After the Death of a Child: Living with Loss through the Years

Overview

After a child dies, the parent's world changes entirely. Years later, this new world has changed the parents. The exact nature of this change—the long-term effects of the death—illuminates the nature of the bond between parents and children.

Ann Finkbeiner lost her son in a train accident when he was 18. Several years later, she noticed she was feeling better and wondered whether this feeling was what was meant by "recovery." As a science writer, she read the psychological, ...

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Overview

After a child dies, the parent's world changes entirely. Years later, this new world has changed the parents. The exact nature of this change—the long-term effects of the death—illuminates the nature of the bond between parents and children.

Ann Finkbeiner lost her son in a train accident when he was 18. Several years later, she noticed she was feeling better and wondered whether this feeling was what was meant by "recovery." As a science writer, she read the psychological, sociological, and psychiatric research into parental bereavement. And as a bereaved parent, she asked hard questions of thirty parents whose child had died at least five years before, of all causes and at all ages.

In this book, Finkbeiner combines the research and the parents' answers into a description of the parents' new lives. The parents talk about their changed marriages and their changed relationships with their other children, with their friends and relatives. They talk about their attempts to make sense of the death and about their drastically changed priorities. And most important, they talk about how they still love their children, how the child seems to see through their eyes and live through their actions. They move on through their grief, they get on with their lives, but they never let go of their children. Their wisdom is here presented to any in need of it.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Newsletter of the Compassionate Friends - June Gooch
[W]ritten with warmth, depth, and sensitivity... it will be a comfort to those some way down the road, helping them understand their sorrow and pain, and affirming their own individual way of grieving.
Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic - Marceil Bauman-Bork
The bravery that Ann Finkbeiner must have had to write this book is incredible... By using her own and other parents' experiences, the author makes the issues speakable, and a sense of peace through connectedness with these parents is conveyed to the reader.
We Need Not Walk Alone - Gary Grant
Find a copy... It will exhaust and replenish you.
Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry - Holly Perkins
Enriching. One is struck by the mysterious power of attachment and love in the parent-child bond.
Newsletter of the Compassionate Friends
[W]ritten with warmth, depth, and sensitivity... it will be a comfort to those some way down the road, helping them understand their sorrow and pain, and affirming their own individual way of grieving.

— June Gooch

Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic
The bravery that Ann Finkbeiner must have had to write this book is incredible... By using her own and other parents' experiences, the author makes the issues speakable, and a sense of peace through connectedness with these parents is conveyed to the reader.

— Marceil Bauman-Bork, MD

We Need Not Walk Alone
Find a copy... It will exhaust and replenish you.

— Gary Grant

Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Enriching. One is struck by the mysterious power of attachment and love in the parent-child bond.

— Holly Perkins, M.D.

New York Times
Like mourning itself, this powerful book, much of it in the words of bereaved parents, evokes a series of reactions... It illustrates the hard fact [of human suffering] but also our resilience.
Baltimore Sun
The first book to examine the long-term nature of parental grief through the tales of those who suffer it. Although the book includes most current grief research, its authorities are parents.
New York Times Book Review
This powerful book, much of it in the words of bereaved parents, evokes a series of reactions...It illustrates the hard fact [of human suffering] but also our resilience.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Finkbeiner, a medical and science writer in Baltimore, lost her son, T.C. (Thomas Carl), in 1987 in a train wreck, when he was 18. Determined to learn what researchers had to say about the long-term effects on parents of a child's death, she found that data on the subject was sparse and focused mainly on recovery steps taken immediately after the death. So she placed an ad in the newsletter of a local chapter of Compassionate Friends, a self-help organization for bereaved parents. She then interviewed respondents who had lost one (or more) offspring, stipulating that the death(s) had to have occurred at least five years before the interview. She met individually with 30 parents: Did they feel guilty? Did they feel better over time? Did their relationship to God change? The two main things she learned are that a child's death is disorienting indefinitely and letting go of a child is impossible. The author makes no claims to scientific rigor - interviewees were self-selected by virtue of having answered the author's ad. Those who have lost a child will find corroboration of many of their feelings in this enlightening and heartrending study.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801859144
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
  • Publication date: 5/28/1998
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 800,721
  • Product dimensions: 6.12 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 0.83 (d)

Meet the Author

Ann K. Finkbeiner is an award-winning science journalist and regular contributor to Science, The Sciences, and USA Today and coauthor of The Guide to Living with HIV Infection, also available from Johns Hopkins.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Table of Contents

Introduction
1 At First 1
2 Marge Ford's Marriage 24
3 Fathers and Mothers, Husbands and Wives: Changes in the Marriage 37
4 Brandt Jones's Family 54
5 Brothers and Sisters, Sons and Daughters: Changes in the Relationship with Other Children 63
6 Leight Johnson and His Fellow Man 86
7 Janet Wright's Bad Friends 94
8 Changes Toward Other People 98
9 Chris Reed 120
10 On Guilt 130
11 Delores Shoda and the Uncertainty of Life 142
12 Job's Children: Changes Toward God 150
13 Diana Moores' World 173
14 The Zero Point : Changes in Perspective 182
15 Anne Perkins' Priorities 198
16 Surface Ditties and Carpe Diem : Changes in Priorities 207
17 Walter Levin 219
18 The Nature of the Bond 226
19 One Person Now: The Continuing Trajectory 244
Suggestions for Further Reading 265
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 20, 2010

    Losting a child-the worst thing that can happen to a parent.

    I lost my 15 year old son 2 1/2 years ago in a tragic accident. Every feeling I have felt is in this book. It is a must read for every parent who has lost a child and a must read for every parent who knows someone who lost a child--it explains things to parents on how to act and how we, who are grieving and will grieve forever, can sometimes be hurt by the smallest things.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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