In The Grip Of Grief

Andrew Sullivan —  Jan 12 2014 @ 1:37pm

Mark Slouka struggles to come to terms with the death of his father:

[A]s far as I can tell, there is no after-map or, more precisely, we each begin making our own the instant the news reaches us that someone we loved is gone. Which is unsettling: this terra is your own, brother, and as incognita as they come. Kübler-Ross? Sorry, the good doctor can’t help you here. The run-up to death may have its stages, as clearly marked as the Tour de France, but past Paris, so to speak, for those remaining on the field, things get fuzzy quick.

No search engine can find you. The guides have disappeared—they don’t know this place. And what were you going to do, anyway, Google: “Dad, who used to tip up sixty-pound rocks so I could grab the red-backed salamanders hiding underneath them when I was four”? No, in the aftermath of loss, the ones you love will keep you whole, but the journey is yours alone. Whatever you do, whatever you feel, becomes the map.

So it’s a problem. Because I miss him. Because I want to tear down this fucking wall between us with my hands. Because the angels and the harps don’t work for me. Because it wasn’t Our Heavenly Father who carried me out to the car at dawn when I was a child, who laid me down on the back seat of the DeSoto and covered me, who was there as I grew, who embarrassed me, disappointed me, loved me.

After experiencing the loss of their parents, Rebecca Soffer and Gabrielle Birkner started a website, Modern Loss, for mourners in their 20s and 30s:

“This project is called Modern Loss for a reason,” said Soffer. “Older generations seemed to deal traditionally with discussing loss in different ways than we do. And that is a huge generalization, but I didn’t get from people my age ‘they’re in a better place now,’ or ‘now they’re an angel,’ or ‘it was meant to be’ as much as I did from older people, because they’re used to saying that. They’re used to brushing it under the rug, they’re used to not being open about the excruciating aspects of loss.” Birkner and Soffer envisioned a site that would match their group’s conversations: loose, occasionally sarcastic, wide-ranging, and nonjudgmental. Without encouraging readers to wallow in their grief, it would seek to remind them that there is no expiration date to sadness. “The narrative of the long arc of loss is forever. It doesn’t have to own you, but you’re going to experience it in many different ways. It’s OK, because we still experience it,” said Soffer.