2010 was the year my world both blossomed and started to crumble. I met my soon to be husband, Evan, in October, then in December found out Mum had breast cancer.
It’s a strange thing feeling the absolute joy of new love while simultaneously knowing your Mum is dying. What started as Ductal Carcinoma In Situ (DCIS) soon became a bigger lump, which then turned into metastasised triple negative breast cancer. (One of the most aggressive and fatal forms of breast cancer.)
So in 2012 we planned our wedding in nine weeks (thank you, Etsy and thank you, Melbourne winter for the open schedule at the Treasury), bought our first home, and drove back to Albury every chance we got to see my Mum, Vicki.
A month after Evan and I were married in June 2012 - almost to the day- my beautiful Mum passed on.
Nothing can prepare you for the absolute void of when your Mum is gone. It’s the little things that get you. Something fun, silly, awful or amazing happens and she is the first person I want to call. So I lived through her death a million times over the first year, and then the ‘firsts’ of life without her petered out and I knew I had to rebuild myself. It’s not about moving on, it’s about learning to live with those hundreds of thousands of little things that happen that you can’t share with her, and finding a new normal.
Living with loss and grief is a tumultuous, transformative process. Everything hurts and is unbearable, all the time. Little by little things get easier, but the weight of grief sloshes around inside and spills over at any time.
In the years that have passed since Mum died, I have had so much love and support from so many of my friends and family, those I see every day, and those I see periodically. It’s the small, ongoing acknowledgements they give me that keep me afloat some times. Those obviously hard times of the year and also those times when I just want to talk about her – it’s always accepted by those around me as a normal part of our lives now. Their allowance - and insistence - to keep Mum a part of our conversations and stories is what keeps her memory alive.
My Mum Vicki was an accountant and the Office Manager at a legal firm in Albury. She was clever, a quick typist, excellent at maths and an honest, loyal friend and mother to me and my sister Rebecca. Mum made me laugh and she also told me the blunt truth when it was necessary, and sometimes when it wasn’t.
There are so many things I will always miss about her, the way she could answer the phone and know straight away that something was wrong or I needed to talk. The way when, if something happened at school, she would want to go straight up and talk to that person and tell them exactly what she thought. The way she partied all night with my friends and I for NYE 2000, simultaneously handing out shots and chocolate, while making sure everyone had enough to eat and a glass of water. She was the BEST. I am still in utter disbelief that this amazing woman is gone from this world.
I found Motherless Daughters Australia (MDA) when I was pregnant with my first son. I was struggling without Mum to talk to. I wanted to ask her so many questions about her pregnancies and life with babies. Why hadn’t I thought to ask when she was alive?! I needed to find someone that knew what this was like, that could give me the safety net of knowing I’m not alone. I’m not the only one pregnant with my firstborn without my Mum.
The work MDA does to bring women together and make sure we have connections, resources and someone always willing to listen is lifesaving. Their effort to ensure motherless daughters don’t go through life feeling alone is inspiring, considering they started this group from losing their own mothers. Danielle and Eloise have given this group of women the tools to make sure we can put into action the emotional turmoil that comes with days like Mother’s Day. One of the most confronting times of year in retail and online for a motherless daughter.
I have made real connections with people who have been through the same horrifying, life-altering loss as me; and it makes that weight a bit easier to bear.
We know Mother's Day can be a difficult time for some. If you find this time challenging, our friends at Motherless Daughters Australia are on-hand to offer support to those living without their Mum.