grief

On a summer day in New York Jonathan Santlofer discovers his wife, Joy, gasping for breath on their living room couch. After a frenzied 911 call, an ambulance race across Manhattan, and hours pacing in a hospital waiting room, a doctor finally delivers the fateful news.

Consumed by grief, Jonathan desperately tries to pursue life as he always had--writing, social engagements, and working on his art--but finds it nearly impossible to admit his deep feelings of loss to anyone, not even his to beloved daughter, Doria, or to himself.

Jonathan Santlofer is a writer and artist. His debut novel, "The Death Artist," was an international bestseller, translated into seventeen languages, and is currently in development for screen adaptation. His fourth novel, "Anatomy of Fear," won the Nero Award for best novel of 2009. His short stories have appeared in numerous anthologies. He is also the creator and editor of several anthologies including "It Occurs to Me That I Am America," a collection of original stories and art. His paintings and drawings are included in many public and private collections.

Jonathan will be a featured speaker at the Albany Book Festival on Saturday, September 29th @ 1-1:15. His talk is titled “How We Grieve.” And then on Sunday, September 30, Yaddo Presents Jonathan Santlofer at the Northshire Bookstore in Saratoga Springs at 5 p.m.

News10 Anchorman, John Gray, is an Emmy Award winning journalist and writer. When John’s puppy, Samuel, died unexpectedly at just six months old it brought a profound sadness to their home and a sense that this was just not fair. For the first time John understood how a child must feel when they lose a pet of any age, asking themselves, “Why?”

Hoping to turn his pain into something positive, John put pen to paper and wrote a story to help any child who has lost a pet. His new book, "God Needed a Puppy" guides children through the grieving process by using friendly animals from the forest to explain the reasons why a beloved pet sometimes has to leave us.

Kate Davies MA, DPhil, has worked on environmental and social issues for her entire career.

We are living in an era of unprecedented crisis, resulting in widespread feelings of fear, despair, and grief. Now, more than ever, maintaining hope for the future is a monumental task. In Davies' new book, "Intrinsic Hope: Living Courageously in Troubled Times," she offers an antidote to these feelings and shows how conventional ideas of hope are rooted in the belief that life will conform to our wishes and how this leads to disappointment, despair, and a dismal view of the future. As an alternative, she offers 'intrinsic hope,' a powerful, liberating, and positive approach to life based on having a deep trust in whatever happens.

Rebecca Soffer
Elaina Mortali

When Rebecca Soffer was in her early 30s she lost both of her parents - just a few years apart. While navigating the pain of loss and logistics that accompany death, she kept thinking that if everyone dies -- and everyone does -- why is noone alive talking about how hard it is to lose someone? She partnered with Gabrielle Birkner to create the website Modern Loss and start that taboo conversation.

The site features personal essays about the aftermath of loss that vary widely and show that: there is no right way to to grieve; a lot will come up that one couldn’t expect, both emotionally and practically; and that the sorrow doesn’t disappear just because a year or two passes.

Earlier this year, Harper Wave published Soffer and Birkner’s book which extends the mission of spurring the conversation and this Thursday at 6 p.m. The Mount in Lenox, Massachusetts presents “An evening of Modern Loss storytelling with Rebecca Soffer.”

The event will feature Joey Chernila, Jane Larkworthy, Courtney Maum, Emily Rapp Black, and Hannah Van Sickle.

Kevin Toolis is a writer and BAFTA-winning filmmaker. The author of a celebrated chronicle of Ireland's Troubles, "Rebel Hearts: Journeys within the IRA's Soul," he has written for the New York Times Magazine and The Guardian and reported on conflicts around the world. His family has lived in the same village on an island off the coast of County Mayo for the last two hundred years.

In his new book, "My Father's Wake," he describes his own father's wake and explores the wider history and significance of this ancient and eternal Irish ritual.

Stefan Merrill Block and book cover for "Oliver Loving"
Author Photo: Beowulf Sheehan

Stefan Merrill Block frequently covers bleak territory in his novels, and his latest, “Oliver Loving,” is no exception.

