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Creating a Grief Community with Co-Founder of Modern Loss, Rebecca Soffer (The New York Times, Marie Claire, Glamour, NBC)

by Chelsea London Lloyd
July 28th 2021
Rebecca Soffer is cofounder of Modern Loss, which offers creative content and community addressing the long arc of grief. She is the coauthor of "Modern Loss: Candid Conversation About Grief. Beginner... More
any time I had the ability to choose between feeling like I'm losing my mind or laughing. I will always choose laughing. It is a release. I do not find it disrespectful at all. I think if it is funny to you, it's you just, you dig into that moment when you can because there will be enough moments that are really hard and shitty to have to go through. So you find the levity where you find it. My mom has stage four cancer in her bones and and her breast, my dad's disease was 15 years. He died of a L. S. I made a podcast about death. You like the thing to do and if you're sad by all of this, well you're gonna die too. Mhm Sure what up? Happy week all or sad week y'all. I'm super super stoked because I signed up for grief camp at Experience camps. It starts august 7th in the mountains of san Diego. I've never done this particular camp before and it's a full week, so many thoughts, I would say my biggest fear is that I'm so obsessed.

I never want to come back to my real life. Just kidding. Am I, I don't know. No, my biggest fear is not necessarily crying in front of the kids, but if there's a child who has specifically lost someone too LS or breast cancer, that can be extra, you know, X, Y or Z for me because those are my particular illnesses that my parents have had or had if you're new here, my dad died of a less when I was 19. My mom is currently combating breast cancer as the little intro song has already shared with you now I highly recommend getting on experience camps email list. If you're interested in volunteering next year. We also are interviewing the Ceo experience camps. It'll come out in the next couple of weeks so you can learn more about that now. For today I am super excited to have the co founder of Modern Loss Rebecca. So for she is amazing and she's so funny and we just clicked right away. Modern Loss is one of the biggest grief communities online and I RL it offers creative content and community addressing the long arc of grief.

She is the co author of modern losses book which is called Modern Loss. Candid conversations about grief beginners welcome. I read it cover to cover, I think it's a great book. It's a great gift to give people who are newly grieving or for those who are grieving untraditional kind of losses and by that, I mean loss of teachers, college professors, neighbors, friends, I would say it caters to people beyond who have lost a parent assembly. Rebecca has spoken national IAN lost and resilience at Chicago ideas week HBO Capital One and amazon her writing has appeared in outlets such as the new york times Marie claire, Glamour and NBC. Today we discussed the loss of both of her parents within four years. She lost her mom in an accident at 30 and her dad to a heart attack at 34. So if you are grieving the loss of both of your parents are interested in learning what that might look like at losing someone within a few years time. Rebecca goes into all of those details. Rebecca is also the former producer for the Colbert Report and a Columbia University graduate of journalism alumna.

She lives in N. Y. C. And the berkshires with her husband, Two young sons and labradoodle and she's just awesome. So you're going to just be along for this ride and loving every second. She's funny. She's professional. She's produced fancy stuff Like I said, working for the Colbert show and talking about that and transitioning to having this company and community and getting the word out there. The newsletter is wildly helpful. So check that out. The link is in the subscription, the modern last sub stacked newsletter. And stay tuned for her next book coming out. The modern loss handbook, an interactive guide through loss and resilience coming out next year cannot wait. Or maybe later this year. I don't know, I'll remind you when that happens. I'm obsessed with her. She's so busy. I'm so lucky to have got to sit down with her over zoom. I just instantly clicked with her. I was like, yes, you are my people and you'll just love it. So thanks for being here if you like this episode, sending it to a friend is so appreciated. It's how we get the word out and I think this is a really good one to do that with, have a good week everyone and I'll talk to you next week. Bye Rebecca. Thank you so much for being here.

I'm so excited to speak with you about your grief journey and about modern loss. You are extremely inspiring in the greek community and beyond. So I'm so excited. Thank you for your time. Thank you for being. Thank you. Thank you for being on your own podcast Chelsea. I really appreciate that. No, it's it's it's a pleasure to be here. I'm really flattered that you asked me to join you today. Of course it's going to be so much fun and I already have 70,000 questions, so that's a great sign too. Also interview. So, one thing that I ask everyone who comes on the show is about their goldfish moment and what I mean by that is a goldfish moment being the first time you thought about or conceptualized death in some way. For some people, it was a goldfish. Is there a moment that comes to mind in your childhood goldfish moment? Did your goldfish die? Goldfish moment didn't make you cry? Yeah, that's a very good question. I've never been asked that question and I work in grief. So that's that's that's a real compliment to you. Um thank you the goldfish moment. I mean, you know, honestly, I think that the first real experience that I had with death was when I was I don't remember, you know, losing a pet.

