by Rebecca Soffer and Gabrielle Birkner
Hailed by Stephen Colbert and Mindy Kaling, this wise, irreverent collection of essays offers a roadmap for navigating grief in the modern age.
Let’s face it: most of us can’t handle talking about death. We’re awkward and uncertain; we blurt out platitudes or say nothing at all; we send sympathy bouquets whittled out of fruit. Enter Rebecca Soffer and Gabrielle Birkner, who can help us do better.
MODERN LOSS grew out of Rebecca and Gabi’s experiences with sudden loss as young adults — when Rebecca’s mother was killed in a car accident and her dad died of a heart attack. Gabi’s father and step-mother were brutally murdered in a home invasion. Both women bonded over their pain and search for resources that spoke to them — ones that were not too clinical, patronizing or, well, cheesy. They didn’t want to be assured their loved ones were “in a better place” and had no interest in chicken soup metaphors in book form, thank you very much.
In this wise and often funny book, Soffer and Birkner, along with more than forty contributors, including Lucy Kalanithi (widow of When Breath Becomes Air author Paul Kalanithi), stylist Stacy London, rocker Amanda Palmer, Girls writer and comedian Yassir Lester, CNN’s Brian Stelter, WNBA All-Star Chamique Holdsclaw, Kim Goldman (sister of Ron Goldman), Michael Greif (director of the 2017 Tony Award-winning musical Dear Evan Hansen) share their provocative stories on themes including sex and intimacy after loss, technology, and the secrets we harbor and uncover. Accompanied by beautiful hand-drawn illustrations and witty “how to” cartoons by artist Peter Arkle, each contribution provides a unique perspective on loss as well as a remarkable life-affirming message: You’re not broken, life will go on, and it can actually be pretty rewarding. There’s also a glossary of terms that therapists probably don’t use but most of us should. (Looking at you, “sadbooking.”)
Inspired by the website that the New York Times hailed as “redefining mourning,” MODERN LOSS is a fresh and irreverent examination into navigating grief and resilience in our time — when we mourn public figures and national tragedies with hashtags, intimate posts about loss go viral, and we receive automated birthday reminders for dead friends.
With their website — and now, with this book — Soffer and Birkner offer the insights of their community to help us cry, laugh, grieve, identify, and — above all — empathize. Beginners welcome.