White (How Was School Today? Fine., 2010) returns with a concise guide to navigating the difficult but necessary conversations adult children need to initiate with their aging parents.
Drawing on her years of work as a clergywoman and TV journalist, White presents an eminently helpful guide for adult children finding difficulty confronting the frailty, illness and inevitable death of their parents. Through a penetrating analysis of the difficulties she faced in talking to her own father as he was dying of cancer, White offers a compelling look at how readers can confront a parent’s end-of-life issues, while numerous anecdotes from others who have found themselves in this unenviable position clearly exemplify valuable lessons learned. “Invisible Conversations,” her trademark, refers to “all of those conversations which are not communicated with the intended person or people.” White says adult children tend to exercise common denial mechanisms—like avoidance of necessary dialogue—to eschew the responsibility of having to parent those who once parented them. One of the many refreshing points White offers is that helping aging parents while their health declines doesn’t need to be seen as a saintly, altruistic process. “This journey is as much about your own development as it is about those for whom you love and care,” she says. While the author adopts a conventional approach to self-help by offering an assortment of questions to ask, much of White’s advice is surprising: She proposes asking ailing parents to offer their hopes for how their family will move on after they’re gone. White also suggests asking: “Are there stories about something you did that you may think I don’t know about?” With helpful lists of conversation-starting questions and moving case histories, White’s direct, compassionate tone and crisply crafted writing will be appreciated by readers who need pragmatic strategies to better communicate with their fading parents.
An empathetic, useful guide.