My parents gave our dog away before my dog could die because it was a beagle and it was like terrorizing all the other dogs in the neighborhood. So they sent it to like the mountains where it could roam free. And so I think that my first goldfish moment was actually a human moment, My grand pop, I had emphysema and he had already had a stroke and he died and I was about 11 years old and I remember visiting him in the hospital and visiting him with his track and him like covering it so that he could speak to me and you know, 11 is obviously old enough to know what death is, but it was really the first time that the permanence of it became extremely clear, but I had already been kind of living with the specter of death throughout my whole life because my dad was much older than my mom was and I was keenly aware of that. And so I always kind of was like waiting for my dad to die.

And I know that sounds crazy because he wasn't like that old, but he was much older than the other dads I knew. And so I was, it was always pointed out to me by my other friends, like how much older my dad looked and so I was just waiting. I was like, it was like the whole world was telling me, oh, this is going to happen to you sooner than you think it is interesting. Well the irony being that, that, that it it happened, but it wasn't my dad right? I appreciate you opening up about that and I know that you're wonderful community has been inspired by, I'm sure many things, but specifically the loss of both of your parents. If you don't mind sharing more about that with listeners, I'm interested how the differences of those deaths impacted you and also what it was like to lose both of them within a few years time. Yeah. So I um, you know, I, there's so many amazing empathic people in the world who grow up wanting to become social workers or physicians and healers and you know, just people who helped people through like major transitions in life and I deeply respect them and I, I, you know, I look up to them and I am not one of those people, I you know, want to be a good person and and you know, and and make people laugh and do meaningful things in the world.

But I never envisioned myself doing what I do on a daily basis, which is working in the grief and really like resilience communities until my mom died. I mean that's what changed everything and I was on track to, you know, I'm a journalist, I went to Columbia journalism school for my master's right after that I started working for Stephen Colbert. I really wanted to work in political satire. That's, that's what my goal was. I was producing for the Colbert report And about a year or so after I started working there, I was an original staff member, I came back from the Emmys where we had all gone, we were nominated the first season, we all went to L. A. It was like so much fun, it was so joyful. I flew back to new york airport. My parents picked me up, we went straight to upstate new york for a family camping trip to lake George, which is in the Adirondacks mountains in upstate new york and it's kind of a place where I went every single year, like it's like my place every year, that's my Touchstone.

And I got to spend this great week with my parents reconnecting with them and just hanging out, which was increasingly more precious to me because I was 30. I was living in Manhattan. I didn't have time, you know? Um and this was a really special thing that I got to do and I'm really grateful for that because the night that we packed everything up and left and they drove me back to new york city and dropped me off before they headed back to philadelphia, which is where I, that's my hometown in between dropping me off at my apartment and philadelphia, there was an awful accident late at night and both my parents were in the car and I had just seen my parents. I mean I just kissed them and said goodbye to them and my mother was killed and my father survived and it was a, you know what just a, the sickening moment in my life when I think back, I mostly think of like numbness, which is how traumatizing it was like now now I know enough to know that like, you know the extreme like the level of numbness that you are kind of like correlates to like how incredibly traumatic something is and she was dead and within one second to the next I didn't have a living mother and my mom, her name is Shelby.

