Modern Loss: Candid Conversation About Grief [Beginners Welcome] by Rebecca Soffer and Gabrielle Birkner


[Click the cover below to check it out! If you don’t see a book cover below it’s probably ad-blocker settings]

Inspired by the website that the New York Times hailed as “redefining mourning,” this book is a fresh and irreverent examination into navigating grief and resilience in the age of social media, offering comfort and community for coping with the mess of loss through candid original essays from a variety of voices, accompanied by gorgeous two-color illustrations and wry infographics.

At a time when we mourn public figures and national tragedies with hashtags, where intimate posts about loss go viral and we receive automated birthday reminders for dead friends, it’s clear we are navigating new terrain without a road map.

Let’s face it: most of us have always had a difficult time talking about death and sharing our grief. We’re awkward and uncertain; we avoid, ignore, or even deny feelings of sadness; we offer platitudes; we send sympathy bouquets whittled out of fruit.

Enter Rebecca Soffer and Gabrielle Birkner, who can help us do better. Each having lost parents as young adults, they co-founded Modern Loss, responding to a need to change the dialogue around the messy experience of grief. Now, in this wise and often funny book, they offer the insights of the Modern Loss community to help us cry, laugh, grieve, identify, and—above all—empathize.

Soffer and Birkner, along with forty guest contributors, reveal their own stories on a wide range of topics including triggers, sex, secrets, and inheritance. Accompanied by beautiful hand-drawn illustrations and witty “how to” cartoons, each contribution provides a unique perspective on loss as well as a remarkable life-affirming message.

Brutally honest and inspiring, Modern Loss invites us to talk intimately and humorously about grief, helping us confront the humanity (and mortality) we all share. Beginners welcome.

[I tried to shorten this up because it’s huge, but, it should be read in full to see what it’s about]


Another grief book.

Since my last experiencing reading a grief book which I read after the death of my father, a lot more has happened. Unfortunately.

Months later, my favorite/most beloved Uncle wasted away and lost his battle with cancer, and shortly after a friend of mine took his own life. My 2018 was utterly fucked, to say the least.

I’ve struggled [that’s putting it lightly] with grief since my father died, but adding on to it has made me feel like collapsing under a mountain.

I was initially suggested this book for its look of the sort of ‘death in the digital age’ aspect of grief of current generations, which is what interested me the most. However, that’s actually only a small part of it. That was pretty disappointing, but the book itself wasn’t disappointing – I’m glad I read it. What I liked the most about this book is the validation of what I’ve personally experienced is something that I’m not alone in; and learning about the others like me makes it hurt even just a little less. It’s never that I thought I was alone, but some of the things you feel in grief are so overwhelming it’s isolating.

The story goes back and forth between the two authors, who start each section that the book is divided in, and then those chapters are followed by stories/essays/word-vomits from other people who have grief stories related to that section. The grief described comes in many shapes and sizes, of different kinds of loss of different kinds of people.

In between those sections are mini dividers of illustration information [info-graphics] pages, and single page illustrations made for almost all of the stories.

I’m going to section out different areas a bit to make it a bit more organized.

The illustrations vary to being incredibly sad and depressing, to amusing and actually made me laugh.
Two of my favorites are:

[From the view of a mother who works as a hairdresser in an ‘upscale’ neighborhood where the majority of her clientele complaints about drug users and how they won’t be missed, when her own kid died of a drug overdose]


[From the view of a woman whose brother was pretty much a no-fucks-given astrophysicist prior to his death and didn’t have the best family]


The sections are divided into standard themed sections, and the aforementioned info-graphics. The standard sections will be in a lighter grey, info graphics in this same color font.

-Collateral Damage: But Wait, There’s More? 
*Things to Know Before Scattering Ashes

-Triggers: What Sets Us Off Might Surprise You
*The Do’s and Don’ts of Building Your Crew

-Intimacy: 1 – 1 + 1 = ? 
*Guess Who’s [Not] Coming To Dinner? Surviving Small Talk After A Loss

-Identity: Who We Were and Who We’ve Become
*Survivor Gilt: Creative Ways To use What’s Left Behind Instead of Banishing It to Storage Purgatory

-Inheritance: Property Of: 
*There’s No Will. What the [Bleep] Do I Do Now?

-Data: Loss [and Found] in the Digital Universe
*A Brief Guide to Griefspeak

-Secrets: What they Didn’t Tell Us, and What We Aren’t Telling Others
*Work Life After Loss

-Journeys: Where We’ve Headed but Not Necessarily Ended Up
*Shit People Say, But Really Shouldn’t

-Absence + Time: What Comes Later



Another mini section I’d like to cover is some tidbits from the ‘grief speak’ info graphic that I personally experience deeply, so that section hit really close to home. There’s a lot more, of course, these are just ones that I experience commonly.

Grief Speak terms:

Freudenschade: [Antonym – Schadenfreude] The sting you feel when you see a stranger having brunch/interacting with their [enter loved one here] when yours is dead.

Wakemare: The first conscious moments after a happy dream about the deceased, when you remember – yet again – that they’re gone.

Mourn Mirage: The appearance of a stranger who closely resembles someone who died. May result in your following them several blocks just so that you can see and be near them [not creepy at all.]

Clutterstruck: The inability to remove dead loved ones’ seemingly meaningless items for fear they might later prove to be surprisingly irreplaceable.


Like with the other grief book I read [and I’m sure more I’ll read in the future], this is a very specific book for specific needs. I ultimately recommend it for those who are grieving in some way [this book is more death-specific I will say though, my last read also dealt with divorce, non-death life changes, etc] or those who want to understand or help the grieving, especially if someone close in their life. I’m definitely keeping it to lend out to those that need it.

I give Modern Loss 4/5 Wakemares


[This book had some really great quotes, as well:]

“‘It’s so curious,” the French novelist Colette wrote in a letter to a recently widowed friend, “one can resist tears and ‘behave’ very well in the hardest hours of grief. But then someone makes you a friendly sign behind a window, or one notices that a flower that was in bud only yesterday has suddenly blossomed, or a letter slips from a drawer… and everything collapses.”

“Our relationship isn’t all easy. I mean, marriage generally isn’t easy, but that’s a separate book topic that I am certainly not qualified to write. I’m talking about the burden he has taken on of loving someone with a permanent hole in her heart, and my burden of being the one with the hole. It will never be okay that he didn’t get to meet my mother, or that the only version of my father he knew was the one who, suffering the loss of the great love of his life, could be downright unbearable in his actions.

But Justin was the one who got into the deep muck with me, willing to wade through this mess together and fully engage in a marriage that has four people in it, two of them ghosts.”

[This one made me crash and burn. My bf is the ‘Justin’ in this quote, and except for a mom and dad, my dad and uncle.]

“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. The knowledge of what you have or had is pressed against the knowledge that you will lose it or have lost it.”

“The most frightening thing about watching him die was that I didn’t die also. I was very young – twenty-eight – to learn that there exists a pain so profound that it should kill you, but lacks the mercy. It will get better, everyone told me, which was the last thing I wanted to hear and the last thing I wanted to be true. I wanted to stay in that place, close to him, close to the epicenter.”







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