“Modern Loss” and How to Cope

People often bemoan the lack of manuals for the hard and complicated stuff like grief. Well, The Modern Loss Handbook: An Interactive Guide to Moving Through Grief and Building Your Resilience (2022) by Rebecca Soffer might convince those who’ve experienced loss there actually is a guidebook, one that’s been highly praised as useful, candid, humorous, and real.

For starters, check out the comprehensive Modern Loss website. Headings include Types of Loss, Hot Topics, and Advice.

Prior to the handbook we also had Modern Loss: Candid Conversation About Grief. Beginners Welcome (2018) by Soffer and Gabrielle BirknerIn addition to contributions from themselves, the authors provide pieces from 40 others.

Important info 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.

An essential New York Times article by the authors offers a modern glossary reflecting the idea that “Loss is messy, melancholic and often darkly hilarious. It also lingers forever.”

Finally, some pithy quotes from Modern Loss: Candid Conversations:

Everyone will lose somebody they love. And I don’t say that as a threat, I say it as a fact.

Our grief can’t just be buried alongside the ones we love. Even years after our losses, we still have moments of gut-wrenching sadness.

Grief alters us, body and mind, by splitting us in two. It is the only way to live with it and not be destroyed by it.

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