She was my best friend in the world. I have a lot of friends. I'm really lucky but she was my person. She was awesome and hilarious and she was supportive and compassionate and quirky and she just got me and I'm an only child. So like she, she really was my person and then all of a sudden I was thrust into this like after and it was so confusing and it was so foreign and I still had to go back to a tv studio and work in comedy and pitch ideas that sometimes like saved my sanity and sometimes maybe want to fling myself out the window right? Because I was like, how can any of you find anything funny? Like you all suck, I hate all of you. Um and clearly I didn't, they're amazing people and still like very good friends with most of them, but no one knew what I was going through, I was the guinea pig at work, I was 30 I was surrounded by contemporaries, you know, your comedian, I was working in like romper room, you know, we were all young, very few of us have had like extreme life happened to us, there was no bereavement leave policy, there was no HR department, I wasn't even getting out there and I really had to like figure out how to navigate this very, very uncharted path for myself with no one leading me along because my dad was like in his own level of hell, he just had the love of his life die and watched her die and he just wasn't there for me, loved me very much, but I was not there for me and I had to figure out how to like go to work every day and pay my bills and do all that and build up a life while being very aware that I was also navigating increasingly profound loss and four years later after my mother died, my dad went on a trip abroad and late at night, he had a heart attack and my brand spanking new husband came back to our apartment late that morning and told me and so within four years both my parents died, I was 34 or and so that's why I say like it certainly wasn't my life plan and the irony being that, you know, I was raised everybody telling me like when dad, you know when your dad dies and even my mom saying like, oh you know, we're just I want to make sure that this is thought through, everything has been thought through for that scenario.

Not even one minute had been spent considering that you know, you have control over nothing and the complete opposite could have happened and that's what happened. My mom died first, thank you for opening up about this. I really appreciate your perspective and I'm wondering what you might say to someone in their twenties or thirties who has lost both of their parents. I would say that if you feel like a tiny, teeny tiny, vulnerable, raw, shaking, little scared zygote that you're not crazy. I was 30 when my mom died and I remember telling myself, well you're an adult, like I mean you're not like a little orphan, you're not, you know, and like when my dad died, I was 34 and I kept telling myself like, well you're not like a six year old, like you have some agency, you know, but it literally doesn't matter.

You know, there's room enough in the world for everybody's loss and everybody's grief and I think that we do a number on ourselves, we say, oh but I'm supposed to be a grown up, you know, it's like I'm supposed to be able to kind of like figure out the support for myself, why do I feel so completely ass backwards and why do I feel so tiny and little and scared and alone? And it's because you are, you're vulnerable and you should be scared because it's a completely new world and you're going to have to figure out your way in it. That's a scary thing. It's a major transition. I mean a frickin move is a major transition like if you move your taus, that's one of life's traumas. If you've had both your parents die by your thirties, just imagine how traumatizing that is to somebody. And I think that the most important thing that I would say to someone is that you you deserve the opportunity to acknowledge how awful it is.

I also would assure you that you are capable of more post traumatic growth and resilience. That you probably realize in the moment, I certainly did not think I was going to move through this and be able to laugh and be Philly and have joy and get like really upset and paranoid and neurotic about the little things and it was really not when I first laughed, it was the moment where I found myself like really neurotic about something that literally had no importance whatsoever, like as like a neurotic new york upper west side, jewish girl, like I was like really worried that I was going to arrive like 20 minutes late somewhere and I was like, oh it's really nice to be nervous about the fact that the 23 train is running late and not worrying about like an existential crisis of how I'm going to get through life without my living parents.

And to me that was like a big moment. Fair. I I love that perspective in that description and thank you for the advice there. I mean there's there's nothing like getting the advice from someone who's been through exactly what you've been through. And so for someone who has lost most of their parents that will be extremely helpful. So thank you. I'm wondering if you can talk a little bit about what it was like losing your mom to an accident versus losing your dad to a heart attack. Was there something that came up for you specifically around those two different kinds of losses, and can you share more about that? Yeah. And you know, I get asked this a lot and you know, I feel like my answers have kind of evolved over the years because grief evolves and loss evolves in your relationship with loss evolves as you evolve as a person. But my mom, her death was so incredibly unexpected. I was literally still wearing the clothes I had been camping in, I was like disgusting. Like I hadn't even showered when I got the phone call that there had been an ax in an accident. The last person I had spoken to before getting that phone call was my mom and it was when I was hugging her goodbye and not even thinking anything of it.

I just assumed I would be seeing her in like five days in Philly at a wedding. And so the trauma of that, the shock of it, the entry point like that that ushering in into like the before and the after of your life and like the before, living with loss and the after which the after is like forever more 24 73 65 and no matter what form it appears, that was very, very traumatizing for me and the shock of it lasted a really long time. I didn't really start like feeling intense pain for several months because I was just so shocked and traumatized and on autopilot and still had to work and didn't know if I should take time off and then I was worried about my dad and I was like a master of keeping myself busy. I worked for a tv show we taped every night, you know, um you know, Colbert was daily, I didn't get home from work until nine o'clock at night. Like I, you know, I, I ran myself into the ground every time we went on hiatus, I would try, would leave the country and we had 11 weeks of hiatus.

