Without Her book cover

Without Her

A Chronicle of Grief
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“Rebecca Spiegel has written an aching testament to the unceasing compact that we must make each day anew when we have awakened to suffering, in the ones we love, in ourselves.”— INRA VERZEMNIEKS
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A lucid memoir reckoning with grief and the search for meaning in the wake of a sister’s suicide.

Rebecca Spiegel is working as a teacher in New Orleans when she learns of her sister Emily’s death by suicide. Shocked, she flies back to Philadelphia. To family. To funeral preparations. To the service. Only after she leaves her parents’ house does the shock give way to grief.

In the years that follow, Spiegel embarks on a physical, mental, and emotional voyage. She visits Emily’s dorm, digs through her computer. She parses old journal entries and emails. She recalls Emily’s visit to New Orleans mere days before her death, wondering what signs she might have missed. In documenting the last traces of her sister’s life, Spiegel also confronts their parents’ failings, as well as her family’s history of depression, anxiety, OCD, addiction, and disordered eating. She faces her own regrets too. “I wish I had untangled myself from myself,” she writes of her sister’s final visit. “I wish I had been able to see that I was okay and she wasn’t.

With each powerful detail resurfaced, Spiegel attempts to put into words what is incomprehensible. She plumbs the depths of her loss in an effort to understand her sister, to uncover logic where it is most elusive. What she finds instead is that there is no narrative on the other side of grief like this. There is no answer, no easy resolution—only those that leave, and those that keep living. Unflinchingly honest, visceral, and raw, this courageous elegy lays bare the hard realities of surviving the loss of a loved one.

grief, trauma, intergenerational trauma, suicide, eating disorder, loss, family trauma, bulimia, illness, mental illness, stages of grief, death, siblings, Jewish family, shiva
Publish Date
8.5 × 5.5 × 0.75 in
15 oz

Rebecca Spiegel

Rebecca Spiegel teaches writing in Philadelphia, where she lives with her family. She holds an MFA in creative writing from the University of North Carolina Wilmington, and Without Her is her first book.

Praise and Prizes

  • Without Her is one of the most sensitive, profound, and honest accounts of grief and suicide loss I’ve ever encountered. In beautiful and bracingly direct prose, Spiegel describes the indescribable experience of losing someone who has shaped your very sense of self. This book is a gift to those seeking to understand what it’s like to sift through the unanswerable questions left in the wake of a loved one’s suicide, or to anyone trying to keep going after losing someone they don’t know how to live without.”

    Chris Stedman
    author of IRL
  • Without Her is a poignant memoir offered up in the tiny chunks of noticing that often accompany sudden grief. I swallowed Rebecca Spiegel’s book in one long gulp. Spiegel’s memories are so detailed I can’t help but sit beside her in her loss. This clear-eyed reckoning offers me a path toward understanding what always exists on the other side of grief: the joyful fact of a deep and abiding love.”

    Camille T. Dungy
    author of Soil
  • “Rebecca Spiegel has written an aching testament to the unceasing compact that we must make each day anew when we have awakened to suffering, in the ones we love, in ourselves. Once known, it can never be unknown, and no matter how overwhelming our love, it can never take pain from another. With a clear and reverent honesty, Spiegel demonstrates that there is a way to live with this knowledge, and that is to claim suffering from fear, to speak of it, clearly, honestly, frankly. By documenting the ever-emerging marks that grief and loss will never stop inscribing onto the world of the living, by acknowledging that recovery is a never-ending spiral, she offers us an enduring form of love, of mercy.”

    Inara Verzemnieks
    author of Among the Living and the Dead