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The Loss That Is Forever

The Lifelong Impact of the Early Death of a Mother or Father

by Maxine Harris, Ph.D.

Hardcover, 342 pages
Published by E. P. Dutton
Publication date: September 1, 1995
ISBN: 0525938699


Clinical psychologist Maxine Harris shows how the death of a parent before someone reaches adulthood is a life-defining event with profound and long-lasting effects. Ripple effects may appear in every aspect of adult development.

Interview material is woven together with literary sources including Virginia Woolf, C.S. Lewis, and Charles Darwin to illustrate how themes of loss and survival become central to the lives of those who have lost a parent in childhood. She discusses the relationship with the surviving parent, intimate relationships, and perspectives on one's own mortality.

For anyone who has survived the early loss of a parent, as well as for those with a spouse, friend, or lover who has lost a parent in childhood, this book can provide helpful insights into why people are the way they are. This would also be an excellent read for a surviving parent or family member who would like to help a child with grief recovery.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1. The Language of Loss
Absolute Catastrophe
Total Discontinuity
Terrifying Insecurity
Profound Emptiness
Loss versus Absence
Chapter 2. The Event That Shatters Childhood
Sudden Death/The World Is a Safe and Secure Place
Slow Death/My Parents Are Strong and Powerful
Suicide/Of Course My Parents Love Me
Denial/I Can Believe What I See, Can't I?
A Triad of Unacceptable Feelings
Chapter 3. The Surviving Parent
The Incapacitated Parent
The Negligent Parent
The Abusive Parent
The Parent Who Looks to a Child for Friendship and Love
The Competent Parent
Chapter 4. Personal Mythologies
The Lost Parent
Myths about the Self
Fantasies about the Relationships That Might Have Been
Idiosyncratic Myths
Chapter 5. Creating the Self
Overwhelmed and Panicked
Out of Control
Chapter 6. Building Relationships: The Dance of Love and Loss
Living with the Tension Between Love and Loss
Seeing Only Love
Seeing Only Loss
Chapter 7. Parenting
Childless by Choice
Parenting without a Model
A Confused Parent/Child Drama
Applying Lessons Learned in the Past
Parenting and Personal Repair
Chapter 8. Death, Mortality, and Vitality
The Fear of Death
Mortality: An Early Death
Attacks on Vitality
Death Is Nothing to Fear
Chapter 9. Acts of Repair
Modest Repair/Delayed Mourning
Mastery via Creativity and Work
Re-creating the Self
Chapter 10. Unwanted Legacies
Varieties of Numbing
Depression and Anxiety
Destructive Metaphors
Chapter 11. Staying in Touch
Culturally Sanctioned Rituals
Guardian Angels
Chapter 12. Owning One's Destiny
Reclaiming One's Destiny
The Tension between Personal Control and Fate
Survivor Pride
Liking One's Life
Personal Will

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