So that first year I just was like, I was in Venezuela, I was in Spain, I was in Turkey, I went to South Africa. I mean, I just like, I didn't want to think, I didn't want any space to think I couldn't listen to music because it just evoked to like, I didn't want to feel too much, I was just trying to survive. And so I was kind of, you know, I mean what I now know, it was like pTSd when it started kind of really coming to the surface in the form of really bad nightmares and just like, all of a sudden, like coming back, like thinking about my mom's accident and, you know, it just kind of started feeling so raw and painful many, many months in and also, you know, she was my mom and a lot of people, you know, they're, they're they're they're closer parent is their dad. I was close with both my parents and I was really close with my parents as a team. Like, we were like a little trio, but my mom was my person and she was the buffer between me and my dad, my dad and I were so stubborn, We butted heads, you know, like, just normal, you know, like stubborn person shit, you know.

Um, and she was gone and so my entire dynamic of how I related to the world shifted when she died and the person who I knew was there no matter what was gone. And I think that just had this enormous existential impact on me in addition to how she died, which was very traumatizing. I also did not really know what to do for myself. I didn't understand what I needed. You know, I was new to grief, was like a little, you know, grief fetus, I didn't have anybody guiding me. I didn't know a lot of people who this had happened to. It took me a really long time to start building my team, You know? So when my dad died, I would say that it was so painful, you know? Um, but in some ways, like, I've spent four years waiting for the other shoe to drop and I had, like slept with my phone next to my head for four years because I was just waiting for the call and you know, again, he was older than my mom, but he was very, very young and like, vim and vigor and his mom lived until she was 103.

So I tell you that I was shocked when I found out that he died. I was still shocked and I would say that, yes, it was like, morning, my father missing him. But it was more than that, like the existential struggle of like wrapping my head around the fact that I had no living parents and I didn't have any kids. So it felt like very surreal. Like it literally felt like I was like not tethered to anything and I have a very small family and I don't have my dad has sons from a previous marriage, so I have half brothers, but like there was nobody I could talk to my parents about who was a sibling thing. There was no one I could remember them with in an intimate way. And for me, I would say when my dad, I was just like so much more existential. Like trying to figure out like, oh I really need to know, not just mother myself, but I need to parent myself. I need to be my mom and my dad and my mom and my dad together and let me tell you, I'm still learning how to do that.

I mean, it's been 10 years. I'm still learning how to do that. Yeah, it sucked. You know, we're very good at playing the grief olympics. There's no better scenario. You know? Some people have to deal with long illness and maybe they get to say everything they wanted to say, but they need to watch their person suffer. But some people have to deal with long illness and their person isn't willing to talk about certain things and that's tortuous to them. And then some of us has had to deal with sudden traumatizing death and yeah, we don't have to think about how they suffered for months or years on end, but we never even got the opportunity to say anything. So we need to remind ourselves that all the good things that we said over the course of time, you know, they mattered, they didn't just vanish into into memory. People, you know, are people knew that we love them, but that's a really hard thing. I don't think there's any winning scenario.

I'd offer options. See whatever that is. That was a very, very helpful, inarticulate way of describing the different kinds of losses. You know, I get asked about that too. Like, well you talk to people with different kinds, like what seems to be the most challenging what are the differences and you just you I really appreciate the way that you kind of spelled out the different things because apples and oranges, there is no comparison. It's it's it's a different fruit from a different tree, but they're all rotting and sad, bad fruits that we don't want to eat or something like that so that you can metaphor. It's all it's all it's all like shitty fruit. It's all shitty fruit. But yeah, thank you for that explanation. Rotten apples versus rotted Orange is great, right? Like don't don't really want to taste either of those modern loss. Candid conversations about grief beginners. Welcome is a wonderful book on Loss. I recommend it to everyone to read to purchase a gift, et cetera, et cetera. It is co authored by Rebecca, who you are listening to right now.

