Introduction to Daddy∗ The autobiographical essay below was shared by Ms. Waisanen with researchers from the University of Michigan's Child Bereavement Project when, at age 16, Ms. Waisanen was interviewed in a study of the impact of parental death upon families with school-aged children. The Project, a longitudinal, community-based study of parentally bereaved children and their surviving parents includes extensive interviews, standardized questionnaires, and projective measures. Project research has focused on a number of topics including: level of adjustment in bereaved children; gender and age differences in child adjustment; the impact of anticipated versus sudden death on surviving family members; the nature and functions of children's continuing attachment to their deceased parent; determinants of surviving spouses' capacity adequately to parent their bereaved children; peer relations of bereaved children; remarriage and cohabitation among young bereaved parents; and the impact on survivors of traumatic exposure to a dying parent.1 ∗Introduction by Albert C. Cain, University of Michigan. 1Research articles stemming from this Project include: (Bishop & Cain, 2003; Cain, 2002; Kalter et al., 2002–03; Porterfield, Cain & Saldinger, 2003; Saldinger & Cain, in press; Saldinger, Cain, Kalter & Lohnes, 1999; Saldinger, Cain & Porterfield, 2003; Saldinger, Cain, Porterfield, & Lohnes, in press). There is much in this essay that will immediately resonate for students of bereavement and caretakers of bereaved. Depicted vividly is a bereaved youngster's crushing sense of loss, her yearning, cherished identifications with a beloved parent, sudden unwelcome surges of aching grief and tears, continuing attachment beyond death, and the potential power of a deeply caring friend contrasted with the frozen or obtuse responses of much of her peer “support network.” Particularly instructive, in the face of our field's widespread virtual romaniticization of the relative advantages for the bereaved of anticipated (versus sudden) deaths is the compelling portrayal of the cruel costs of the author's empathy with a dying parent amidst her devoted efforts to maintain a rich relationship with her father in spite of the consequences: repeated, torturesome exposures to his helpless fragility, to raw, almost unbearable images of his physical deterioration and disfigurement, as well as his diminishing capacity to communicate his love or even clear acknowledgment of hers.
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Document Type: Research Article
Affiliations: Undergraduate Student, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA
Publication date: October 1, 2004