Meet The Contributors

The Conversation: Stories that Matter was produced by empowerHER Founder Cara Belvin, Author & Therapist Claire Bidwell Smith, Author & Coach Hope Edelman, Documentarians Katie Green & Carlye Rubin and Cynthia Whipple.  The NYC event included the following extraordinary contributors who have a fresh approach in their field and a unique story to tell.  


Carole Geithner, LCSW, is a clinical social worker and author of the novel If Only, a story about mother loss and grief (Scholastic, 2012).  Carole has worked with children and adults in hospitals, a bereavement center, schools, and in private practice.  She also taught interviewing skills to medical students at George Washington University Medical School.  She sits on the boards of Kids In Need of Defense (KIND), Option B, Surviving Life After a Parent Dies (SLAP’D), and the Sun Valley Writer’s Conference and is a member of the program task force at Gilda’s Club Westchester.  She is currently at work on a coming-of-age novel.  Her mother died when Carole was 25.


Allison Gilbert is the journalist & author of Passed and Present: Keeping Memories of Loved Ones Alive, as well as the critically acclaimed books Parentless Parents and Always Too Soon. She is also coeditor of Covering Catastrophe, the definitive historical record of how broadcast journalists covered 9/11. Allison’s work has been featured in The New York Times, The Atlantic, The Huffington Post, and on NPR, CNN, FOX, MSNBC, CBS, and ABC.

Allison’s mother passed away when Allison was 25 years old, before she was married or had children of her own.


Jen Bilik was very close to her mother, Lynn. When Jen was 13 years old and Lynn was 40, Lynn was diagnosed with breast cancer. She died just after her 49th birthday, when Jen was 21. Two years after Lynn's initial diagnosis, terminal metastases were found, and Lynn was given one to three years to live. She ultimately lived for six more years, but the family’s ongoing awareness of Lynn’s short, unpredictable time, along with ongoing treatment, greatly impacted Jen’s youth. 

When Lynn died, in 1991, few of her friends had experienced such a loss, so the 1994 publication of Hope Edelman’s Motherless Daughters was "a revelation and a soul saver for me.” The two became friends when both moved to Los Angeles in 1998, and Jen has since been involved with the mother-loss community as well as other grief networks. Jen has done work on grief in various settings, from psychotherapy and counseling education to books and support groups. 

In her non-grief life, Jen is an entrepreneur. In 2002, she founded Knock Knock  a creative publishing and gift company. If you like checklists, humor, or truth, you’ve probably seen her products.


Rebecca Soffer is the co-founder and CEO of Modern Loss, a publication and community providing candid conversation on grief. She is also co-author of the forthcoming Modern Loss book (Harper Wave, 2018), and a former producer for the Peabody Award-winning “Colbert Report.” Rebecca has spoken nationally on the topics of loss and resilience at Chicago Ideas Week, The Commonwealth Club, and Kripalu, among other events. She graduated from Emory University and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. Rebecca lives in New York City with her husband and two young children.


Gail Eisenberg is a NYC-based freelance writer, and co-executive producer of the GLAAD Media Award-nominated docu-series Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys. She is one of the original 92 women interviewed for Hope Edelman’s Motherless Daughters, and is currently writing a memoir, an excerpt from which was recently published in the "failing" New York Times. 

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Eva Bloche
After losing her mother to lung cancer at the age of sixteen, Eva Bloche has become a passionate advocate for open and honest conversations about grief. Now nineteen, she studies clinical mental health counseling at Lesley University in Boston and hopes to become a therapist in the future. Whether as a student, a writer, a counselor, or as part of her work with empowerHER, Eva strives to create safe, engaging spaces where people feel comfortable expressing themselves.


Gabrielle Shae is a wife and mother to 3 beautiful girls. In addition to focusing on her family, she is an integral member of HBO’s Domestic Network Distribution team.  Family and career have always been priorities but over the past year, Gabby has also found passion in building and nurturing her blog.  Thersdays focuses on life with her hysterical daughters while finding the right balance when juggling family, career and life. Shortly after launching her blog, she discovered the world of storytelling and embarked on a transformative journey.  Her love for performing and sharing her experiences has added a certain level of excitement to her already remarkable life.  “They say life begins outside of your comfort zone.  I don’t know where this adventure will lead, but I’m going to enjoy the ride.