Rebecca and her co author Gabrielle, along with 40 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. It is brutally honest, it's inspiring and invites us to talk intimately and humorously about grief, helping us confront the humanity and mortality we all share. You can get this book wherever books are sold. The quote on the front of the book is by Mindy Kaling. It says, I'm not sure how a book about grief could also be witty and entertaining, but modern loss accomplishes just that. So clearly, you know, I love this vibe with the combination of humor and grief. If you're craving more of Rebecca, definitely check out her book and now back to the interview. So I want to shift gears for a second and talk about your incredible community that you've built modern loss. It's also become a book. It's a newsletter with wonderful guests.

There's so much going on if someone has not stumbled across your community yet, I am thrilled for them to listen to this episode. Do you mind sharing in your own words about how you got to where you are and in your own words, what is modern loss? Sure, well, modern. I mean it's a lot of things, but I would say like, I guess the meta description is that it's really a movement that's focused on building community to accompany people along the long arc of loss and helping them to kind of explore it and respect it and engage with it, but also help them to build their resilience and live richly. Not just in spite of that sometimes because of what they've gone through and the more like, well, what is it answer is that yet? We're an online publication, Modern Loss dot com. We run personal essays that are narrowly focused around one aspect of living with loss. And I'm not just talking about the first year I'm talking about. If this happened 20 years ago, you can still be writing about it and we have an advice column.

We have different columns on like grief in the body and financial and therapeutic and all that stuff. Um We are as you said, I wrote a book three years ago with my co founder Gabby birkner. I have another book coming out in april, We do live storytelling events and everything that we do is written in a tone that is very specific. It's very open, it's very engaging. It's very like, let it all hang out, you know, I like to describe it as like, you know, zero platitude and a little attitude. Um we we definitely do not believe that everything happens for a reason. We think that's bullshit. We definitely do not believe that it takes a year. Uh we definitely don't believe that God needed another angel. Um we think that they were doing just fine right here, thank you very much. And what we try and do is, you know, there are all these amazing for a, for talking about grief that are a little bit more clinical or the little more religious or you know, like who knows, like they just have different tones, but I come from the, I am not a therapist world and also I am a very casual person and how I speak mode and also, I mean I was working for Stephen Colbert when my mom died and for me, you know, I got more residents out of reading other people's real vulnerable stories about like the shit show that grief is and also examples of like their own resilience, like what they were doing moments that kind of felt hopeful to them.

I get more out of that than reading like you know sometimes like how twos, I just want to see how other people are moving through this mess because it makes me feel less alone in it and it inspires me and it gives me ideas and it exposes me to other perspectives and ways of thinking and you know, religions and cultures and credos and orientations that I might not ordinarily be exposed to. And so modern loss really came out of that need to kind of fill a white space in the conversation about grief because I'm really sick of the stigma that surrounds grief and loss the last year is the only year in eight years and we launched in 2013 when I was nine months pregnant with my first child. And Gabby was seven months pregnant with her second child were very poor planners. Um, and it's the first year since Covid happened. This is the only year that people don't look at me like I'm a weird morbid person when I tell them what it is that I do.

They, you know, for seven years I got like, oh that's kind of morose or like why would you want to do that? Or that feels really heavy. And I'm always like, you know, dude, I'm really glad you don't need this yet, but like this is not a death project, it's a life project. It's about the people who are left, you know, it's about me, it's about anybody who needs, you know, to feel like they're not alone in this mess and to be assured that somehow things are going to be okay, but not everything is going to be okay because we want to make you feel like you're not going crazy if you don't feel like it's all okay, but we got you and you can fly whatever flag you want to fly as long as it's not hurting yourself or anybody else. So you know, that's what modern losses and I don't shy away from, you know, being snarky in our tone. Well let it all hang out, you know, because I learned really well working at Colbert and also just being a, you know, a huge political satire admirers for my entire life, which is why I wanted to work for him in the first place.

That the best way to engage somebody, engage with somebody about a topic that can be really scary or heavier, overwhelming is really doing it through soft touch and in a way that can be beautiful still but also has warmth and levity and a little bit of inappropriateness depending on who your audience is because you still want to feel like you, you don't want to feel like maybe somebody dies and you have to become the saint or like whenever the conversation turns to death and grief that you have to like use like a loud whisper, I'm probably dating myself, but there's this movie called Better off Dead with john cusack. I mean, I personally think it's like one of the best movies. I think he actually himself hated it. But there's this scene where uh, there is like a family dinner and they're like, did you hear about Diane? And then she goes cancer. Like I don't want the talk about grief to be like that. It's dumb, right? What's so inspiring to me is I'm sure a lot of people out there have these incredible ideas for communities and projects and movements, but you actually did it.

