Culture Karma: Few Degrees of Separation

Randy Kraft

This is a message to the many people in Laguna Beach who knew and cared about Danita Crivello and who mourn her passing.

In the general culture of grief, only the immediate family – parents, children and grandchildren, spouses and siblings – are sanctioned as mourners. The second tier of friends and colleagues stand behind them at a memorial service and join them with casseroles and condolences, before we go home and go on to mourn privately. We all grieve but we do not have in this country a common culture for grief, so we’re on our own.

I know this too well. Last year I lost a nearly life-long friend. He was like an adopted big brother, the sibling I never had. His absence left a terrible void. I was with the family when he passed, in North Carolina, and returned to California soon after, where I have quietly marked his passing with occasional tears, private reminiscence, and the painful recognition that we are all aging and face too many such losses in the years to come. I was not an official mourner. No one asked me how I was doing, as I asked his wife regularly. No one offered a shoulder or a handkerchief. No one asked me to share my fondest memories. Until last week, when I lit a memorial candle to honor the one-year mark, I did nothing and said nothing. A stoical mourner. After all, I was just a friend.

After 9/11, counselors descended on Manhattan to support all those who suffered that tragedy, and there were many. The nearly 3,000 that perished left behind many more thousands left to deal with their losses, as well as immediate family, and it was this collective cost, beyond trauma, that required consolation. The therapeutic professionals knew that and responded immediately. Even those of us who did not experience a direct personal loss felt those fatalities as if our own, especially those of us living in New York City or Washington D.C.

In some way, Danita Crivello’s loss touches Laguna Beach as a community. I’m told her sheer determination to stave off the cancer was an inspiration, and those who know her speak of her enthusiastic outlook on life. When I first relocated to town six years ago, one of my neighbors shared her anguish over Danita’s battle, so even though I didn’t know her, I knew of her and rooted for her. She was a highlight of “Lagunatics” and members of No Square Theater were profoundly saddened that her passing coincided with the 2012 performance. They too had hoped for one more spotlight to shine on their friend.

In a community where we are all connected by so few degrees, we have to mourn our losses. Take the time to grieve. Talk with friends or see a grief counselor. Shed the tears you need to shed. Smile at the happier memories. No point to hide. It hurts and it’s okay to hurt, for anyone who feels the loss. By acknowledging her absence, you celebrate Danita’s life.


Randy Kraft is a freelance writer who previously covered City Hall for the Indy and pens the OC BookBlog for

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