I lost my father in a car accident in 1981 when I was only 13 years old. He passed instantly at the scene in a very catastrophic auto/commercial truck pile up. This book helped me understand that the emotional roller coaster that I had been on for years was totally normal. My parents had me late in life when they were 42 and 43. I was extremely close to my father and in fact I completely worshiped him. I grew up in a family that did not grieve heathily and it was difficult for me that at one moment we all (there were 4 siblings) had a wonderful father that we were all blessed to have had and the next moment he just wasn't talked about. It was like our whole family went into a shock and denial of the accident and of our loss. We still in 1998 don't talk about it much and I still miss him terribly. I have many fond memories as a child of vacations and trips that I took with my father that I will cherish forever. Thanks Maxine for such beautiful insight. I can not tell you what it has meant to me. You, in fact have inspired me to write a book about my loss. I still think about it everyday. There is not a day that goes by that I do not think about the fact that I would give up everything I have, everything I am, everything I have accomplished to have him back in my life again.
After having experienced the loss of my father when I was 17, I found Harris' work to be quite descriptive of my own experiences. Harris tackles the deepest emotions and behavioral patterns of those living with loss with utmost sensitivity and respect. Harris aptly distinguishes between the different types of parental death, including impacts of the loss at various childhood ages, as well as the differing impacts of terminal illness, suicide, and sudden death upon a child. This book truly is a must-read for child survivors, their loved ones, and widowed parents as well.
This book is excellent. Maxine Harris covers the whole gamut of the experiences of those whose childhood was affected by the death of a parent. It is based on interviews with 36 people but solidly backed up by appropriate research, evidenced by the footnotes, reference list and index - although Dr Harris writes clearly and in a non-academic manner. If you grew up feeling different, "not normal" due to the death of a parent, or find as an adult that their death still resonates painfully at what you consider inappropriate times - you were and are not alone. This book summarises the knowledge of childhood grief response and its adult consequences that I have gained from a variety of sources over the last 25 years. It should also be helpful to people working or living with children and adults who experience this kind of loss.
There is no word describing people who lost a parent at an early age -- but this book makes clear that such a loss is truly forever. This will be reassuring for some. The authro describes the multiple impacts of such a loss. In general, because a child is totally unprepared for the death of a parent, and the parent represents the whole world to the child, this loss is far more grievous than losing a parent when one is an adult. Indeed, it can be compared to the loss of an entire family or community that is only suffered by persons who are victims of genocide or war. Yet others, who do not know of this type of loss, will never understand its magnitude. The message of the book is that one can be orphaned even if just oneparent dies, because frequently the other will be devastated, or will move away.
I've found this book very helpful, although I've not read it all yet. (It's painful tough going). It has validated my experiences of 40-50 yrs having lost my mother traumatically, when young (she was ill beforehand, and along with the effect the traumatic loss this had on my father, I effectively 'lost' him too - (to shock and depression). Reading the small amounts I have, has given me an increased sense of how well I have managed, so it's boosted my self esteem, along with some excellent professional help (not found until later in life but so worth going through) and the book also helps to validate the time it can take! I have come to realise that 'healing' is not something to aim for, more a sense of accepting and loving who I am as a result of my experiences. It's been a frustrating and arduous lifelong work, which if only I could have had support from adults at a young age ( recent science has shown that ) my life and that of my family could have been a lot more pleasant. The book although not self help or advice giving, suggests things that can help "acts of repair" and most importantly at the epilogue suggests "do not let your memories slip away". My memory is very patchy as I dissociated which is the only way I could, as a young child, deal with the trauma. This was not choice! If only there was someone who could have talked to me about my mother and help keep some good memories this would have helped enormously. Many thanks to Maxine Harris and all the sixty six men and women who shared their stories with her.
This was a welcome book for me and one I will keep and dip into at times of sadness and fear. I lost my beloved father when I was 7 and was reared by my emotionally distant, angry and workaholic mother. Thrown into the mix for me was the arrival of my aggressive teenage alcoholic half brother who came to live with us shortly after my fathers death. Our mother died of cancer when I was 22. Dr Harris's book explained a lot to me. For a child who loses a parent early, so much hinges on the surviving parent. Sadly, for me my surviving parent was an emotionally neglectful one who then died herself. I have lived with a lot of unresolved grief and guilt over the years which I am now facing. This book validates my experiences and my feelings and I would recommend it to anyone who has faced the death of a parent as a child.