I mean it's, it's, I would argue the largest grief community that I'm aware of certainly one of the largest that exists. The book is published, it's out there. It's fantastic. It's a great, I love when you say it's, you know, beginners welcome. I think it's wonderful. I mean I read the book and I appreciated all the different kinds of stories and I also appreciated that it was a good entry way for people even who haven't necessarily lost a parent or a sibling. But if you lost, let's say like a, a mentor or a college professor or a neighbor. So congratulations on getting your book published and having a second one in the works. Well, the second one be a continuation of essays or will this one look differently if you care sheriff? Yeah, it's gonna look a lot different and I want to speak to what you just said, which is, that's all on purpose because I think that in, you know, we like containers in our society, we like, like, oh, you lost your mom. That is awful. That is your mother. Oh, you had a miscarriage that goes against nature. Like we like trying to like figure out what different things look like and like how you're supposed to feel like the hierarchy of sadness and loss and grief.

But the reality is that if it feels like grief to you, it's real grief. If you lost a mentor that's grief, you deserve to grieve them. You know, if a singer, you love died and you feel feelings of grief. That is grief. Like public figure grief is real grief. That's like a whole thing. It reminds us of our childhood or different parts in our lives. It can kick up different feelings of our personal losses. I mean, what we want to show is that nobody can tell you what feelings of yours are valid or not, screw them. I'm sorry, I feel very strongly about that. Everybody deserves the space to feel acknowledged in the mess that they're going through everybody because I really believe that there's no healing without feeling validated and acknowledged. If you don't feel validated and acknowledged, then you're going to be fighting it and trying to prove it for the rest of your life and you're probably going to get angry and you're gonna get messed up and I'm telling you as somebody who did not feel acknowledged for a while, that it doesn't feel good.

And so I just want to underscore like that's why we deal with all different. I mean, we have pieces on modern loss about people whose ex husbands died and the grief they go through and oh my God God, if only there were a word for like when your ex husband, like what does that make me because like I miss him. I don't hate him or yeah, I actually do hate him, but I'm still grieving him, you know, a lot of our readers on the younger side, they're in their 23 forties because my mom was 30 or my I was 30 when my mom died. Gabby was in her twenties. Um her dad and step mom were killed in a home invasion. And that's how we started modern loss. And so we just want to show that, you know, greek is whatever you think it is at modern loss. We define it as death loss because we're just a very, very small entity. But loss can of course touched so many different things. And I think that that's become painfully clear to us in the year of Covid. We're all dealing with grief of certain varieties. To answer your question about the next book. I'm really excited about it mostly because it was a great adventure to write a proposal in the first month of Covid last year, sell it last june at the height of the Black Lives Matter protests and then write it during this entire year of pandemic, which was incredibly scary and and and also really difficult because I have two little kids and so it's not a collection of essays.

It's it's solo authored by myself. It's called the Modern Loss Handbook. It's an interactive guide to moving through grief and building your resilience. And it's more of kind of like, it's not really like just a journal per se. It's got a lot of really amazing, helpful information that can provide food for thought and guidance through various aspects of your life that will be touched and altered by loss and help you to really resource yourself and stay connected to your person and stay connected to yourself and as important. Stay connected to the world around you. Because I feel like that last one is the thing that a lot of us struggle with, which is like how do we relate to the world when like the world suddenly is on a different access when we're living with loss and it's coming out next april and we'll see. I mean it's I've gotten it's going to be beautifully illustrated. I'm excited. You know, the goal is to really make it like a friend in between two covers, who does not mind if you throw her across the room.

Mm That is epic. I hope that is part of the marketing plan. What you just said because that that should be. That's that's amazing. Well, congratulations. I'm excited that this one I didn't realize was just from your point of view. So that will be incredible. I can't wait to read that and I'll definitely shout it out next april. So I'm sure I'll get emails if if there's still a world next day. But I mean, I'm curious. I'm as curious as you are. We'll all still be here. We'll stand by, we'll just stand by on that one um casual. Okay, you talk about bereavement leave as job protection. Can you discuss modern loss efforts to make it us policy. I was really intrigued by clicking on some of those articles. Oh I'm so excited you asked about that? Okay. Yes. So when my mom died I was told to take take as long as you need but like that literally means nothing when your company has, you know again I was working for a T. V. Show that did not even provide healthcare. So to have the pressure like all of that pressure on my shoulders of like what is as long as I need?

