Brooke James: The Grief Coach

Hannah Halberstam
March 25, 2021
Brooke James: The Grief Coach

After Brooke James’s father passed away, she discovered that society is fairly ill-equipped to dealing with, and speaking about loss. She found this strange--everyone will eventually lose someone that they love--yet they are still so uncomfortable conversing about it. Rather than sheltering us from the pain, the silence actually works as a disservice to the bereaved. 

In her search for a solution, Brooke decided that she wanted to write a book on the topic, and even began to write an outline. Soon after, however, she met a podcast executive at an event, and mentioned her book, saying that it could also make a great podcast. The two connected for coffee, during which, the woman encouraged Brooke to create a podcast, and even helped her come up with a name. 

“I’m so grateful to her for encouraging me because it’s been one of the most fulfilling things I’ve done to date,” Brooke said.

On her show, The Grief Coach, Brooke aims to bring up both emotional and tactical aspects of loss. This includes a strong emphasis on administrative aspects of death, as people are rarely prepared to deal with that. Brooke encourages everyone to speak with their parents about their wills, and ensure that they know where they are kept.

“You’d be surprised how many people don’t know where their loved one’s will is,” she remarked. 

When making her show, Brooke hopes that those who are dealing with loss will be able to relate to it, and that those who are grief adjacent will be better prepared when those who they care about deal with grief. 

In fact, Brooke believes that the death-related space can be improved by broadening its access to grief adjacent people. When building her platform, she wanted to make sure that those who are grieving will connect with others’ experiences, and that grief adjacent people will listen, and normalize the conversation.

The greatest combatant to grief silence is grief conversation, and speaking out. Therefore, it is important to share stories, rather than bottle them up. There are so few frameworks available for talking about loss, and so people become uncomfortable, sure that they are grieving “wrong”. This makes the process more painful. 

“I hope that those who are grieving a loved one hear the stories that are shared on the podcast and realize they aren’t alone,” Brooke said. 

As Brooke continued recording episodes, she managed to create a space in which people share their vulnerability with her, and in return, she can be vulnerable. The podcast grew organically, with Brooke spending no time actively promoting it (outside of Instagram), and not investing in marketing. Now, her audience is global, with analytics showing that she has listeners in over 70 countries. 

Each time that she sees a new country listed in her analytics, Brooke becomes excited. Instagram is such a wonderful tool to connect with others, and she’s grateful for the community there. Each share, like and comment has the ability to make a difference. It’s been wonderful to meet people through DM, and she is pleasantly surprised by how receptive strangers are to talking with her.

“By nature, I’m an empathetic and caring person and so it really warms my heart when strangers write me notes that this [podcast] is helping them feel less alone. Grief can be so isolating and because we don’t talk about it, people often feel like they are doing it wrong. They aren’t.” 

Although her podcast isn’t new anymore, Brooke is surprised that she still gets emotional when people share their stories with her. She believes that some people can desensitize themselves to people’s stories. To her, however, it’s always important to dive in and feel all of the feelings.