Grief By the Book

Grief By the Book
Grief By the Book

Merissa Nathan Gerson ’00 discussed her new book, Forget Prayers, Bring Cake: A Single Woman's Guide to Grieving.

“This book wrote me,” said Merissa Nathan Gerson ’00 of her new book, Forget Prayers, Bring Cake: A Single Woman’s Guide to Grieving. “It wasn’t even a choice.”

Written in the months following her father’s death, Gerson’s book is part memoir and part guide to the complicated feelings that arise after the death of a loved one—feelings that can get even more complicated, Gerson said to moderator Lory Ivey Alexander ’97 during the August 25 session of the Conversation With Friends Series, when an adult woman doesn’t have a romantic partner.

“I really wanted to de-shame single women,” she said. “There are tricks I have learned through living alone that have allowed me to source my care differently” than others might. The book serves as a guide to creating healthy relationships (including with oneself); learning how to grieve in a personal way, rather than how one “should”; and how to ask for help when it’s needed.

“At the end of every chapter is the advice I wanted when my dad was dying,” she said. “What do I need to do to get help? How do I get into a grief support group? What does it even mean to know what I need right now—because I have no idea.”

Gerson, who is currently a visiting assistant professor at Tulane University, recognized that although her educational background has given her a wide breadth of knowledge about spiritual practices from a variety of sources, in the end grief is intensely personal and not a one-size-fits-all way of feeling.

“The part of me that wrote this book was synthesizing years and years of spiritual training,” she said. “I do know that my experience is not the same as other people’s—but I do know there is something to glean from what I’ve gone through.”

While Gerson intends for Forget Prayers, Bring Cake to help other people, after a year of writing it, largely in isolation brought about by the pandemic, she found the book helped her as well.

“I’m very grateful for this book; I think it sort of saved me,” she said. “It helped me remember that I had resources when I felt the world had left me to myself.”

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Watch the full Conversation with Friends with Merissa Nathan Gerson here.


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