Coffee with John

A mourner heals, expands circle through conversation

By Jodi Werner Greenwald | Photos courtesy of John Mejia

John Mejia first reached out to Ballantyne Magazine in 2017. At the time, he shared a Zumba Glow benefit party honoring his wife Larissa who was undergoing breast cancer treatment. Now, two years after her death, he channels his grief into an interpersonal connection project he calls Coffee with John. He tells more about his journey here. We have lightly edited his responses for clarity and brevity.

How did this project come about?

What prompted the idea was the challenge and difficulty of dealing with the physical and emotional void. Not wanting to join a grieving group for my own reasons, I met with two friends on separate occasions. The experience nourished my spirit and prompted me to “officially” announce it within my network and actively seek to meet people outside my circle.

What do you talk about during your coffees?

I let the conversations go where they go. I don’t dictate a topic or come ready with a set of questions. I have had conversations where people share personal stories, ending in tears, and others that have been filled with laughter.

How many have you held so far?

As of the beginning of August, I have had 68. My goal for 2020 is to meet 40 people. My ultimate goal for the project is 150 and perhaps turn this experience into a book.

How do online and in-person coffees differ?

Virtually, I have been able to chat with people in my native country of Colombia as well as with friends in New York, Florida, Atlanta and Washington, D.C. What is lost is a level of intimacy that in-person meetings offer.

How have the coffees helped you with your grieving?

Grieving is such a complicated and individual process. Connecting with others has helped me explore and express my vulnerability and face the world instead of hiding in my shell. That has been of tremendous help.

How have they impacted your creativity?

They have challenged my comfort zone, leading me to learn new things and discover new adventures. The epitome of that was me taking an improv class because of a deeper connection I made through this project.

Anything else you want to share?

You are never alone on your journey. If you are dealing with loss, grief and other emotional turmoil, you can reach out to others, seek professional help and connect with people who can help you.

Learn more and connect with John:

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