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Motherless Daughters and the Long Arc of Grief: How Women’s Stories of Early Loss Evolve Over Time
Few studies have tracked children who lose parents for more than a handful of years beyond the death. When Hope Edelman began researching the long-term effects of early loss for her most recent book, The AfterGrief, she was unable to find data or interviews that could tell her how the ripple effects of those losses would continue to show up decades later. Then she remembered all of the interview transcripts from her first book, Motherless Daughters, which were stored in her garage in California. The 92 women who’d been interviewed for that book in 1992 and 1993 had generously shared their stories in detail, each one capturing a time-specific perspective. How might these women tell the same stories 27 years later? Edelman wondered. Would they look back on the same set of facts and see them the same way, or would their relationship to those details have changed as a result of events and personal developments that had occurred between then and now? Because the stories we create to explain a loss and its aftermath become the stories we tell ourselves to make meaning of what happened, and thus can become central to our identities, Edelman was interested in how these stories – and how a motherless daughter’s identity as a survivor of early loss -- did and didn’t change over time. In 2018 and 2019, she was able to locate 18 of the original interviewees and re-interview them for The AfterGrief. After the second interviews, the women re-read their initial interviews, and shared the differences and similarities they observed. For many of these women, reading their words from 1992 and 1993 was a time-bending experience of reconnection with their younger selves. For some, it was a way to reclaim memories they’d forgotten. For others, it was evidence of how much their perspectives had changed as a result of motherhood, other losses, and personal maturity, without having realized it before.

Aug 12, 2021 02:00 PM in Eastern Time (US and Canada)

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