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by Barbara Bartocci
Sorin Books, 2000
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D. on Dec 26th 2001

Nobody's Child AnymoreMy 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 Child Anymore 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.

Christian Perring, 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.