From the Preface
Every relationship tells a story. The two of us writing this book, clinical psychologists who have lost their dads, have had relationships with our fathers that have spanned years of living, growing, and changing; our relation- ships have encompassed conflict and controversy, sustenance and support, learning and teaching. The underlying connection is strong and flexible enough to have embraced a huge spectrum of feelings and experiences throughout the decades. We write this book with a foundation in those relationships, and we hope to speak to daughters whose lives have similarly intertwined with their dads' and who now live with the loss of them.
This book is about daughters and their fathers and the bond that exists between them. It focuses on the intensity and richness of that connection, not in some idealized or abstract way but through real-life experiences and real-life relationships.
This book is also about grief - bearing it, feeling it, expressing it, and understanding it It is about what happens to the father-daughter bond when the father dies: how it undergoes transmutation and transformation and how a daughter is left to make sense of the complexity of the relationship and face how deep and wide this loss can be, whether the relationship has been a positive or a troubled one. We have lived through the sadness, the rage, the questioning, the missing, the disbelief, and the foundering, realizing both the gifts and pains of memory after such a monumental loss as the death of a parent.
We know something of the levels of change that occur after losing a parent and how our sense of self is forever altered, even in midlife, when we might have thought that sense was fairly stable and complete. As a result, this book is our attempt to speak-to others dealing with grief, particularly those who have lost their father.
We could not talk about our relationships with our fathers without discussing our heritage, which has served as the rich context for many of the gifts our fathers have given us - food, family connection, mysticism and spirituality, the sacramental aspects of living life with passion. Therefore, this book is also about what it means to be an Italian American daughter who has lost her father.
We tell a textured story of the father-daughter relationship across the daughter's lifespan, of the loss of the father and the daughter's subsequent grieving and reworking, and of their shared Italian American culture. Woven together, these three themes provide the framework of this book; we then expand this framework with the stories that women we interviewed recounted about the fathers they have loved and lost. We also tell pieces of our own stories that were so influential in writing this work.
The path through grief is long. It is a path of growing, being, relating, loving, losing, and finding someone in a different way. It is the path of our lives and the relationships that continue.