As a bereavement care specialist, Dr. Virginia Simpson has devoted her career to counseling individuals and families grappling with illness, death, and grieving. But when her own mother, Ruth, is diagnosed in 1999 with a life-threatening condition, Virginia is caught off guard by the storm of emotions she experiences when she is forced to inhabit the role of caregiver.

In a quest to provide her mother with the best care possible, Virginia arranges for Ruth to move in with her―and for the next six years, she cares for her, juggling her mother’s doctor’s appointments, meals, medication schedules, transportation needs, and often cranky moods with her own busy schedule. In The Space Between, Simpson takes readers along for the journey as she struggles to bridge the invisible, often prickly space that sits between so many mothers and daughters, and to give voice to the challenges, emotions, and thoughts many caregivers experience but are too ashamed to admit.

Touching and vividly human, The Space Between reminds us all that without accepting the inevitability of death and looking ahead to it with clarity, life cannot be fully lived.

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Editorial Reviews – The Space Between: A Memoir of Mother-Daughter Love at the End of Life

“A stunning, honest book about a mother and daughter at the end of life. Even as a Bereavement Care Specialist, Virginia Simpson was unprepared for the challenges and emotions inherent in caregiving. The Space Between offers hope to us all that despite struggles, misunderstandings, and hurt feelings, when two people are honest and never give up, love can heal even the most contentious relationship. This is a must-read: Touching, insightful, painful, and uplifting.”

—Claire Bidwell Smith, author of The Rules of Inheritance


The Space Between is a moving evocation of grief therapist Virginia Simpson’s emotional bond with her aging mother, Ruth, and a poignant, clear-eyed account of her journey as Ruth’s caregiver during the last years of her life. In warm but unsparingly honest words, Simpson traces the many painful threads of her relationship with her mother–their shared grief over her father’s untimely death, their conflicts over the abuse Simpson had suffered at the hands of her brother, and their fear and resentment as the balance of power, tipped by Ruth’s failing health, inexorably shifted from mother to daughter. Just as honestly, she captures the deep underlying love, admiration and respect that she and her mother felt for one another–love that they found ways to express even in the midst of their pain. Some scenes in this book will inspire a shudder of recognition in readers who are or have been a parent’s caregiver; others recall the sense of mystery that attends the end of a parent’s life, and the grief that follows. Simpson’s memoir offers a testament to love’s enduring and transformative power throughout our lives and in our closest family ties.

—Diane Guernsey, Executive Editor, Pulse–voices from the heart of medicine (www.pulsevoices.org)


“A beautiful, searingly honest book about the exhausting, yet rewarding, experience of being an end-of-life caretaker. Virginia Simpson was her mother’s primary caretaker for the last ten years of her mother’s life and, in scenes that will be familiar to daughters and mothers everywhere, the two of them argue, rehash the past, clash and forgive one another and ultimately reach a place of deep love and healing. A must-read for daughters and mothers at all phases of life. Moving, insightful and uplifting.”

—Zoe FitzGerald Carter, author of Imperfect Endings: A Daughter’s Story of Love, Loss, and Letting Go (Simon & Schuster)


“Many of us will face the confusion and heartbreak of helping elderly loved ones through their last days. In The Space Between, Dr. Virginia Simpson, an acclaimed bereavement care specialist, not only shares her own journey but also focuses a lens on her difficult and evolving relationship with her aging mother. An empowering memoir, The Space Between is filled with insights and wisdom about this most human of experiences.”

—Lynne Morgan Spreen, author of the award-winning book Dakota Blue


“In Virginia Simpson’s memoir, The Space Between, we’re invited into the intimate story of a mother and daughter in the waning years of their relationship, marked by misunderstandings often experienced by adult mothers and daughters. We follow her as she attends her mother’s end-of-life journey. Despite Simpson’s career and expertise with death and dying, she finds her mother’s decline painful and illuminating in ways she couldn’t imagine. As we walk in her shoes, we discover how conscious tending and moment-by-moment compassion create transformation and healing for them both, allowing them to say good-bye with love.”

—Linda Joy Myers, President of the National Association of Memoir Writers and author of Don’t Call Me Mother


The Space Between is an unflinching look at end of life, and in particular, the final days of one mother-daughter relationship. The tables turn on Bereavement Specialist Virginia Simpson when she is cast as caregiver for her mother and must reflect on her life’s work from a new and highly emotional vantage point. A poignant read.”

—Lynne Griffin, author of the novels Girl Sent Away, Sea Escape, Life Without Summer, and the nonfiction parenting guide, Negotiation Generation


“I found so much to connect with in Virginia Simpson’s poignant memoir of loving and caring for her mother, Ruth, during her final years. By exploring her own conflicted thoughts and feelings, Simpson gives tacit encouragement for other adult children to do the same. The Space Between shows us that growing older requires bravery and determination, as does caregiving. When we’re willing to speak honestly about the challenges on both sides, it can put us on the path towards a deeper connection with our parents, and our true selves. ”

—Judith Henry, author of The Dutiful Daughter’s Guide to Caregiving


The Space Between spoke deeply into parts of my soul and psyche: the bereft, sometimes angry, daughter; the grief expert who was struggling with caregiving; the little girl who ached for an emotionally available parent; the adult daughter who learned forgiveness and compassion. Virginia Simpson’s vulnerability and transparency will walk you into spaces we often hold private; ones that when spoken aloud, unite and free us.”

—Susan Salluce, MA, CT, author of griefINK & Out of Breath


“Finally, a memoir of a mother and daughter’s love at end of life. The Space Between is a beautiful story that promises to stimulate a conversation about a daughter’s role during an aging mother’s end-of-life experience and the significance of compassionate healthcare professionals during that time. The strength of The Space Between is that even though mothers and daughters may feel guilt, self-doubt, shame, frayed, worried, scared, frustrated, drained, overwhelmed, or humiliated, at the end of life, all they want to feel is love.”

—Barbara Rubel, MS, BCETS, author of But I Didn’t Say Goodbye


The Space Between is a thought-provoking and moving recollection of the final journey a daughter takes with her mother when forced to face the inevitability of mortality. It is about bridging the gap between generations, ones capacity for love and forgiveness, and personal courage that can be summoned when needed. It is a tale of two women who are headstrong, intelligent, prideful, gracious, forgiving, and bonded by typical mother-daughter love: exasperating, exquisite, eternal. It is an intimate journey of shared lives and history. I was touched by their vulnerability that ultimately led to emotional healing.”

 —Kathryn Mattingly, award winning author of literary suspense novels Benjamin and Journey, and short story collection Fractured Hearts. 


About the Author

Virginia A. Simpson, PhD, FT is a bereavement care specialist and the Executive Counseling Director for hundreds of funeral homes throughout the United States and Canada. She is the founder of The Mourning Star Center for grieving children and their families, which she ran from 1995 to 2005. Simpson has appeared on numerous television and radio programs. She holds a Fellowship in Thanatology from the Association of Death Education & Counseling (ADEC), and has been honored for her work by the cities of Indian Wells, Palm Desert, Palm Springs, and Rancho Mirage. She lives in El Dorado Hills, California with her husband, Bob, and golden retriever, Shelby.