Is it forever or is it one day like what am I allowed to do? What are my parameters? Am I going to get fired if I take two weeks am I going to get fired if I take a month? I don't know. You know there's no road map and there need to be some sort of protections in place at the national level for every single person who works because you know that weirdly really mind blowingly that isn't a thing yet in this country. And so I've been very vocal about the need for job protections. Um you know if you if your son is murdered and you work at a certain type of job, you're expected to get to work tomorrow or else you could be fired. That's literally the way that it can go right now in this country and that's not cool and you know bereavement leave, it's not just about like organizing things for a funeral, it's about sometimes you need to find a new place to live.

Sometimes you need to transfer a car title, other titles, you need to do legal stuff like you need to do things that are nuts and bolts tasks that will enable you to retain custody of your Children or custody of your car, you know, and not have anything repossessed or get kicked out of your home. You know, a lot of people are in this situation and it's not okay. And so, um, I have been very vocal along with many, many other organizations and we have been guided by this phenomenal nonprofit called Evermore, based out of DC. And we wrote an open letter to biden last month as he was considering what he would include in the american families plan policy, which is the big policy, the, you know, family paid leave et cetera that is currently in Congress and hoping we're hoping that it will be passed in the summertime. And we did learn that he did include bereavement leave in the policy proposal. We don't know if it's paid, but we know that it's as of now it's three days proposed leave and to anybody listening thinking what like three days, let me tell you.

Yeah, I hear you. But this is a start and it's very hard to take things away from people once you give them something and if we can get this past as public policy, we go from there and you know, I'm crossing my fingers and my toes and I'm not going to shut up about it, please don't. This is incredible. I actually, I I mean, I feel like that could be a whole hour of talking about leave and what's available in in our country and that's absolutely absurd and you're so right, so thank you for writing the open letter and doing what you're doing in this space. How is your experience at Colbert infused comedy into what you do today? And is there a comedic moment that comes to mind surrounding your grief journey or what you're doing now? Yeah, comedy has been one of the greatest inspirations and motivators for me in my role in, in, in building modern loss and, and you know, guiding it and helping it to grow, as I said, you know, first of all, I think Stephen Colbert is a very compassionate, real person who understands grief and has proven that there is a real power and vulnerability and not weakness in it.

And anytime he opens up about his losses, which were, you know, he, his dad died in a plane crash along with siblings, his mother died a few years ago and I remember this amazing tribute he gave to her on air, there is literally no weakness in talking about this stuff and you can also do it in a way in which it's funny because life is a mess and so it's got ridiculous aspects to it, Death is a mess. So it's got ridiculous aspects to it. So air go, so is grief. You know, it's just one big mess and if you can't find the humor in that it's gonna be a really long, tough ride for you. You know, any time I had the ability to choose between feeling like I'm losing my mind or laughing, I will always choose laughing. It is a release. I do not find it disrespectful at all. I think if it is funny to you, it's you just, you dig into that moment when you can because there will be enough moments that are really hard and shitty to have to go through. So you find the levity where you find it and so it really informed my, you know how I approach the topic of grief because again, like I think that if you bash somebody over the head with doom and gloom all the time or like heavy filters or like just kittens and sunsets, you know, it's like not really, I don't find it very inspiring.

I feel very down and annoyed. Like I'm not feeling as n as that person is and I feel like I don't want to come back to that conversation. I feel pushed away. But I feel like if you know it's like look at what john Oliver does for example, like I watched an episode where I turned on the show and like 24 minutes later I felt like I was an expert in Bitcoin and I liked 24 minutes beforehand, I didn't understand it at all and that's because it was explained to me this dry, confusing, overwhelming topic was explained to me in a way that was so entertaining and so like you know like the context was so relatable and engaging that I listened and I learned and I didn't even realize I was learning until the end until the next day when I totally explain Bitcoin to my friend and I was like oh my God, I'm so brilliant and I'm really not that smart, I really take the same approach to grief. You know your if you do it in the right way, not only do you engage and motivate and inspire people who are going through it, but you really teach everybody else how stupid it is to stigmatize something that is so universal and you really just like make it something that feels more comfortable, more understandable and you make them more prone to being able to support somebody going through it in their lives than not know what to do or say because you see that person more as a person unless as like a grief person, you know, I really believe, you know, I just, I don't want I want to change the culture, I'm not just looking to like help people who are grieving.

