MODERN LOSS: Candid Conversation About Grief. Beginners Welcome

by Rebecca Soffer and Gabrielle Birkner

About the book

Hailed by Stephen Colbert and Mindy Kaling, this wise, irreverent collection of essays offers a roadmap for navigating grief in the modern age.

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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 Hansenshare 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.

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About the authors

Rebecca Soffer

Rebecca Soffer is the cofounder and CEO of Modern Loss. She is a former producer for the Peabody Award-winning Colbert Report. Rebecca has spoken nationally on the themes of loss and resilience at venues including Chicago Ideas Week, HBO, and Kripalu. She is a Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism alumna and contributes regularly to books, magazines, and other media. Rebecca lives in New York City and the Berkshires with her husband and two children.

Gabrielle Birkner

Gabrielle Birkner is the cofounder and executive editor of Modern Loss. She is a graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and writes regularly for national newspapers and magazines. She has served as managing editor at the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, director of digital media at the Forward, and features editor at the New York Sun. Gabrielle lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two children.

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