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Brotherly Love: How Dinner Helps Young Strangers Bond Over Grief

By Ukee Washington

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — There are topics you don’t bring up at dinner parties. A group of young people wants to change that. These 20- and 30-somethings invite others to share a meal and share their stories of grief.

These young people say they didn’t find comfort in traditional bereavement groups. So over food and wine, they are creating their own.

Samantha Charleston of Fitler Square cooked a black bean mango quinoa dish for friends, some of whom she has never met but who all share the same pain.

Samantha was only 25 when she lost her father Robert in 2014.

“It doesn’t feel natural to lose someone when you’re young,” Samantha said.

She not only felt alone among her peers, she felt alone in support groups filled with older adults.

Now she connects with young people going through the same thing. It’s called simply The Dinner Party. Once a month, she hosts young adults, usually strangers, who sign up online.

Becca Bernstein of West Philadelphia, who lost her mother to a neurological disease, explained these untraditional dinners.

“With a dinner party, there are usually things that are socially permissible to talk about, and then there are things that are taboo to talk about: ‘Oh, don’t bring that up at the dinner party,'” Becca said. “I think of The Dinner Party as like, bring it out!”

Alex Dill of Brewerytown, who lost her mother Patricia, says the dinners have a different vibe. “No one’s a social worker. No one’s a therapist. We are all just sharing together,” she said.

Mark Manning’s father died of a heart attack in March 2015. He said he was reluctant to burden friends with the weight of his grief. “You’re sometimes guarded about other people’s feelings,” Mark said.

But here, Mark can share with young people who don’t mind heavy talk.

Samantha said, “There’s an opportunity to feel sad, and we welcome that. And then there’s an opportunity to also laugh and feel like you can be social and happy, and we welcome that, too.”

You don’t have to have any special experience to host a dinner, just a desire to connect. You can find out how to sign up for The Dinner Party at www.thedinnerparty.org.

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