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Tuesday, April 17, 2018 - 7:00pm
Modern Loss: Candid Conversation About Grief. Beginners Welcome. Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062499189
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Harper Wave - January 23rd, 2018

Tuesday, April 17 at 7PM

speaking & signing
Modern Loss

With literature from The Christi Center

With storytelling by the following contributors:

Stephanie Noll

Carolyn Cohagen 

Nishta Mehra 

Paul Normandin (MOTH StorySlam winner)

Kate Caldwell (produces the monthly show Testify)


Join Modern Loss authors Rebecca Soffer and Gabrielle Birkner for an evening of community and no-holds-barred storytelling about grief -- the good, the bad, the ugly, and the hilarious.

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 including Lucy Kalanithi, singer Amanda Palmer, and CNN's Brian Stelter, 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.


Gabrielle got her start in journalism writing obituaries for a local newspaper. She was 24 and in the newsroom doing that very job, when she found out that her father and stepmother had been murdered during a home invasion.

As Joan Didion wrote: “Life changes fast. Life changes in the instant.” And in the instant, Gabrielle’s life changed dramatically. One minute, she was writing about death at a remove. The next, she was coping with the sudden, violent deaths of two of the people closest to her: planning their double funeral, cleaning out their house, communicating with police and prosecutors seeking justice on their behalf.

For months, she would cry to anyone who would listen: close friends, acquaintances, the woman showing her to the paper clip aisle at Staples, the customer service rep trying to upsell her. The pain was so great, and the burden of living in its midst so heavy.

Relief came from finding camaraderie in others who had also experienced loss. She joined a support group in Manhattan for families of homicide victims and became involved with a national nonprofit dedicated to supporting family and friends of those who have died by violence.

Gabrielle is an award-winning writer and editor, who is currently a senior editor at 70 Faces Media. She was previously features editor at The New York Sun, and director of digital media at the Forward. She writes regularly for national newspapers and magazines; you can check out her latest articles here. She is also a proud Northwestern University alumna. (Go Cats!)

She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, two children and labradoodle. (Spot a trend here?) Follow her on Twitter @gabibirkner. Contact her at


Rebecca had always primarily associated the word “orphan” with waifish Charles Dickens characters. But when she was 30, her mother Shelby, was killed in a car accident, one hour after dropping Rebecca off from a family camping trip to the Adirondacks. Four years later, her father died of a heart attack while on a cruise to the Bahamas. Lucky him, unlucky everyone else. Suddenly, she was actually 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 own parents’ guidance, along with dealing with the logistical aftermath of each of their deaths. Dear reader, it was bad.

But she wasn’t alone. Together with Gabrielle and some other friends, Rebecca formed a monthly dinner party called WWDP (Women With Dead Parents, obviously). 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. Other than: who brought the chocolate cake, and can I get the recipe?

Because if Rebecca couldn’t have parents, dammit, she could at least have chocolate cake—not to mention friends who understood the particular nuances of going through profound loss way 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 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 numbers together. She has contributed pieces across media, including Marie Claire, Refinery29Elle Decor, and Tablet Magazine’s podcast, Vox Tablet, and has spoken at Chicago Ideas Week and Experience Camps‘ annual benefit, where she was the 2017 honoree.

Rebecca lives in New York and the Massachusetts Berkshires with her husband, toddler and newborn sons, and labradoodle. Keep up with her on Twitter @rebeccasoffer, where she regularly tweets at 3 am because she barely sleeps these days (see the part about the toddler and newborn). Contact her at

If you cannot attend the event and would like to order a signed copy of the book, add the book to your cart and put SIGNED COPY in the comments field at checkout. We ship all over the world!

Thank you for supporting Gabi Birkner and Rebecca Soffer and your local independent bookstore!