featured contributors advisory

Emma Payne

Founder & CEO

Emma is a seasoned technology entrepreneur, MIT graduate, and award-winning change-agent, who started building online communities before Netscape was born. Her 25 year career leading online and mobile projects has included building tools to register young people to vote, creating online networks of support for families facing health challenges, and launching North America’s first online crisis intervention line. She also founded a scrappy, action-oriented, national non-profit focused on women & technology, that broke boundaries and developed leaders for 17 years.

Grief Coach combines Emma's passion for mobile technology and engagement, with her deep commitment to giving people the confidence and tools they need to support each other through grief. She knows that, while nothing makes grief go away, supporting someone through loss is powerful and transformative for the supporter, and alters the trajectory for the grieving person too.

Megan Devine

Lead Content Partner

Psychotherapist Megan Devine believes that making the world a better place starts with acknowledging grief, rather than seeking to overcome it. Through Refuge in Grief, Megan advocates for a revolution in how we discuss loss - personally, professionally, and as a wider community.

Megan is the author of the best-selling book, It’s OK that You’re Not OK: Meeting Grief & Loss in a Culture that Doesn’t Understand. Her animated “how to help a grieving friend” video distills a complex issue into simple, actionable steps in just over seven (adorable) minutes. Gaining over 35 million views in its first few months, the animation is now used in training programs all around the world. Her work has been translated into 15 languages, and is featured widely in the media, including the New York Times, NPR, Washington Post, GQ, Harvard Business Review, and The Atlantic. Her latest collaborative project, Speaking Grief, is out now from PBS.

Vanessa Callison-Burch

Product Manager

Vanessa is a Silicon Valley product manager with the heart of a hospice volunteer. As a leader on Facebook’s Compassion team, she was the product manager responsible for shaping how Facebook cares for the accounts of people who have passed away. She has a BA from Stanford University and additionally graduated from Upaya Zen Center’s Buddhist chaplaincy training program with a focus in end-of-life care. Vanessa is excited to continue to explore the intersection of technology and compassion by supporting the Grief Coach team.

Melissa Lunardini

Director of Community Operations

Melissa has been providing support services to children and teens who have experienced the death of a loved one, for over a decade. She developed the largest children's bereavement program in San Diego and Southwest Riverside Counties. With focused interest in violent death (suicide and homicide), Melissa is a sought-after crisis intervention resource for school professionals. Her areas of expertise include childhood bereavement, bereaved students, YA Bereavement, suicide prevention/postvention, and traumatic loss. Melissa began as Grief Coach's Subscriber Support Manager, and now works with our affiliates and partners to grow the Grief Coach family.

Adrian Jones

Lead Engineer

Adrian has over 25 years experience in software development. He loves the challenge of building interactive data visualization tools, from the database to the front-end. He has worked with a wide range of businesses, universities, governmental, and non-governmental organizations around the world.

Jessica Porté

Client Success Manager

Jessica has over 10 years' experience growing and supporting bereavement programs across Southern California. She is well-versed in sales, marketing and community outreach and brings her love for integrating and growing operations to the Grief Coach team. Jessica serves as a grief and loss consultant for the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation’s Children’s Program, supporting children and adolescents who have loved ones impacted by chemical dependency. Her dedication to Thanatology parallels her passion for commitment to building scalable, thoughtful support to people who are grieving.

Beccah O'Brien

Community Engagement Lead

Beccah is passionate about making sure Grief Coach subscribers, clients and affiliates are well cared for within the Grief Coach community. As a grieving sister and daughter, Beccah's personal perspective helps to ensure that our subscribers are well cared for. As an American Indian she also helps to make sure that Grief Coach content is inclusive and culturally appropriate. It was Beccah's own experience with the death of her loved ones that first drove her to find her calling while working as a facilitator for multiple children and teen bereavement support groups. Beccah is a field advocate for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and is passionate about diversity and community mental health.

Shelby Forsythia

Affiliate Program Manager

Shelby is the author of Your Grief, Your Way and Permission to Grieve and podcast host of Grief Book Roundup, Grief Seeds, and Coming Back: Conversations on Life After Loss. Following the death of her mother in 2013, she became a “student of grief” and set out on a lifetime mission to study the human experience of loss. Her work has been featured on Huffington Post, Bustle, and The Oprah Magazine. As a Content Editor with Grief Coach, Shelby is recruiting leading experts and diverse voices to contribute to the wealth of wisdom being shared via text message, with Grief Coach subscribers.

Alica Forneret

Content Strategist

Alica is the Founder and Executive Director of PAUSE, an organization focused on supporting Communities of Color through grief and end of life. She is an educator, speaker, and consultant who has partnered on international events and projects with the likes of The Elisabeth Kubler-Ross Foundation and Columbia University. As an educator, speaker and consultant, Alica facilitates sessions focused on inclusive bereavement responses and how to address grief at work for companies including Google and Nielsen. Alica's role at Grief Coach focuses on building strategies to elevate the voices and perspectives of grief experts whose range of experience can offer different perspectives on grief. She works actively to build the Grief Coach community of partners and experts.

Katie Hawkins-Gaar

Content Manager

Katie is a freelance writer and journalism consultant, and author of many of the Grief Coach texts that subscribers receive. She serves on the Advisory Board for the Rosalynn Carter Fellowships for Mental Health Journalism and writes a weekly newsletter called My Sweet Dumb Brain, about the ups and downs of life. Following the sudden death of her husband in 2017, Katie has written about grief, loss, and mental health for The New York Times, Glamour, Vox, CNN, Fortune, and more. She is passionate about improving relationships through transparency and vulnerability, and is a firm believer that you can learn a lot by simply listening.

Robert Ouimet

Digital Marketing Lead

Robert is a creative technology leader with a background in broadcasting and digital media. An award winning journalist, he was an executive with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation for over 25 years and was at the vanguard of their digital distribution and user generated content. Under his leadership, CBC websites and radio programs won over 30 international awards, including the Prix Italia, New York Festival, and multiple Webby awards.

Robert has worked with clients including Microsoft, The National Film Board of Canada, The First Nations Financial Management Board, The British Columbia Maritime Employers Association, Ecole Chocolat, and Just for Laughs Comedy Festival.