Two women who both endured the deaths of their parents at early ages channeled their grief into a new website called Modern Loss, intended as a forum for twenty- and thirtysomethings struggling with grief and mourning.
For both women, the loss of a parent was both tragic and lonely. Well-meaning friends dropped away, unsure of how to provide comfort or sensitively approach the fraught subjects of death and mourning. Surviving family members were far away, and New York could be a difficult place for young women juggling career and relationships and mourning. “For so long I felt stigmatized. I felt like everyone knew. It was in the newspaper,” said Birkner. After her parents’ deaths, Soffer said, “I would go to parties and I would feel like the onus was on me to make everybody feel super-comfortable about what had gone on.” She briefly joined a support group for people who had lost their parents, only to find herself surrounded by people over 60.
Then a friend who knew both women, and who had also suffered a similar loss, introduced Soffer to Birkner. Soon they had formed the nucleus of a group of young women who had lost parents or loved ones and needed somewhere to talk through everything from inheritance issues to parents’ dating lives. With an impish sense of humor, they named the group WWDP—Women With Dead Parents.
WWDP was a source of comfort for both Birkner and Soffer during a period of sorrow and uncertainty. “The more I started talking about my loss in public, the better I felt, and the more sane I felt,” said Soffer, who eventually realized that she wanted to recreate the feeling of a trusted space for sharing about loss. “I can’t even tell you how many dating experiences all of us have gone through, marriages, children, job changes, we’ve leaned on each other for all of that,” said Soffer of WWDP. “That’s what made us realize, if this is what we’re getting out of it, then why don’t we create an online extension of that?”
The women launched Modern Loss in November. Containing personal essays, advice columns, how-to guides, and reader submissions, the site is an all-purpose gathering spot devoted to the subject of mourning and loss. Birkner and Soffer, who received some of their funding from the Shusterman Foundation, see Modern Loss as a nondenominational, nonjudgmental online community for those experiencing grief or those interested in learning more about it.