Motherless Daughters

Motherless Daughters

Motherless Daughters: The Legacy of Loss

Edelman, Hope






An instant bestseller in both hardcover and paperback, Hope Edelman’s Motherless Daughters explores the myriad ways that losing a mother can affect almost every aspect and passage of a woman’s life. First published a decade ago, it is still the book that motherless daughters of all ages look to for understanding and comfort and that they press into each other’s hands. Building on interviews with hundreds of mother- loss survivors, this life-affirming book is now newly expanded to reflect the author’s personal experience with the continued legacy of mother loss; now married and a mother of young children herself, Edelman better understands how the effects of mother loss change over time and in light of new relationships. A work of stunning courage and honesty, Motherless Daughters is a must read for the millions of women whose mothers have gone, but whose need for healing, mourning, and mothering remains.



According to the testimony in this oddly comforting volume, women never get over missing dead or absent mothers, whether they were 2 or 22 or even 52 at the time of loss. Edelman’s mother died when she was 17, leaving her to cope with a grief-stricken father and younger siblings as well as her own feelings. Although she left for college the following year and later led an adventurous, independent life as a journalist, she discovered one day when she was 24 that she missed her mother so much that she was in physical pain. From that experience came a magazine article and this book. Extensive interviews and correspondence with hundreds of motherless women (self-selected through answers to ads and other outreaches) and dozens of experts taught Edelman that losing a mother through death or desertion at any age has ramifications throughout a woman’s life. Even when grief is adequately expressed and the remaining family members are supportive and loving, motherless women find themselves longing for the lost parent at critical junctures in their lives: the first day of school, onset of menstruation, loss of virginity, marriage, childbirth, menopause. Daughters tend to anticipate death at the same age as their mothers’ demise, in particular if it was the result of a physical or psychological disorder that might be inheritable, such as cancer or depression. Also discussed are the tricks of memory that turn the lost mother into a paragon or a wicked witch, and the difficulties experienced in adult relationships due to anger and fear of being abandoned again. As the author says, “”[My mother’s] presence influenced who I was, and her absence influences who I am.”” Many women will find this book painful, but it’s reassuring to have the company of others when dealing with the complex emotions and lifelong effects of a mother’s loss.


 New York Times

The author, who was 17 when her mother died, draws on clinical research and the experiences of more than 200 other women to analyze the impact of such a loss. Daughters in mourning, she explains, often feel that their own lives are incomplete. This is “a moving and valuable treatment of a neglected subject,” Nancy Caldwell Sorel said here last year.



This book helped me understand my grief in a way that made it (slightly) more bearable. It goes over how losing your mother at different times in your life changes the impact and gives context to your loss. Every loss is significant. This book helped me mourn and not feel bad for the depth of my sorrow. It made me feel not so alone in my sadness.

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Barnes & Noble

This book is not just for those who have mortally lost their parent…its for those of us who had a mother that either left us physically, mentally, or emotionally…thereby, forcing children to find another maternal outlet. When you don’t have a mother to show you the way, you often think that something is wrong with you, but it’s NOT your fault. Something is wrong with the parent. This book helps you to find compassion, understanding, and ultimately…forgiveness, not just for her…but for you too. Forgiveness is necessary for both of you, so that you can move past the loss, pain, and hurt of being left behind.

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