Living with Grief

Amy's Story: embrace your pain, but don’t keep it as baggage

My mum Judy was just 44 when she passed away on June 4, 2004. I was only 20 years old. Mum was a very warm, funny, dramatic, thoughtful and very quick witted clever woman who had a huge heart.

Portrait of a Motherless Daughter
My name is Amy and I’m from South Australia and I am 34 years old. I became a mother myself eight months ago to our gorgeous girl Penny Saige who is the light of our lives. I wanted to write my story as it demonstrates how you can (in time) turn your grief into something positive if you embrace it whole-heartedly, even when it hurts. You never know who you could help with your experience.

My mum Judy was just 44 when she passed away on June 4, 2004. I was only 20 years old. Mum was a very warm, funny, dramatic, thoughtful and very quick witted clever woman who had a huge heart. She loved my Dad and brother madly and given her situation she did an amazing job as our mum.

During the 20 years that I had her as my mum, I only had seen her for 6 months

without the influence of psychotropic medication. They were prescribed to her by her psychiatrist for depression and anxiety and she had horrible side effects that debilitated her. When she weaned herself off her medication, I finally got to see the real her which was bright, cheerful, funny and carefree. Unfortunately, she became anxious one day and took a regular dose and passed away on her bed. Sadly, I found her and tried to revive her to no avail.

Seven years after her passing, I wasn’t moving on and I wanted her back. I was living in the past and I was angry and so incredibly sad. I came across the following quote in a book: “Socrates pointed out that we carry on as though death were the greatest of all calamities - yet, for all we know, it might be the greatest of all blessings. What are we going to call good? What are we going to call bad? Good or bad is never our choice, or even the issue.” — Steve Hagen.

I read it over and over again and it changed the direction of my life forever.

It was time to stop dwelling and start honouring her life, so I decided to study psychology to learn as much as I could about the mind right down to those neurons. I wanted to know the biology of it all as I was beginning to want children myself one day and did not want to go down the same road as my mum.

I have worked in aged care for over a decade and I look after people with dementia. It is my passion. However, I noticed a trend that the residents became so agitated when their loved ones left after their visits. More often than not they were given a tablet to ‘quiet them down’ and this had horrible side effects. Obviously this struck a nerve, a big nerve with me. So, I created two non-pharmacological tools for people with dementia to use. This involved the family of the person with dementia recording a video/audio message in a greeting card. The person with dementia can then open this card at any time to reassure them as the power of a familiar voice can be very comforting.

A few months into becoming a mum, I felt surprisingly vulnerable and needing protection, support and understanding that nobody could satisfy, but I was unsure why. I felt an ache in my heart and it shook me to my bones for many nights. It wasn’t until one of my dear friends pointed out hesitantly that I had become a mum without my mum’s support, understanding and protection. I sobbed and sobbed on the phone to my friend. I couldn’t speak and my friend cried with me. That night I slept like I hadn’t slept in years. She was right, at 34 years old I desperately needed my mum. I joined Motherless Daughters Australia as a support group and to also signify that I needed a little bit of extra support.

I found a recording of my mum’s voice as she was on talkback radio a few hours before she died. I was able to put the recording on one of my own products (card) and gave it a spray with her favourite perfume. When I play it, it soothes the ache I sometimes feel when I am needing protection and for a split second, it is as if she is here. It’s almost as if all of my study, self-development and developing products has lead me back to my mum; the place I came from, I feel I have returned. I will forever treasure the one thing I have left of her. I’ve also been able to bring comfort to many people who are missing their loved ones through my passion. It has been reported to me that my products have been used in lieu of certain medications to calm residents with dementia. I can’t describe how that makes me feel – I have found a new purpose.

Embrace your pain, but don’t keep it as baggage

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Motherless Daughters Australia acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as the traditional owners and custodians of the land, sea and nations and pay our respects to elders, past and present.
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