Two years after a fatal attack on the Afzaal family in London, Ontario, researchers from The Grief and Loss Research Lab (The Loss Lab) at King’s began conducting meaningful interviews with members of The Youth Coalition Combatting Islamophobia (YCCI), a youth-led movement that aims to dismantle Islamophobia and all forms of hate and to bring about positive social change through public education campaigns.

Under the leadership of Dr. Carrie Traher (nee Arnold), Director, and Research Associates Dr. Lisa McLean and Dr. Adrienne Sauder, The Loss Lab is an interdisciplinary research hub dedicated to critical analyses of the effects of death and non-death losses at various life stages. Thanatology, the study of death, dying, grief and loss, is a recent field of academic research. As the only undergraduate program of its kind in the world, the Thanatology program at King’s is uniquely poised to contribute to death and grief literacy locally, nationally and internationally.

In 2023, Dr. McLean and Athir Jisrawi, Research Assistant at the Loss Lab, interviewed members of the YCCI about their experiences of grief, reclaiming power, and activism. This conversation is recounted as an edited dialogue in the chapter, 'It's How We're Leaving Our Mark: The Youth Coalition Combatting Islamophobia and Grief Activism.' 

“Being able to write a chapter on grief activism with Lisa and Athir was a meaningful opportunity to highlight the transformative impact of YCCI's mission and the resilience of our group. Through guided discussions and introspection, [YCCI members] demonstrated how we transformed our collective grief for our friend who was killed into a powerful catalyst for change and advocacy,” says Maryam Al-Sabawi, speaking on behalf of YCCI. “We are especially grateful that through this chapter, others will find inspiration and courage within themselves to create change and develop the resilience necessary to move beyond their pain. We are forever thankful to Lisa and Athir for giving us this opportunity, trusting us to lead, and for their continued support and belief in us.”

Another initiative of The Loss Lab is a study entitled “Picturing Loss, Grief, and Resiliency among Yazidi Refugees in London, Ontario.” Conducted by Dr. McLean, primary investigator, and Dr. Traher, co-investigator, in partnership with the South London Neighbourhood Resource Centre, Yazidi refugees are invited to contribute to a photovoice participatory arts-based project. For this project, participants use photos and descriptive analysis to facilitate the sharing of stories of grief, loss, and resiliency experienced by Yazidis as they seek to re-make their lives in Canada following their violent displacement from their home communities in Iraq. The results of this project will be shared in a public photo exhibit in spring 2024.

The Loss Lab provides students with opportunities to critically reflect on thanatological research, to better understand the significance of research in the field, and to develop hands-on skills. Collectively, participants in The Loss Lab review current research and identify gaps in the literature to apply and extend existing knowledge regarding theory and clinical application. Current research interests include Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID), bereaved university students, and creative interventions for those who are bereaved.

For information about how you can support the work of The Loss Lab, contact

This article was originally published in the fall 2023 issue of the King's Herald.

A mural created by The Youth Coalition Combatting Islamophobia (YCCI) in honour of the Afzaal family was unveiled at the intersection of Hyde Park Road and South Carriage Road in London in June 2022.

Correction: In the original article, a photo credit for the mural (pictured above) was omitted. We sincerely regret this error.