Block takes us inside the mind of a comatose West Texas teen who has been hit in the head during a mass shooting on the night of his high school prom.

Sigrid Nunez’s new novel, “The Friend,” is a moving story of love, friendship, grief, healing, and the magical bond between a woman and her dog.

Nunez’s previous novels include “Salvation City,” “The Last of Her Kind” and “A Feather on the Breath of God.”

The new book, “Modern Loss: Candid Conversation about Grief. Beginners Welcome,” is an examination into navigating grief and resilience in the age of social media, offering comfort and community for coping with the mess of loss through candid original essays from a variety of voices.

At a time when we mourn public figures and national tragedies with hashtags, where intimate posts about loss go viral and we receive automated birthday reminders for dead friends, it’s clear we are navigating new terrain without a road map.

Enter Rebecca Soffer and Gabrielle Birkner. Each having lost parents as young adults, they co-founded Modern Loss, responding to a need to change the dialogue around the messy experience of grief. They look to offer the insights of the Modern Loss community to help us cry, laugh, grieve, identify, and empathize.

George Saunders is considered one of the great masters of the short-story. He’s now written his first novel, Lincoln in the Bardo – a novel that comes from the real-life death of Willie Lincoln, the 11 year-old son of Abe and Mary Lincoln in 1862. 

Listener Essay - Moving Over

Nov 2, 2017

Moving Over

Today was my mother Teresa’s wake. As I drifted out of sleep that morning, the telephone rang, beginning one of the weirdest phone calls of my life.

“Hello Deborah?” It was Phil Bocketti from the funeral home. “We have an issue. It’s not your problem, and it’s not mine, but we have to get a decision anyway.”

Under the collective name of Kennedy-Smith, our family owned a six-grave plot at Saint Joseph’s Cemetery in Troy. My grandparents were buried alongside one another; the other graves were for their two daughters and their respective spouses. The cemetery caretaker, upon reviewing the records, found Aunt Josie, who never married, was buried right next to Dad.

Phil continued: “The caretaker wants to know what he should do. If we bury your mother like it is now, she won’t be next to your father. If we move your Aunt Josie, we may have to dig more graves. What do you think?”

“Phil, they’re all dead, right? Who cares?”


  This Thursday at 4 p.m., The Mount in Lenox, Massachusetts presents Women Writing Through Loss: Connecting Through Calamity featuring Dr. Lucy Kalanithi, Rebecca Soffer, and Emily Rapp Black as they read from their work and discuss the power of connection as friends, as writers, as mothers, and as women who forged powerful friendships after experiencing great personal loss, and writing their way out of it.

 

Rebecca Soffer joined us to tell us more.

During the course of his life, Malachy McCourt practically invented the single's bar; was a pioneer in talk radio, a soap opera star, a best-selling author; a gold smuggler, a political activist, and a candidate for governor of the state of New York. 

It seems that the only two things he hasn't done are stick his head into a lion's mouth and die. Since he is allergic to cats, he decided to write about the great hereafter and answer the question on most minds: What's so great about it anyhow? 

Sarah LaDuke and Myra Lucretia Taylor
Joe Donahue


  Mourning the loss of her elder son Myles, Bethea tries to help her younger son Gideon through his grief. But as revelations surrounding Myles’ incarceration and death emerge, both mother and son must decide whether to fight or let go.

Where Storms Are Born is a new play by Harrison David Rivers having its world premiere on the Nikos Stage at The Williamstown Theatre Festival in Williamstown, MA through July 23rd. Rivers was the Williamstown Theatre Festival Playwright-in-Residence in 2016.

The play is directed by Saheem Ali and stars Myra Lucretia Taylor as Bethea Solomon - a woman living in grief and demonstrating love and resilience.

Sophie Sabbage was forty-eight years old, happily married, and mother to a four-year-old daughter when she was diagnosed with late-stage lung cancer. Since that shocking diagnosis, she has been on a remarkable journey of healing and renewal that has reshaped her life—for the better. 

