Hope Edelman, M.A., an international expert in the field of mother loss, was seventeen when her mother died of cancer. She brings her unique talents and expertise to create the kind of retreats that would have helped her process her own mother-loss experiences. She and author and therapist Claire Bidwell Smith founded Motherless Daughters Retreats in 2016 and together they led the first eight retreats.

Along with Claire, Elissa Berman (LPCC-S), Sarah Saffian (LCSW), and Allison Gilbert are also part of our wider community of leaders. Please scroll below to find out more about them.

Claire Bidwell Smith is a therapist specializing in grief and the author of two books of nonfiction: The Rules of Inheritance and After This: When Life is Over Where Do We Go? both published by Penguin. The Rules of Inheritance, a coming of age memoir about grief, was a Books for a Better Life nominee, a Barnes and Noble Discover Pick, has been published in 17 countries, and is currently being adapted for film. After This chronicles Claire’s journey as a grief therapist searching for meaning as she explores various beliefs about the afterlife. Her newest book, Anxiety: The Missing Stage of Grief will be published in Fall 2018.

Claire has a bachelor’s degree from The New School University, and a master’s degree in clinical psychology from Antioch University. She teaches numerous workshops and leads retreats around the country, and has written for publications including The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Salon.com, Slate, Chicago Public Radio, The Guardian, Psychology Today, Yoga Journal, and BlackBook Magazine. Claire has two little girls and currently works in private practice in Los Angeles.

Hope Edelman is the author of seven nonfiction books, including the bestsellers Motherless Daughters, Motherless Mothers, and The Possibility of Everything. Her books have been published in 17 countries and 11 languages and have sold nearly a million copies. Motherless Daughters, often considered required reading for any woman who has lost a mother, is now in its third edition and recently celebrated its 20th anniversary in print.

Hope speaks at venues and conferences all over the world and has appeared frequently on television, includingToday, Good Morning America, CNN, KTLA, CBC, and Good Morning Australia. Trained as a life coach by Martha Beck International, she also does one-on-one work through her coaching company, Lose Live Grow, to help individuals explore loss as a means for personal growth. 

Hope lives in Los Angeles with her husband, two daughters, and two crazy cats. She is now working on her eighth book, The Aftergrief, to be published in fall 2020.


Elissa Berman:  Co-Leading the  MAY 2019 RETREAT

Elissa Berman: Co-Leading the MAY 2019 RETREAT

As a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor and Supervisor, Elissa Berman counsels people facing grief and loss in all aspects of their lives. She has learned that people do not show up to counseling because they found something; rather each person who has the courage to attend counseling has lost something.

Whether it be someone they loved, a job, a marriage, a dream, their self-esteem or their health, people walk in with loss as a component to their life experience. Elissa serves individuals, couples and families and her background in grief has benefited clients in a myriad of ways, primarily to guide and companion them to integrate and transform their loss into meaningful and transcendent experiences.

Her background is diverse, with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and a bachelor’s degree biblical texts, leading to a master’s degree in education and a master’s degree in counseling. Elissa combines her passion for education and counseling into significant and compassionate professional work.

In addition to being the Director of Bereavement Services at Lifebanc (Northeast Ohio’s Organ, Eye, and Tissue Recovery Organization), she maintains a thriving private practice at Ellen Casper and Associates in Beachwood, Ohio. She teaches locally and nationally on a myriad of topics including, Self-Care and Resilience, Post Traumatic Growth, Writing as a Means of Healing, Mindfulness and Grief and Death and Bereavement Across Cultures to name a few. Elissa is known for her sense of humor, depth of knowledge and experience and willingness to be transparent in her teaching.

Connect with Elissa


Sarah Saffian : Co-leading the  OCTOBER 2019 RETREAT

Sarah Saffian: Co-leading the OCTOBER 2019 RETREAT

Sarah Saffian is a writer, a psychotherapist, and a teacher. Ithaka, her memoir of being an adoptee who was found by her birth family, is two decades in print, and explores various forms of mother loss. As a therapist, Sarah counsels individuals and runs support groups in private practice in New York City, where grief work is one of her specialties. Blending her two main areas of interest and expertise, Sarah has created a technique called Therapeutic Writing, using memoir prompts as a tool for encouraging reflection, processing, and discovery. Sarah teaches memoir at The Iowa Summer Writing Festival and Sarah Lawrence College, and has appeared extensively on television, radio, and live around the country, speaking about Ithaka (including on a panel with Hope at the L.A. Times Festival of Books), adoption issues, therapeutic issues, and the craft and business of writing. She earned her BA in English from Brown, her MFA in creative writing from Columbia, and her MSW from New York University. A native New Yorker, Sarah lives in Brooklyn with her husband and their wheaten terrier. 

Connect with Sarah


Allison Gilbert: Co-leading the  SEPTEMBER 20-SOMETHINGS RETREAT

Allison Gilbert: Co-leading the SEPTEMBER 20-SOMETHINGS RETREAT

Allison Gilbert is an Emmy award-winning journalist and author of numerous books including the groundbreaking, Passed and Present: Keeping Memories of Loved Ones Alive, her stirring work capturing the attention of Arianna Huffington, Maria Shriver, Soledad O’Brien, and Henry Louis Gates, Jr. across social media.

Gilbert’s other books include, Parentless Parents: How the Loss of Our Mothers and Fathers Impacts the Way We Raise Our Children and Always Too Soon: Voices of Support for Those Who Have Lost Both Parents. She serves as Senior Advisor to Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, the preeminent national organization providing grief support to families of America’s fallen heroes, and is on the Board of Directors for the National Alliance for Grieving Children.

Gilbert’s writing and expertise appear in numerous publications including O, the Oprah Magazine, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Real Simple, TODAY.com, and CNN.com. On her popular grief and resilience blog, she features Q & A’s with some of the most notable names in our culture today including, Jon Stewart and bestselling authors Ann Hood, Gretchen Rubin, Dani Shapiro, and Meghan O’Rourke.

Her work can be quite personal and revealing. After the death of Gilbert’s mother to ovarian cancer and her aunt and grandmother to breast cancer, (and following genetic testing that determined she is BRCA1 positive), she made the life-affirming choice to have two preventative cancer surgeries. Her pioneering series for HuffPost, “My Journey to Prevent Ovarian Cancer,” chronicles her decision to have a prophylactic hysterectomy.  She also writes about undergoing a double mastectomy in The New York Times and talks about the operation and recovery with CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Gilbert graduated from Georgetown University and lives outside New York City. She and her husband have a son and daughter – a college freshman and an 11th grader.

Connect with Allison