On April 9, Rabbi Jennifer Kaluzny, Rabbi Michael Moskowitz and guest speaker, Rebecca Soffer, for a candid, warm, and even humorous conversation exploring Rebecca’s book The Modern Loss Handbook — and the global movement to destigmatize the universal experience of grief while encouraging people to find meaning and live richly.

“The Modern Loss Handbook” offers a welcoming space in which to grow thoughts and feelings as they evolve and create a personal roadmap toward resilience. With warmth, wit and disarming humor, Rebecca and the rabbis will unpack the wisdom of the book and discuss how the long arc of loss can be woven into our lives in a way that is practical, creative, comforting, provoking, and, finally, hopeful:

Modern Loss: An Evening of Community & Candid Conversation About Grief Featuring Rebecca Soffer
Join Rabbi Jennifer Kaluzny, Rabbi Michael Moskowitz and guest speaker, Rebecca Soffer, for a candid, warm, and even humorous conversation exploring Rebecca’s book, The Modern Loss Handbook, and the global movement to destigmatize the universal experience of grief while encouraging people to find meaning and live richly.The Modern Loss Handbook is what author and Modern Loss cofounder Rebecca Soffer wished she had after her parents died, offering a welcoming space in which to grow thoughts and feelings as they evolve and create a personal roadmap toward resilience. With warmth, wit and disarming humor, Rebecca and the rabbis will unpack the wisdom of the book and discuss how the long arc of loss can be woven into our lives in a way that is practical, creative, comforting, provoking, and, finally, hopeful. You can purchase your own copy of The Modern Loss Handbook via Amazon here (www.amazon.com/dp/0762474815).This event is intended for adults and will include a conversation with Rebecca Soffer, moderated by Rabbis Jennifer Kaluzny and Michael Moskowitz, followed by strolling refreshments. Due to the generosity of donors, there is no charge to attend, but advance registration is required. Please RSVP by Monday, April 8th.A livestream of this program will be offered. A registration prompt will ask if you intend to come in person or attend virtually to provide an estimate of in-person guests. All participants will be emailed a link to the livestream the day of the program. Please note, the program will not be record and only available live.

Here is Rebecca Soffer's introduction from Modern Loss: Candid Conversation About Grief. Beginners Welcome.

Eight hours after I'd learned my mother, Shelby, had been killed on the New Jersey Turnpike, my best friend's husband, Paul, found my vibrator.

It was 2006, the day after Labor Day. While the rest of the country was getting ready for a busy fall season, we were in my Manhattan apartment getting ready to plan my mother's funeral. Paul and his wife, Taifa, attempted to pack a bag for me. I was single, freshly thirty, and suddenly motherless. And all I could do was curl up on my college-era Jennifer Convertibles sofa at 7:30 a.m., watching an old Scrubs episode while my friends quietly organized around me.

My mom had stood in this very living room only nine hours earlier, happy and healthy. She and my dad had dropped me off en route to Philadelphia, my hometown, after our yearly camping trip on Lake George in upstate New York. They'd popped in to use the bathroom, grab some water, and give me a quick round of good-bye hugs and kisses. I showed my mom a thirtieth birthday card I'd received that played a tinny version of "The Final Countdown," by the Swedish rock band Europe. We laughed, having no clue that it really was.

A few minutes after they left on that holiday Monday night, I was settled onto the sofa, straddling a bittersweet divide between freedom and the looming reality of workday-morning responsibility. I was still dressed in my camping clothes, with a daddy longlegs crawling out of my fleece jacket pocket and the sweet, dried scent of the lake lingering on my skin.

After a busy year acclimatizing to a brand-new job at a brand-new daily television show, I'd spent more time with my mom that week at Lake George than I had all that past year, and being around the person I loved the most allowed me to emotionally exhale. I normally told her nearly everything, and over that past week we'd talked through my worries during daily swims off a baking rock in the golden hour. In typical Shelby style, her attitude on the advice she provided was take-it-or-leave-it-but truth be told, she always knew just what to say.

"Bec," she said, laughing lightly, when I told her about my angst over my career and over being single at thirty, "things change. Glasses break. Plans are derailed." But, she said, "You pick yourself up, brush off the glass, and keep moving. I'm here for you."

Her advice buoyed me up, and as I got comfortable on the couch and caught up on e-mail (which included an introduction from a guy who was a setup by way of my mom's best friend), I soon felt energized and ready to dive into fall.

Then the phone rang. It was my half brother — my father's much older son — who'd been camping with us and had taken over the late-night driving shift. "Bec, there's been an accident." He described a large piece of debris in the lane, our Subaru Outback's sudden swerve, and my mother lying on the side of the turnpike, near exit 8A. My father screamed unintelligibly in the background. "Is she alive?" I yelled. "Yes, but it's bad," he said. The unspoken order: Come now.

I called Paul and Taifa, and they pulled up in their car within twenty minutes. I scrambled into the back seat, and we rushed south toward her, me still in my hiking boots caked with Adirondack dirt.

Ten minutes from the hospital, a wave of nausea slammed into me, and I broke my own horrified silence. "Tai, I don't feel her anymore." I knew in my gut I'd been lied to, that she was dead. I ran into an eerily silent emergency room and found my father in a hospital bed, his scrapes lightly bandaged. "I'm so sorry, Bec," he cried. "She's gone."

