The only remaining possibility of having access to those tastes, our collective labour, and her uncomplicated love.”

– Patricia

Contribute your selected object and stories to The Grief Gallery’s online collection (ongoing).


The Grief Gallery at DesignTO 2022

Exhibition Details:

Virtual Tour and Online Show and Tell

The Grief Gallery at DesignTO Festival

Curator Charlene Lam (middle) with Laura and Richelle of FLDWRK at The Grief Gallery at DesignTO Festival 2022. Photo credit: Christine Lim.



Part of NYCxDESIGN, November 2021

An online exhibition exploring the role of the camera in processing grief and loss during New York City’s annual design festival. Three New York creatives who have lost loved ones share their photography-based projects.

The Grief Gallery at LDF21

Part of the London Design Festival and Shoreditch Design Triangle, September 2021

Visitors are invited to explore these universal themes through creative work commissioned in memory of loved ones.


Why a Grief Gallery?

When my mom died 8 years ago, I was working as an independent curator in London. My pop-up exhibitions showcased the work of designers, makers and artists, under the names Creative Clerkenwell and The Creative Edit.

When it came time to pick out an urn for my mom’s ashes, I commissioned a custom porcelain urn from an East London ceramicist whose work I loved.

That was the start of my work as a Grief Curator. Over the years, I’ve commissioned illustrations, paper art and photoshoots in memory of my mom and others’ loved ones. I’ve presented exhibitions in London and Brooklyn about grief and loss.

Channeling my grief into creating and commissioning work from designers and makers has been an incredibly rewarding and healing experience.

After an extended period of grief and loss on many levels, I invite visitors to explore the universal themes of grief and loss through this creative lens. Out of darkness and pain, we can craft beauty and create meaning.

– Charlene C Lam, Grief Curator


Why a grief gallery? Learn More

The Grief Gallery was founded by curator and grief coach Charlene Lam.

Interested in learning more about grief coaching? Get in touch to book a complimentary call.





Join us for The Grief Gallery's monthly grief gathering the last Wednesday of the month.

More grief events from Charlene and The Grief Gallery

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