Grief and Modern Loss: Two Books/Resources

Current resources that offer honest, straightforward info aimed at helping those affected by grief.

I. Megan Devine, It’s OK That You’re Not OK: Meeting Grief and Loss in a Culture That Doesn’t Understand (2017)     

As therapist Megan Devine offers on her Refuge in Grief website: “If your life has exploded into a million little bits, you don’t need platitudes. You don’t need cheerleading. You don’t need to be told this all happened for a reason. You certainly don’t need to be told that you needed your pain in order to learn something about life.”

Devine lost her male partner to an accidental drowning when he was 39. Contrary to what our culture sometimes demands, she notes, “Grief no more needs a solution than love needs a solution.” Also, “Some things cannot be fixed. They can only be carried.”

Other selected quotes from It’s OK that You’re Not OK:

There is not a reason for everything. Not every loss can be transformed into something useful. Things happen that do not have a silver lining.

When you try to take someone’s pain away from them, you don’t make it better. You just tell them it’s not OK to talk about their pain.

Acknowledgment–being seen and heard and witnessed inside the truth about one’s own life–is the only real medicine of grief.

If you can’t tell your story to another human, find another way: journal, paint, make your grief into a graphic novel with a very dark storyline. Or go out to the woods and tell the trees. It is an immense relief to be able to tell your story without someone trying to fix it. The trees will not ask, “How are you really?” and the wind doesn’t care if you cry.

When someone you love dies, you don’t just lose them in the present or in the past. You lose the future you should have had, and might have had, with them. They are missing from all the life that was to be.

II. Rebecca Soffer and Gabrielle Birkner, Modern Loss: Candid Conversation About Grief. Beginners Welcome. (2018)

In addition to contributions from themselves, Rebecca Sofer and Gabrielle Birkner provide pieces from 40 others. About Sofer and Birkner (Shondaland):

Both women lost their parents when they were young adults: Birkner’s father and stepmother were murdered when she was 24; Soffer’s mother and father died four years apart when she was in her early 30s. The two women, both writers, found space for their grief, rage, and confusion in a weekly gathering of other young women who’d lost their parents (aptly named ‘Women with Dead Parents’). Six years after their first meeting, Soffer and Birkner took that community worldwide with their online publication Modern Loss, allowing even more people to share their stories and find help in navigating what it’s like to be the one left behind after a death.

Birkner had received (per her Shondaland interview) paradoxical pieces of advice regarding her own healing. Both turned out to be helpful to her process.

One was: Don’t expect too much from yourself. My friend told me, ‘Get up, brush your teeth, and be proud of yourself for doing it. Everything else is icing: bills, laundry, writing, whatever. Icing.’ And my grandmother, who’s my father’s mother, who had just lost her son, said to me, ‘You don’t have to expect too little of yourself.’ My friend gave me permission to be kind to myself, to pace myself, to assess where I am, to breathe, to be proud of getting up every morning. My grandma gave me permission to forge ahead in spite of everything, to keep my foot on the pedal at work and to forge ahead in my career.

Check out the authors’ New York Times article offering a modern glossary reflecting the idea that “Loss is messy, melancholic and often darkly hilarious. It also lingers forever.”

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