My parents are both in their seventies, and they both have had
some serious problems with their health. I hope that they both
have many years of good health left in their lives, but of course
the thought occasionally crosses my mind that one day I will lose
them. Both of them now have had many of their friends die, and
my father lost his youngest sister to cancer several years ago.
Both my mother and father, who divorced over twenty-five years
ago, say quite often that they wish I lived closer to them, in
Britain rather than the USA. I was curious whether Nobody's
might be useful to me.
Nobody's Child Anymore is a slim volume in which Barbara
Bartocci reflects on what emotions she experienced when as her
parents became ill, became increasingly vulnerable, and eventually
died; she also reports the experience of several other people
she has met or communicated with. Bartocci is not herself an
expert trained in this field, and this book is not so much a guide
to dealing with your parents' deaths as a collection of personal
advice from the author to her readers.
Bartocci is religious, and she fairly often refers to the Bible
and the feelings that people have about God and the afterlife
when their parents die. For someone like myself with little interest
in the personal contemplation of God's plan, this aspect of the
book may be off-putting; similarly, those of non-Christian faiths
may find the references to the Bible unhelpful. But the book
is not dominated by religion, and some of the other parts of the
book may be meaningful to readers.
The book is written well, and is most powerful when it is at its
most personal, such as when Bartocci tried to talk with her mother,
who had terminal cancer, about her impending death. The book
is a little formulaic at times, and the advice she offers is rather
simplistic but possibly still worthwhile: take the chance to say
thanks to your parents for what they have done for you while they
are still alive; when one parent is mourning the loss of their
spouse, don't judge the form their grief takes and don't offer
quick solutions; if your parent has Alzheimer's, find a support
group for yourself where you can share your pain; when visiting
your parent's grave, appreciate the natural beauty of the surroundings.
Although I can't say I found it particularly helpful or insightful
personally, Nobody's Child Anymore might be useful to
people starting to think about the loss of their parents, especially
if they are religiously inclined.
© 2001 Christian Perring. First Serial Rights.
Ph.D., is Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College,
Long Island. He is editor of Metapsychology Online Review.
His main research is on philosophical issues in psychiatry.
He is especially interested in exploring how philosophers can
play a greater role in public life. He is available to give talks
on many philosophical or controversial issues in mental health.