Rebecca Soffer, a cofounder of the Modern Loss website and community, was 30 when her mother was killed in a car accident. Soffer took two weeks off after her mother's death and had barely started to grieve before returning to her job as a television producer. Three years later, she received a call from someone asking her to arrange to get her father's body picked up; he'd had a fatal heart attack on a cruise ship while traveling abroad.
Stunned by the trauma of losing both parents within a few years of each other, she again dove back into work shortly thereafter. “Honestly, after each loss I felt like I was dying inside myself, and so few people knew what to do with me,” she says. “Unless you're an incredibly empathic human being, if you haven't gone through profound loss yourself, it can really be difficult to effectively connect with someone moving through it. I felt like a pariah because this topic felt so taboo. If someone asked where my parents were, I'd say, ‘In Philadelphia.' I didn't clarify that they were, in fact, underground there. It was just so much easier to be vague.”
When she did come clean to people who asked about her family, it felt as though the space around her was getting sucked into a black hole. “There are few better ways to silence a conversation than to say, ‘My mom just died,'” she says. “All I wanted was to feel like I could comfortably talk about my reality, not like people felt I might be contagious just because I'd used the word dead.”