Modern Loss: Candid Conversations About Grief. Beginners Welcome

Rebecca Soffer and Gabrielle Birkner's Modern Loss follows the encouraging success of their online movement of the same name, a much-needed forum for people to engage in open, authentic dialogues about grief. In this eclectic collection of essays, more than 40 contributors share their insights on bereavement with a respectful balance of humor and honesty that focuses on the loss one actually feels instead of what society expects one to feel. The message comes across loud and clear: grief should be experienced in whatever way feels genuine and right, whether or not it is conventionally acceptable.

Modern Loss is divided into sections highlighting topics related to the grieving process. In the section "Data," Soffer coins the phrase "emotional digital sneak attack": seeing an image on Google Earth of one's deceased father mowing the lawn of one's childhood home, for example. Such "digital dust" sometimes can cause anguish, as when Soffer received an e-mail from her deceased mother offering to bake her favorite chicken dish. The message somehow landed in her inbox a year after her mother's death. At the same time, though, having access to such history of a deceased loved one can be comforting and precious.

Soffer and Birkner's easy conversational tone encourages the reader to explore what it means to build happy, healthy and resilient lives despite the repeated shattering of normalcy that is part and parcel of bereavement. To read these stories is to appreciate the relief that comes with sharing experiences and their attendant emotions with others on the same journey. --Shahina Piyarali, writer and reviewer

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