I'm looking to help future grievers. So that's everybody. You are changing the culture Rebecca and thank you so much for doing that and I am so, so inspired that you are doing this work in a way that affects the everyday person that also is intersecting with politics, doing open letters and things like that. So thank you for what you're doing. You are changing the culture. Where can people connect with Modern Loss online and how specifically can people sign up for your newsletter? You have huge names and celebrities opening up about their losses every single month, which is fantastic. Can you just share a little bit more about what what that's like and how people can sign up? Yeah, sure. So, um you can find us at modern Loss dot com which is our online publication. We are on all the socials. Um we do have a lot of fun over on instagram. I will say a lot of fun. You know, we always give ongoing invitations to people to share, you know, through our post, through our stories. It's really a big community, like I I know it sounds counterintuitive to say fun, we have fun.

It's like, you know, very connective. You know, you can read the book modern Loss Candid conversation about grief beginners welcome, which is a book of short pieces and cartoons, which I'm super proud of. Um there's a lot of comedians who wrote for that kate Spencer, the host of Forever 35 podcast. Yes Sir Leicester who wrote for girls, like there's just like a lot of cool people in it. And also as you mentioned, we have a newsletter which is a sub stack newsletter. It's I think it's like modern loss dot substack dot com and that's a monthly deep dive that I send out where I really go deep into one topic about loss and you're right every month I feature somebody who's a boldface name in May. It was Cynthia Nixon and yes, I still cannot believe that. And she's, yes, she is absolutely amazing. And we talked about mother laws and we talked about laughter and we talked about expressing, you know, our grief through art. And it was just awesome. And these big names I think are willing to open up to me because it's like, I'm not making money over here.

Like this is not, this is not like a wealth generating venture, this is more of like a social venture. And I think it's clear when you share what you're doing with somebody like they can tell if you're being disingenuous or if you're really passionate about it well, and if you're passionate and you're being, you know, real, you can be passionate about being disingenuous, I guess. And I think it's clear to some of these people that like, yeah, like we're doing good work over here and we're really helping people and I think it's really important for people who are well known and who people to look up to publicly to open up about some of the toughest things in their lives. Because if you see somebody you're like, oh my God, I love Cynthia Nixon. Oh my God, I love you know, c jones who's a poet, I love the oh, they're talking about like the shittiest things and how they move through it. Maybe I can do that too. Like maybe something isn't wrong with me because I think they're really cool. So maybe I can do it and not feel like I'm super lame and so on Substack, I really invite everybody to sign up because a it's free and be there is a premium community where you know, you can pay a very small monthly fee.

It supports all of our content, which is free for everybody. So I would be grateful for that. And we offer virtual sessions all month long. We offer yoga for grief support. We offer mindfulness sessions. We offer conversations with authors and different experts on zoom. And so it's a really great way to have ongoing touch points and you know, I'd love to see some new people on there. Well, thank you Rebecca, I can't wait to shout this out on my own socials and put this in my own newsletter and all the things. And I would love to um do some ads for my podcast for free just talk about it. I like to do mid roll and talk about cool things. So I would love to share this with the with the community. So thank you so much for being here. I mean, I just, I'm blown away by what you're doing and you're you're incredible at just your time is so valuable and I appreciate you opening up about your personal story as well. So thank you again. Thank you for having me right back at you seriously. It it takes it takes a spine of steel to do this stuff. And you know, I'm gonna just, I'm giving you a virtual zoom pat on the back because you know, this is good work in the world that you're doing, the world needs more empathy.

I think it's pretty clear. So, thank you for putting this out there. Thank you so much. Rebecca. I so appreciate it. Yeah. Mhm. My yodo, you only die once.

Creating a Grief Community with Co-Founder of Modern Loss, Rebecca Soffer (The New York Times, Marie Claire, Glamour, NBC)
Creating a Grief Community with Co-Founder of Modern Loss, Rebecca Soffer (The New York Times, Marie Claire, Glamour, NBC)
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