by Karen Paul-Stern

Mothering Without a Map

When I first heard about the publication of Hope Edelman’s groundbreaking book, Motherless Daughters, I raced out to buy it. When I told my mother that I was reading it, her reaction was swift and visceral—”You are NOT a motherless daughter!” she screamed. I tried to explain that I felt I was—my mother had walked out when I was 16 years old. She was not an active part of my life again until I graduated from college. I didn’t understand until years later, when I became a mother myself, that what I really was searching for in Edelman’s book was some insight into my mother’s life, which had taken a tragic turn at a young age.

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The articles in this special section:

White Butterflies

by Yael Flusberg

Ordinary adolescent yearnings intersect with the macabre. Her Holocaust-survivor mother killed herself when Flusberg was 15, leaving her orphaned daughter a survivor, too.

Can You Be a Family Without a Mother?

by Lynn Davidman

A sociologist understands the gendered effect of her own mother’s death after she interviews women and men who’ve had a mom die on them when they were children.

The Shame of Having No Mother

by Francine Cournos, M.D.

Dad dies when she’s 3. Mom when she’s 11, and the kids are abandoned to foster care. Here’s how Cournos came through, ventured motherhood herself, and turned her pain into empathy as a psychiatrist.

Mothering Without a Map

by Karen Paul-Stern

The author's mother, orphaned early, had trouble bonding to her own children, replicating in a second generation the distortions of motherloss.