My only clear memory of what followed is wildly thinking, Where the hell is the toilet?, then running to the bathroom and sinking to the floor, unsure of what I had to do more urgently: pee or pass out. In that moment I did not give a crap that I was lying in invisible hospital filth, reminding myself over and over that I'd just told my mother I loved her two hours beforehand. Neither did Taifa, who lay there next to me.

Early the next morning, back in New York, my brain strained to understand the enormousness of this sudden void. Not only was my mother, the woman who had provided me, her only child, with thirty years of deep, unconditional love, encouragement, and fierce protectiveness, suddenly no more, but so was this person, this individual, gone. Shelby — the woman who was raised in a Northeast Philadelphia row house; who used the Hair soundtrack to teach her Mexican immigrant students English in the 1960s and '70s in San Francisco (where after work she'd fix her shag to go hear Janis Joplin); who, years later, back in Philly after marrying my dad, founded an innovative parenting and education magazine was gone.

My mother pushed me to be aware. To explore the world, and to go well beyond the affluent suburb where I was raised. She cheered my decisions to study abroad in Italy and Spain, and to spend nearly two years working in Caracas after college, even though I've come to realize how nervous that must have made her. She remained closely involved in my adult life as well; months after a painful breakup I had early that very summer, she (not so) subtly suggested she just might create a JDate profile for me if I didn't create one myself, thanks. Some of those dates were monumentally awful, but it was of course just what I needed.

She was the most positive force of nature I'd ever known. She had my back. She had the best laugh and the biggest smile. She was only sixty-three.

I didn't know how I could possibly survive without my mother. But surely the world would be gentle with me as I stumbled around for the answer. Right?

Wrong. What I learned almost immediately is that the universe doesn't give a fig about you, dead mother or not. It will still mess you up, in matters large and small. You'll have to argue over creative upcharges from the funeral home. You'll scramble to find your footing within your circle of family and friends, without your loved one to provide backup. And you'll toe the line between keeping your shit together and having a panic attack when one of grief's many tentacles taps you on the shoulder during an important work presentation. The indifferent universe, in other words, will add insult to injury. Or, in my first experience with these aftershocks, embarrassment.

Taifa and Paul were squeezed into my apartment, packing for me and tidying up so that I wouldn't return to a rat's nest after the funeral. While I was fixating on Zach Braff's hair, Paul opened my underwear drawer in a kindhearted effort to ensure I'd have a few clean bras. He reached in and pulled out a few items. One of them happened to be my vibrator.

Paul froze, and all three of us stared at it as the Scrubs credits scrolled. Then we burst into laughter.

I felt my cheeks blazing red. In theory it wasn't a big deal: every female New Yorker bought one of those things when Sex and the City was on the air. But it felt weird to be so mortified by watching my friend's husband flail around trying to put my Rabbit away when there was clearly a much bigger emotional event taking place.

Collateral damage is defined as "injuries or other damage inflicted on an unintended target." In a death, anyone who isn't the actual deceased can be one of those unintended targets. I implored the universe to let up on these secondary whacks. But the moonscape this explosion created in my new life kept revealing craters of varying sizes, some unsurprising, and some completely so.

It was collateral damage that robbed me of a peaceful moment before my mom's funeral, for instance. When the funeral guy opened my mother's coffin "backstage," my reaction was not to throw myself on her lifeless body and sob, but rather to stare at the weird coral shade on her face and yell "WHAT THE FUCK LIPSTICK DID YOU PUT ON HER?" So as 350 mourners waited in the synagogue sanctuary, I scrubbed the lips of the alien being that was formerly my mother, determined it would not go to its final resting place looking like Tammy Faye Bakker, dammit.

The collateral damage also showed up in the guise of my body shedding fifteen pounds over the next year, regardless of what I ate, only to regain that (plus interest!) the next year, also regardless of what I ate. It dispatched me to get a brain MRI after the neurologist couldn't explain the dizzy spells screwing with my ability to look at a computer, get up from the sofa, or walk down the subway stairs. Verdict: no tumor. Just grief spinning my world upside down.

Collateral damage also visited me as PTSD nightmares even worse than my childhood one of a cookie-man slowly eating his hand while staring straight at me. It's hard to imagine any worse dream than that, but try this one on: I desperately search for my mother, but she does not want to be found. When I do find her she is emotionally distant. I frantically beg her to look at me, but she is not interested — she is completely unmoved by my distress. The prospect of experiencing that time and again made me petrified to fall asleep.

As destructive as they were, weight loss, headaches, and bad dreams didn't come as huge surprises. But the complete rejiggering of my family dynamics did. Suddenly there was no buffer between me and my father, a stubborn man I loved very much but with whom I had few comfortable ways to directly relate. Or between me and his other children, with whom I'd always had strained relations for reasons predating my birth. My mom's mere presence had encouraged people to chill out, take themselves less seriously, be nicer. Without her I felt raw, exposed to more misunderstandings and arguments. I had to come up with new ways to communicate with people I'd known for decades. And I still haven't come up with the right ways for all of them.

Collateral damage can come fast or it can come slow. Four years after my mom's death, it came knocking again one early December morning. Still in my bathrobe, I tried to absorb the news that my father had suffered a fatal heart attack while out of the country. Suddenly, I also needed to figure out how to get his body home from a port a hundred miles away. Oh, and fulfill a surprising demand from his new lady friend's family to arrange a private car home for her, too.

Another explosion had altered my moonscape, and I braced myself for staggering through its craters, trying to dodge the next bit of debris.