The Cancer Whisperer chronicles Sophie’s extraordinary relationship with cancer and the very effective methods she has used for dealing with her fear, anger, denial, and grief.

When Stéphane Gerson’s eight year old son, Owen, died in a rafting accident, he found himself in uncharted territory. In the weeks that followed, he started to write about life without his son. Eventually, those writings took shape as the new book, Disaster Falls: A Family Story. 

Listener Essay - Killing

Jan 13, 2017
Tom Reichner

Patricia A. Nugent is the author of The Live On: Saying Goodbye to Mom and Dad, a compilation of poems and vignettes about caregiving for and losing a loved one. She also write the play The Stone and the Ripple, about a modern day reunion of the founding suffragists. At her home on Great Sacandaga Lake, she is currently plugging away at her manuscript about her golden retriever’s spirituality.

  As the adage goes: home is where the heart is. This may seem self-explanatory, but none of our close primate cousins have anything like homes. Whether we live in an igloo or in Buckingham Palace, the fact that Homo sapiens create homes is one of the greatest puzzles of our evolution.

In Home: How Habitat Made Us Human, neuroanthropologist John S. Allen marshals evidence from evolutionary anthropology, neuroscience, the study of emotion, and modern sociology to argue that the home is one of the most important cognitive, technological, and cultural products of our species’ evolution. It is because we have homes—relatively secure against whatever horrors lurk outside—that human civilizations have been able to achieve the periods of explosive cultural and creative progress that are our species’ hallmark.

Amber Tamblyn’s directorial debut, Paint it Black, will screen twice at the Woodstock Film Festival - tonight at 6:30 at the Woodstock Playhouse in Woodstock and Sunday at the Orpheum Theatre in Saugerties at 5:30 p.m. She will also participate in the festival’s "Women in Film and Media" panel on Saturday October 15 at the Kleinert James Art Center in Woodstock. Other participants in the panel are Bette Gordon, Catherine Hardwicke, and Mary Stewart Masterson. The panel is moderated by Thelma Adams.

Based on the novel of the same name by Janet Fitch, Paint it Black explores and explodes the confusion of grief when Josie’s boyfriend, Michael, commits suicide and his death brings her into the orbit of his powerful and powerfully cold and heartbroken mother, Meredith. Their strained relationship circling around who knew Michael better, who loved him more, and what can they get from - and do to - each other now that he is gone.

Tamblyn co-wrote the adaptation with Ed Dougherty. It stars Alia Shawkat as Josie and Janet McTeer as Meredith.

  Death is something we all confront ― it touches our families, our homes, our hearts. And yet we have grown used to denying its existence, treating it as an enemy to be beaten back with medical advances.

We are living at a unique point in human history. People are living longer than ever, yet the longer we live, the more taboo and alien our mortality becomes. Yet we, and our loved ones, still remain mortal. People today still struggle with this fact, as we have done throughout our entire history. What led us to this point? What drove us to sanitize death and make it foreign and unfamiliar?

In Death's Summer Coat: What the History of Death and Dying Teaches Us About Life and Living, Brandy Schillace shows how talking about death, and the rituals associated with it, can help provide answers.

  On November 29, 2007 Joseph Luzzi's life forever changed. His wife, Catherine, eight-and-a-half months pregnant, was killed in a car crash.

Before she died, doctors delivered their daughter, Isabel. His new memoir is In A Dark Wood. It tells the story how he dealt with his grief in part through the writings of Dante.

  Experts in end-of-life care tell us that we should talk about death and dying with relatives and friends, but how do we get such conversations off the ground in a society that historically has avoided the topic?

In Let's Talk About Death: Asking the Questions that Profoundly Change the Way We Live and Die, Steve Gordon and Irene Kacandes share the results of a no-holds-barred discussion they conducted for several years over email.

  When Allan Johnson asked his dying father where he wanted his ashes to be placed, his father replied--without hesitation--that it made no difference to him at all.

