A Talk with Modern Loss Founder Rebecca Soffer
One thing I took away from an evening with author Rebecca Soffer is that sharing grief helps make it better.
We thank Rebecca, founder of Modern Loss, for coming to our offices in NYC to talk to Blue Spark Financial’s clients. So what is Modern Loss? It’s a book, and a website, but most of all it is a community. ModernLoss.com and @modernloss
I first heard Rebecca when she was being interviewed on NPR in the Berkshires. She talked about her experience of losing her parents when she was young, and what she had done to get past it. She was giving a talk at Edith Wharton’s home called The Mount, and she and several others who have written for this book spoke movingly about their experiences.
Rebecca came from a journalism background, worked with Steven Colbert, and has written for many publications. But she found a calling in helping others through the death of loved ones. This project grew out of experiences with sudden loss, and the struggle to find resources that weren’t too clinical, overtly religious, patronizing or cheesy.
Rebecca and a friend decided to create their own resource that wasn’t any of those things – that was called Modern Loss the website, — which later became this book – They created a place to share the taboo, the funny, and the unexpected that comes with navigating your life after a death.
“Beginners welcome” is the opening.
- Essays from those who have experienced all kinds of loss
- Resources—from probating a will to how to get your loved one off of social media
- Creative ideas for exploring your own loss
- Links to articles about thriving in the face of grief
- Ways to connect with other people
- Modern Loss events
There is no:
- Tips to help you “get over” or “get past” it
- Anything associated with the idea of a “valid” loss. They say “If you feel it, it’s real.”
- The phrase “Everything happens for a reason.” Just … don’t say that, ever.
There are many types of grief, for a parent, spouse, child, friend, pet, miscarriage, and more. Rebecca spoke first about her experiences, and then opened up a discussion, asking our guests about their own grief in her warm way. It was cathartic for all who were there.
Rebecca says she had primarily associated the word “orphan” with waifish Charles Dickens characters. But when she was 30, her mother, Shelby, was killed in a car accident, an hour after dropping Rebecca off from a family camping trip in the Adirondacks. Four years later, her father died of a heart attack while on a cruise to the Bahamas. Suddenly, she was 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 beloved parents’ guidance, along with dealing with the logistical aftermath of each of their deaths. She sought out help that wasn’t overly clinical, patronizing, or sappy, but she couldn’t find it.
And she wasn’t alone. Together with Gabrielle and some other friends, Rebecca decided to form a monthly dinner party called WWDP (Women With Dead Parents, which gives you a glimpse into Rebecca’s irreverent humor). 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. Except “who brought the chocolate cake, and can I get the recipe?” Because if Rebecca “couldn’t have parents, dammit, I could at least have chocolate cake”—not to mention friends who understood the particular nuances of going through the profound loss of parents long 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 working as a producer at Comedy Central and accompanying Stephen Colbert on his quest to get to know all 435 U.S. Representatives, to helping to grow a leading network of Jewish creatives, Rebecca has always found strength in numbers, and bringing those people together. As a writer, she has contributed pieces across media, including Marie Claire, Refinery29, Elle Decor, and Tablet Magazine’s podcast, Vox Tablet, and has spoken at Chicago Ideas Week, HBO, and Experience Camps‘ annual benefit, where she was the 2017 honoree. She lives in New York City and the Berkshires of Massachusetts with her husband, two sons, and labradoodle.
November 13, 2018