‘Breaking Sad’: At A Loss Over A Loss, An Entrepreneur Turned To Mourners To Put Words To Grief

By Diane Mastrull
The Philadelphia Inquirer

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) “Breaking Sad,” is a compilation of more than 60 deeply personal recollections of loss by dozens of grieving parents, spouses, siblings, friends, and pet owners.

CONSHOHOCKEN , Pa.

Grief doesn’t sell.

“We were told that many times,” Shelly Fisher said.

As a serial entrepreneur, she should have been alarmed, if not flat-out deterred.

But the venture was one she was determined to see to market, regardless of profit potential.

“I made a promise to my friend,” Fisher, CEO of the West Conshohocken-based Pay It Forward Group, managed before tears welled up.

That “promise” is “Breaking Sad,” a compilation of more than 60 deeply personal recollections of loss by dozens of grieving parents, spouses, siblings, friends, and pet owners published in November as both a tribute and a guide to interacting with those who have experienced loss.

The inspiration is Stephanie Liem Azar, a Main Line native of extraordinary talent and devotion to bettering lives who lost her own at 26, less than a month after her wedding and while still in medical school.

Fisher promised Azar’s mother, Lisa Liem, she would write a book befitting her daughter’s commitment to helping others.

Azar, whom Fisher held the day she was born, died unexpectedly in July 2013 from a potent virus. Fisher stood beside Liem that day bearing “witness to the awkward ballet of distraught looks, too-tight hugs, and tear-choked words that attend shattering loss,” she wrote in the book’s introduction.

The 59-year-old Villanova mother of three recognized the discomfort of the well-intentioned, having experienced it in 2009 after she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Those who were once friendly had trouble making eye contact, or avoided her completely, Fisher said.

INSPIRED TO HELP OTHERS
Four years later, Fisher found herself an inadequate answer to her friend’s broken heart and spirit. As so often happens with entrepreneurs, she had an idea, about Azar.

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