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Jill Smolowe: Jill Smolowe

Journalist and memoirist.


Jill Smolowe


October 2014


Jill Smolowe
Photo © Esme.

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Book Feature


Jill Smolowe is the author of the memoirs Four Funerals and a Wedding: Resilience in a Time of Grief and An Empty Lap, and co-editor of the adoption anthology A Love Like No Other. An award-winning journalist, she has been a foreign affairs writer for Time and Newsweek, and a senior writer for People. Her articles and essays have appeared in the New York Times, the Boston Globe, The Washington Post Magazine, More and many other publications. In her work as a grief and transition coach, Jill partners with clients across the United States via phone and Skype to help them identify—then take—the steps that will restore momentum, purpose and joy to their lives.


What are you reading?  What's on your nightstand?

Current: "A Constellation of Vital Phenomena," Anthony Marra

Nightstand: "The Children Act," Ian McEwan and "To Show and To Tell," Phillip Lopate

Where do you go to get inspired?

Boring as this is going to sound, my best place for inspiration is at my desk, in front of my computer screen.

What's something that surprised you recently (in a good way)?

A website I write for on a contract basis gave me an unasked-for raise.

Where do you write?

In my home office.

What/who makes you laugh? Why?

David Sedaris on the page; Ricky Gervais on the TV screen; my slumbering dog on the living room rug, her tongue--literally--hitting the floor.

Favorite fictional character ever?

Elizabeth Bennett

What are you working on?

Mostly essays


On Four Funerals and a Wedding:

"In under a year and a half, Jill Smolowe lost her husband, her mother-in-law, her sister, and her mother. Here she mostly focuses on husband Joe’s diagnosis of cancer, his progress through chemotherapy and remission, and his eventual death. In the process of telling her story of love and loss, she reflects on grief—our narratives about grief, our responses to it, and how we recover. Smolowe cites the work of psychologist George Bonanno extensively, and, in sharing her story, offers thoughtful and compassionate guidance for people going through the grieving process with loved ones. Her story is heartbreaking and heartwarming, incisively written and extremely clear. Readers will find themselves sympathetic and eager to hear how Smolowe coped with her losses and how she negotiated societal expectations of grief with grace and dignity. This is an absolute must-read for people struggling with loss."
—Publishers Weekly

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