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Motherless Mothers: How Mother Loss Shapes the Parents We Become Hardcover – April 4, 2006

4.5 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Edelman first undertook this painful topic in 1994 (Motherless Daughters: The Legacy of Loss), drawing from her own experience of losing her mother at 17. Now a mother herself, she considers how her mother's absence has shaped her seven years of parenting. Through interviews, anecdotes and psychological research, Edelman discusses the challenge of mothering in the shadow of someone gone, which often triggers a resurgence of childhood grief and confusion. But this is less a book on mourning than a supportive guide for mothers who may feel overwhelmed and alone, bereft of their own mothers' presence, advice and support. Chapters address general child-rearing topics for each age group with focuses specific to the reader: the void of the absent grandmother, the urge to overcompensate and the perpetual impulse to protect one's family from the specter of loss. Bereavement counselors examine the process of revisiting a traumatic youth through one's children, which affords the opportunity to heal. Edelman's voice, suffused with fierce maternal love, joins the candid recollections from motherless mothers of all ages and backgrounds. She presents emotionally charged concepts in clear, memorable terms (e.g., reaching the "neon number" of a mother's age of death) to encourage frank, cathartic discussion. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


“A heartfelt and practical work.” (Los Angeles Times)

“A wonderful new book...it will help you and make you cry.” (Jacquelyn Mitchard, Tribune Media Services)

“Smart...Edelman maps the sorrow and longing felt by mothers who are motherless themselves. “ (The Oregonian)

Fascinating...Edelman illuminates the transformative power of understanding mother loss [and] offers essential wisdom. (Library Journal)

“Offers hope...a cathartic book.” (Toledo Blade)

“An important book. One that will help so many people.” (New York Newsday)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; 1 edition (April 4, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060532459
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060532451
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,289,767 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is such a sensitive, individual subject. For me, losing my mother at a young age is one of the strongest factors that has shaped my life...it influenced me at such an impressionable age, that unraveling that event is a process that will forever be with me.

This book helps me understand some of the common themes that happen to motherless women when they become mothers. You think you've "grown up" without a mother, that you can handle it, you've survived your graduations, travels, weddings without her, so you think you can manage. Then BAMB, you get pregnant, and it releases this whole other world of questions, things you haven't thought of before....how did she give birth? was she sick during pregnancy? how did she handle those first few weeks? who was there to support her? what would she say to me if she were here now? how would she help me? You ask sisters, aunts, relatives about your mom during her childbearing years, trying to piece together the information, but ultimately you don't know, you can't know what her mothering life was like.

Edelman talks about self-sufficiency, that when a child loses her (or his, probably) mother she becomes dependent on only herself. There's a tendency to combat any surrogate mother, and that reoccurs when we give birth. Usually the grandmother would be there to hand down mothering wisdom.

This book is for a select audience, and even then I think it can be read only when a woman is ready, willing to address and unravel some of her own loss.
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Format: Hardcover
I did not lose my mother from death but from a custody battle and have not seen her since I was 4 years old. Recently I gave birth to my own daughter and from the day I found out I was pregnant with her I could not believe how much grief, hurt, and confusion that went through me. It was almost as if all of those childhood pains from losing my mother surfaced the day my daughter was born. I felt cluless. I raised a son just fine but once I had my daughter I questioned so many things and longed for that motherly affection I so long ago lost. This book was a GOD SEND to me because I felt like I was the only one to feel this way. It helped me to understand these feelings of confusion were normal. Thank you for this book Hope!
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Format: Hardcover
Any mother that is trying to navigate the world of parenting without her own mother there to guide her needs to read this book!! I love Edelman's writing style - plain, frank and to the point. Many times reading this book I felt like she was talking right to me....she has captured the profound loss all of us motherless mothers feel. She has a nice balance of writing about her own loss and feelings, along with the experiences of other motherless mothers around the country, with just enough research and statistics thrown in to not be boring. This is a compelling, sometimes heart-wrenching read, but any motherless mother will take comfort while reading this book in knowing that they are not alone. Thank you, Hope, for writing this book for us!!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I read Motherless Daughters shortly after losing my mom to cancer when I was 21. At the time, my sister was 10, and I was profoundly daunted by the responsibility of being both sister and mother to her, but also I was afraid that losing her mom so young would destroy her. That book helped me to see that we would both be ok, that we would always hurt, but the hurt might even make us stronger...which I think it has.

Fast forward 10 years to the birth of my son, which catapulted me into a whole other realm of joy, anxiety, AND grief: Joy, obviously, at this new wonder in my world; anxiety over whether I was prepared without a mom-model; grief that I would never see my own mom hold her grandson. I felt the absence of my mother in a deeper way than I ever had before. I had no one to ask "is this how I was when I was a baby?" and no one to call in the middle of the night to ask about fever or to laugh with about the diaper explosion. And I am always heartbroken that he will never know his grandmother.

Motherless Mothers helped me in the same was as Motherless Daughters, by showing me that my feelings were not unusual, and that many other women have become strong, successful mothers without having their own mothers to lean on. I like, too, that the book focuses a little bit more on parenting than on grieving. There is some good information about why I react as I do, which has been helpful in preparing me for some of the challenges as well as some of the unexpected joys. It gave me a little support group without the actual group, and I'm grateful for Hope Edelman's work.
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Format: Hardcover
Thankful to God for Hope Edelman's book, "Motherless Mothers". I've read "Motherless Daughters" and am reading "Letters from Motherless Daughters", that were also written by Edelman. My experience is different from most of the contributors in that my mother suffers from mental illness. But unlike the writings on "being a daughter of a mentally ill mother", which I have found to be full of anger, Hope's works have been helpful in understanding my sadness. The issues discussed are tough, but very encouraging to know that I'm not alone and that many of my struggles are very common in motherless mothers. Thank you Hope and thanks to those that contributed to this. You are helping me (and countless others) work through grief.
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