The Empty Chair: Part 2 — With Emily Rapp Black

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When a parent loses a child, the decision to have another can be fraught with mixed emotions. One letter writer, who calls herself “Mama with Complicated Joy,” had a baby following the death of her older son. “I feel like I’m nursing twins,” she writes. "Grief on the left side, joy on the right.”

In our second episode of "The Empty Chair" series, the Sugars call on the writer Emily Rapp Black to help answer letters from parents who worry that their grief may overshadow their surviving children.

When Ms. Black learned that her son had Tay-Sachs disease, a fatal congenital disorder, she and her husband decided to have another child. She likens the experience to walking in a city built on top of ruins, writing, “There's always this ruined love, or the lost child right underneath what you're doing in your present life.”

Together, Ms. Black and the Sugars sort through the guilt and emotional exhaustion that can accompany childbirth in the wake of loss.

Ms. Black is the author of the memoir “Poster Child” and the New York Times bestseller, “The Still Point of the Turning World.” Her work has appeared in Vogue, Salon, Slate, and The New York Times. Her next book “Sanctuary” is coming out in 2018.

The Sugars Recommend...

“A Small Good Thing,” by Raymond Carver

“Lincoln in the Bardo,” by George Saunders

“The Lovely Bones,” by Alice Sebold

“The Year of Magical Thinking,” by Joan Didion

Support For Grieving Parents

The Dougy Center

The Compassionate Friends

Bereaved Parents of the USA

New episodes of Dear Sugars are released weekly. Do you have a question for the Sugars? Email

Headshot of Caitlin O'Keefe

Caitlin O'Keefe Producer, Podcasts & New Programs
Caitlin O'Keefe was a producer of podcasts and new programming at WBUR.



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