Book Review: Parentless Parents

| By Casa de la Luz

Title:  Parentless Parents:  How the loss of our mothers and fathers impacts the way we raise our children.
Author:  Allison Gilbert                                
Publisher:  Hyperion                     
Release Date:  Feb. 2011
Do you parent differently if you no longer have parents?  Allison Gilbert, author of Always Too Soon:  voices of support for those who have lost both parents, explores this question in her latest book, Parentless Parents:  how the loss of our mothers and fathers impacts the way we raise our children.
Her answer is that yes, “The Grandparent Gap” – the lack of grandparents – creates a void in a child’s life.  A parentless parent faces child-raising without their parents’ advice, without the steady stream of reassurances that all will be well in time.  There can be no comforting phone call when a child is facing an illness, a school problem, or some life lesson.  Without a parent, where does one go?  There are books, well-meaning friends, Dr. Phil, and Google, but do they really know YOU and the special needs and circumstances YOUR child faces?  No, of course they don’t.  Only a grandparent, your parent, would have this intimate, necessary insight into you and your child.
Not only does the parent experience loss, but the child loses too, even if the child has never had the grandparent in their life.  The lessons learned from loving, living grandparents are irreplaceable, no matter how hard a parent tries to fill that gap.  Gilbert calls this the “I” factor:  the “irreplaceable”, the total inability to restore what is missing.  Unconditional support and validation, along with skills and family-driven behaviors, are gifts from grandparents that will always be lost to the child.
Gilbert does a good job of laying out the losses.  She recognizes the isolation of parenting without parents.  This book is the story of her journey, her processing of the loss she experienced and the ongoing issues of continued loss as she raises her children.  She deals with some very personal issues such as her own jealousy of having her husband’s parents actively and lovingly engaging with her children.  Admitting that her children are blessed by these loving grandparents, she still mourns for the missing piece of her parents’ contribution to their lives.
Once I realized that this is not a self-help book, I stepped back and accepted Gilbert’s thorough examination of the process and the journey she went through and still faces as her children grow.  You won’t find much in the way of coping mechanisms or solutions to the problems faced by parentless parents in this book.  But Gilbert doesn’t let you down altogether.  She has created support with a Parentless Parent group page on Facebook and her followers there share ways to bridge The Grandparent Gap.
Since 2008, more than 600,000 children were born to mothers 35 years of age and older.  This dramatic generational trend will increase the number of parentless parents.  Gilbert’s insight and investigation into this development is a good start to understanding the losses faced by future generations.
By Carolyn Lytle, HR Assistant
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