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These 'wind phones' are helping people deal with grief by reaching out to their lost loved ones

"It's a beautiful thing to have that hope that your words are riding the wind," author Heather Smith said.

These 'wind phones' are helping people deal with grief by reaching out to their lost loved ones
Cover Image Source: Facebook | CBC Nova Scotia

Phones have become such a necessity in our lives. They are used for texting, calling, googling and even helping with directions. However, there may be many other uses of a phone that are unheard of. People around the world are using unconnected phones to reach out to their dead friends and family, per CBC.



The concept of the "wind phone" or "kaze no denwa" began in northeastern Japan as a way to connect to the dead, more than a decade ago. It was in 2010 when garden designer Itaru Sasaki was grieving the death of his cousin and he wanted a place to release grief. He set up an old-fashioned phone booth in his garden with an unconnected rotary phone inside. "Because my thoughts could not be relayed over a regular phone line, I wanted them to be carried on the wind," he said in a documentary made by Japan's public broadcaster, NHK.

When the country was hit by the earthquake and tsunami in 2011 killing more than 20,000 people, he opened the booth for the public to help his friends and relatives to deal with the grief of losing loved ones. The documentary caught the attention of Newfoundland-born author Heather Smith who wanted to capture that in a picture book. "I was really struck by the children, the children that were entering the phone booth to speak to their lost loved ones," she said.



Smith and an illustrator Rachel Wada reached out to Saski to get his blessing to share his story. He did say, 'Please do so with a strong understanding of the reality of this disaster and just how devastating it was,'" Smith said. "I have a philosophy that children's picture books can deal with most topics and they just need to be told in a gentle way." Smith and Wada published the book, The Phone Booth in Mr. Hirota's Garden in 2019. It has since been used in schools, church services of various denominations and funeral homes. 



"It's a beautiful thing, the wind telephone," Smith said, "It's a beautiful thing to have that hope that your words are riding the wind."



Replicas of the wind phone have reportedly come up in different countries. A website shows that in Canada, it has been installed in Newfoundland, Quebec, Alberta, British Columbia, and now Nova Scotia. Mary Ellen McDonald, a medical anthropologist at Dalhousie University, specializes in grief literacy. "What I love about the wind phone is, it's acknowledging the private nature of grief," she said. "It's in a public place, which is normalizing grief. It is bringing it out and saying it belongs in our world." She believes that Western culture tends to shy away from grief. "We kind of have this social pressure. Keep your grief private and then leave your private place and go into the world, into work, into your faith community, into a shopping center. Leave your grief back in the private realm, don't bring it out to the public."



Recently, a cancer research nurse Allison Young set up a wind phone in East Nashville. Inside the booth, there is a wooden seat next to a ledge, with an antique phone. Moreover, she has kept a hand sanitizer, tissues, a guest book, and a plaque dedicated to Allison's grandparents, as reported by Newsbreak.

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