A Younger Generation Finds a New Place To Talk About Mourning
Two Jewish women launched Modern Loss to help twenty- and thirtysomethings start a new conversation about struggling with grief
Both Soffer and Birkner have professional experience relevant to their new website. Soffer, a graduate of Columbia’s journalism school, had been a producer for The Colbert Report. ((She also served as a guest host for Vox Tablet while Sara Ivry was on maternity leave.) And Birkner had worked as a journalist for The Forward and now freelances regularly for the Wall Street Journal. Soffer had been pondering for some time the idea of a site devoted to loss, but her own struggles with grief had stood in the way of what she hoped to accomplish. “I personally wasn’t ready to do this three years ago because I lost my dad three years ago,” said Soffer. “For me, it’s about changing a conversation. Working at Colbert, you’re changing a conversation about politics. For Modern Loss, it’s loss. What has the conversation been, and how can we open it up, and change it, and advance it?” Modern Loss’ goal is to be accessible, modern, and chatty, “because that’s the way we are,” said Soffer.
Since the site launched, Birkner and Soffer have been happily deluged with hundreds of emails and pitches for stories. They heard from surprising voices, like Robyn Woodman, who wrote an essay about her deceased husband, whom she discovered after his death had been cheating on her with multiple women: “For the longest time, I was furious with Max. I wanted to scream and kick and make him answer for his actions. I even imagined him coming back to life, just so I could punch him in the face.”
Esther Kustanowitz’s “Deleting My Mother” describes the ways Gmail’s pesky auto-add feature prompted her to remove her deceased mother’s email address from her contacts: “Even during fleeting moments of webtech fantasy, I was aware enough to know I couldn’t keep torturing myself this way.” Birkner and Soffer also received a letter from an evangelical Christian woman who had lost a close friend and was cajoled by her community to look on the bright side of a 30-year-old woman leaving behind a husband and child. “She felt this extreme pressure to be positive when she didn’t feel positive,” said Birkner. “She didn’t want to hear the traditional religious rhetoric.”
Modern Loss’ attitude of openness helps to attract new writers. “I really liked that both of the founders had their own story of loss, because I knew they would treat myself and everyone else with respect,” said Woodman, who first learned of the site after responding to a query from Tre Miller Rodriguez, a writer and Modern Loss contributor. “The response that I got from everyone [for my article] is exactly why Modern Loss exists. It’s a place for people to come together.”
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