Motherless Daughters and the Long Arc of Grief: How Women’s Stories of Early Loss Evolve Over Time

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August 12, 2021| 2:00 p.m. Eastern | 11:00 a.m. Pacific (1.5 hours)
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Presentation Description

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.

This collection of dual interviews comprises a unique body of research and analyzing them both answers and raises new questions. In this webinar, Edelman will share her experience and the experiences of the women she interviewed to illuminate what changes and what remains as our stories of loss extend out over decades. She will also share details of how her personal story has changed since 1981, the year her mother died of breast cancer at the age of 42, as the 40th anniversary of her mother’s death approaches.

About the Presenter

Hope Edelman has been writing, speaking, and leading workshops and retreats in the bereavement field for more than 25 years. She was 17 when she lost her mother to breast cancer andHope Edleman 40 when her father died, events that inspired her to offer grief education and support to those who cannot otherwise receive it.


Hope’s first book, Motherless Daughters, was a #1 New York Times bestseller and appeared on multiple bestseller lists worldwide. Hope’s most recent book, The AfterGrief, offers an innovative new language for discussing the long arc of loss. She has published six additional books, including Motherless Mothers and the memoir, The Possibility of
Everything. Her work has been translated into 14 languages and published in 11 countries.


Hope has also published articles and essays in numerous publications and anthologies, including The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, Real Simple, Parade, and CNN.com. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and a master’s degree in nonfiction writing from the University of Iowa. She is a certified Martha Beck Life Coach and has also done certificate training in narrative therapy.