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Health

Living and grieving in the 21st century, how the younger generation copes

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When Rebecca Soffer lost both of her parents in her early thirties, she realized how isolating grief can be. She envisioned a community of younger adults sharing stories, not judgment, in a productive and honest way.

This week on “Take Care,” Rebecca Soffer shares her story and the website that came out of her experience. She is the co-founder and CEO of the website Modern Loss.

A personal, yet public experience

In the span of four years, Soffer lost both of her parents unexpectedly. She found herself an adult orphan in the modern age. With a job, a busy schedule, and many of the stresses of everyday life, Soffer was now living without her parents' guidance and company.

“In this day and age so many of us are living away from the nucleus of our lives. In essence, loss and grief, which is already such an incredibly isolating experience -- because no one can ever truly be in your shoes -- is even more isolating because you are in your own new world away from your foundation,” Soffer said.

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While trying to find help and support, Soffer felt out of place and alone. She tried conventional support groups, but was either far younger or far older than many of the other attendees and therefore hadn’t experienced loss quite the same way.

“It was really hard for me to find people to talk to who just got it,” Soffer said. “It not like there was this bereavement group that was so obvious to me, even in New York City, that was for people who were, say, 32 and lost their parents.”

There were outlets online for those grieving a loss, but Soffer didn’t find comfort in them. Grief websites, groups and forums often took a religious tone or a clinical tone, and didn’t address her needs.

Soffer envisioned a public place to grieve, to connect, to share stories – and even, at times, to laugh at the ludicrous experiences loss can sometimes produce. She set out to create this site herself.

More than stories

Modern Loss was created with 30-somethings in mind, so it provides practical resources. When Soffer lost her mother, she had to go through her estate and plan for the future. When her father also passed, she had to go through all of their belongings – understand what to keep, what to discard, and what to do next.

“For two years, I didn’t feel comfortable giving up, say, a little note from my mom that was just about groceries, because it was too meaningful,” Soffer said. “All of these experiences that I was going though, I just needed to know that I wasn’t the only one out there going through them.”

Content in the right voice

Soffer and her co-founder, Gabrielle Birkner, knew they needed an outlet – a place to go in the face of loss. They wanted content presented in the right voice: practical, really tongue-in-cheek, entertaining, and not ominous. A tone that told them, in spite of all of the loss, it was going to be okay.

"What we want is to eradicate the death taboo."

According to Soffer, it’s not about approaching everything with a tongue-in-cheek attitude, it’s about blowing open the taboo that exists surrounding loss and grief. Soffer believes the internet comes in handy for undoing this taboo.

“I think that what is refreshing about what we’re doing, and what the internet has allowed us to do, is be open about it. Anybody can access our site. Anybody,” Soffer says.

Soffer hopes this ease of accessibility will help those grieving know that the process is an arc – a big arc; that even if the moment is a small one, not a milestone day, it’s still important.

“If we could all acknowledge that grief is a very long and forever process, maybe as a society we become a little more thoughtful.”