In his memoir, Not from Here, Johnson embarks on a 2,000-mile journey across the Upper Midwest and Northern Plains to find the place where his father's ashes belonged.

More than a personal narrative, Not from Here illuminates the national silence around unresolved questions of accountability, race, and identity politics, and the dilemma of how to take responsibility for a past we did not create.

  At their childhood home after their mother’s funeral, Nate gets high and Jeremy focusses on work waiting for him in the city -- both brothers trying to send their minds anywhere but where they are.

This is the starting point of A Little More Alive - a Musical Theatre Lab production currently running on Barrington Stage Company’s St. Germain Stage in Pittsfield, MA through August 8th.

The musical, directed by Sheryl Kaller and featuring actors Van Hughes, Daniel Jenkins, Nicolette Robinson, Michael Tacconi, and Emily Walton, tells the story of dealing not only with the devastation of loss but the revelation that the person who has died had a secret. A secret that warps all of their memories of her and both monumental and mundane moment in their lives.

Nick Blaemire wrote the show - book, music, and lyrics. We speak with him here about the process.

  In an exploration of the afterlife that is part personal, part prescriptive, Claire Bidwell Smith invites us on her journey into the unknown.

She wonders: How do we grieve our loved ones without proof that they live on? Will we ever see them again? Can they see us now, even though they are gone?

  When Sukey Forbes lost her six-year-old daughter, Charlotte, to a rare genetic disorder, her life felt as if it were shattered forever. Descended from two distinguished New England families, Forbes was raised in a rarefied—if eccentric—life of privilege. Yet, Forbes’s family history is also rich with spiritual seekers, including her great-great-great-grandfather Ralph Waldo Emerson. On the family’s private island enclave off Cape Cod, apparitions have always been as common as the servants who once walked the back halls. But the “afterlife” took on new meaning once Forbes dipped into the world of clairvoyants to reconnect with Charlotte.

With a mission to help others by sharing her own story, Forbes chronicles a world of ghosts that reawakens us to a lost American spiritual tradition. The Angel in My Pocket tells a moving tale of one mother’s undying love for her child.

Congressman Paul Tonko
Congressman Paul Tonko

  We all deal with loss.

In today’s Congressional Corner, New York representative Paul Tonko tells WAMC’s Alan Chartock about his father Stanley Tonko, who recently died at 94.

  In November of 2007, Bard College Professor Joseph Luzzi’s wife, Katherine, who was 8 1/2 months pregnant, was in a fatal car accident. Their daughter, Isabel, was born by C-section, just 45 minutes before her mother died on the operating table.

Suddenly a widower and a single father to an infant, Luzzi saw life turned upside down by this new unexpected reality, one of intense grief and loneliness.

  Here is what happens at a Death Cafe - people, often strangers, gather to eat cake, drink tea and discuss death. It is a discussion group rather than a grief support or counseling session.

To tell us more about Death Cafes in our region – we welcome: Barbara Sarah - Founder of the Circle of Friends for the Dying which has sponsored 21 Death Cafes in Ulster County and Laurie Schwartz, a Founder of Circle of Friends for the Dying.

They've been having monthly Death Cafe gatherings in Ulster County since August, 2013 and will be hosting one at the Rosendale Café in Rosendale on Sunday, May 31st.

  Professor Elizabeth Alexander is a poet, essayist, playwright and teacher. She was recently named a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, as well as the inaugural Frederick Iseman Professor of Poetry at Yale University. In 2009, she composed and delivered “Praise Song for the Day” for the inauguration of President Barack Obama.

In her memoir, The Light of the World, she finds herself at an existential crossroads after the sudden death of her husband. She tells a love story that is, itself, a story of loss. She reflects on the beauty of her married life, the trauma resulting from her husband’s death, and the solace found in caring for her two sons.

  When Helen Macdonald's father died suddenly on a London street, she was devastated. An experienced falconer—Helen had been captivated by hawks since childhood—she'd never before been tempted to train one of the most vicious predators, the goshawk.

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