Who We Are

Modern Loss is a place to share the unspeakably taboo, unbelievably hilarious, and unexpectedly beautiful terrain of navigating your life after a death. Beginners welcome.

This project grew out of two friends’ separate experiences with sudden loss, and their struggle to find resources that weren’t too clinical, overtly religious, patronizing or, frankly, cheesy.

Stay tuned for upcoming Modern Loss events in real life. Because misery loves company, and nachos. And margaritas.

What you will get here:

• Essays from those who have experienced all kinds of loss
• Resources—from probating a will to respectfully getting your loved one #off social media
• Creative ideas for exploring your own loss
• Links to relevant articles about thriving in the face of grief
• News about projects we think you’ll love
• Ways to connect with other people who just “get” it

What you won’t get here:

• Judgment
• Tips to help you “get over” or “get past” it
• Anything associated with the idea of a “valid” loss. If you feel it, it’s real
• The phrase “Everything happens for a reason.” Just … no

OUR TEAM:

REBECCA SOFFER

rs-photoRebecca had always primarily associated the word “orphan” with waifish Charles Dickens characters. But when she was 30, her mother Shelby, was killed in a car accident, one hour after dropping Rebecca off from a family camping trip to the Adirondacks. Four years later, her father died of a heart attack while on a cruise to the Bahamas. Lucky him, unlucky everyone else. Suddenly, she was actually an orphan herself.

So much loss at such a relatively young age un-tethered Rebecca. There were husbands yet to meet, puppies yet to adopt, and so many other miles yet to stone—but all of it would have to be done without her own parents’ guidance, along with dealing with the logistical aftermath of each of their deaths. Dear reader, it was bad.

But she wasn’t alone. Together with Gabrielle and some other friends, Rebecca formed a monthly dinner party called WWDP (Women With Dead Parents, obviously). The WWDP conversations were wide-ranging, but the common denominator was a shared understanding. A general “I get it.” No apologies, no accusations, no questions asked. Other than: who brought the chocolate cake, and can I get the recipe?

Because if Rebecca couldn’t have parents, dammit, she could at least have chocolate cake—not to mention friends who understood the particular nuances of going through profound loss way before they expected to.

With Modern Loss, Rebecca hopes to bring that refreshing openness to a broader audience, and community, who could use their own place setting at the table of loss.

Rebecca has been a lifelong organizer of communities both public and private. From getting her masters in journalism from Columbia University, to accompanying Stephen Colbert on his quest to get to know all 435 U.S. Representatives, to helping to grow and nurture a leading network of Jewish creatives, Rebecca has always found strength in numbers, and bringing those numbers together. She continues to contribute pieces across media, including producing the new parenting podcast “Your Other Mothers,” and guest-hosting several episodes of Tablet Magazine’s podcast, Vox Tablet.

Rebecca lives in New York and the Berkshires — a very special corner of Massachusetts — with her husband, newborn son and labradoodle. Keep up with her on Twitter @rebeccasoffer, where she regularly tweets at 3 am while feeding the baby. Contact her at rebecca@modernloss.com.

GABRIELLE BIRKNER

cropped-Gabi Birkner headshot Gabrielle got her start in journalism writing obituaries for a local newspaper. She was 24 and in the newsroom doing that very job, when she found out that her father and stepmother had been murdered during a home invasion.

As Joan Didion wrote: “Life changes fast. Life changes in the instant.” And in the instant, Gabrielle’s life changed dramatically. One minute, she was writing about death at a remove. The next, she was coping with the sudden, violent deaths of two of the people closest to her: planning their double funeral, cleaning out their house, communicating with police and prosecutors seeking justice on their behalf.

For months, she would cry to anyone who would listen: close friends, acquaintances, the woman showing her to the paper clip aisle at Staples, the AOL (it was 2004, people) customer service rep trying to upsell her. The pain was so great, and the burden of living in its midst so heavy.

Relief came not from the Staples lady, but from finding camaraderie in others who had also experienced loss. She joined a support group in Manhattan for families of homicide victims and became involved with a national nonprofit dedicated to supporting family and friends of those who have died by violence.

Gabrielle is an award-winning writer and editor, who has served as digital media director at the Forward, where she founded — and for three years edited — its popular women’s issues blog, The Sisterhood. She was previously features editor, and before that a staff writer, at The New York Sun. She writes regularly for national newspapers and magazines; you can check out her latest articles here. She is also a proud Northwestern University alumna. (Go Cats!)

In addition, Gabrielle serves on the national boards of POMC, a support services organization for family and friends of homicide victims, and the Jewish Student Press Service, the publisher of New Voices.

She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, toddler and labradoodle. (Spot a trend here?) Follow her on Twitter @gabibirkner. Contact her at gabrielle@modernloss.com.

SPECIAL THANKS

This site was brought to life with the help of many supportive people and organizations. We’d like to thank Rachel Sklar and Glynnis MacNicol at TheLi.stChristina Wallace and her team at the Startup Institute, the ROI CommunitySilvi AlcivarBea Arthur, Awesome Without BordersJeremy CaplanTim FederleDanny Forster, Julie Goodman-Khasani, Deborah Kolben, Esther KustanowitzMelissa Lafsky Wall, Stacy LondonSusan McPhersonTereza NemessanyiChristopher Noxon, Jean VidalAnne-Marie Vignola, Esther Werdiger and Jonathan Zacks.