Living with Grief

Ava's story: grief and milestones

My grief has changed over the years, at first I felt numb, then came the unbearable pain. That raw pain eases with time, but the ache in my heart remains. Sometimes, my grief can still knock the wind out of me and I allow myself to cry and remember her.

Portrait of a Motherless Daughter
My name is Ava and I became a motherless daughter at 19. My mum, Julie, was the kindest, most generous, selfless, loving, beautiful woman. She had a big heart and everyone adored her, especially me.

She was taken from us at the age of 50 after a brave battle with cancer. I remember the day so clearly, I’d stopped in at the hospital to visit her on my way to university. Dad said I should skip class that day, it was time to say goodbye. I knew this day would come, but nothing could have prepared me to face it.

My mum was a healthy, happy, vibrant woman. She was an amazing cook and quilter, loved coffee, reading and Michael Buble. She was a full time mum to my younger brothers and I, always saying there was nothing she’d rather do than be a mum to the three of us. Mum gave us a childhood filled with magic, adventure and unconditional love and I am forever grateful for the time I had with her.

Days after my 18th birthday mum sat me down and told me she had cancer, life as I knew it collapsed around me. The cancer was advanced, but she was going to fight it and win, and she did. Twelve months later she announced she was in remission and we celebrated, the fight was over. To our heartbreak the cancer returned shortly after, more aggressively and now in her cerebrospinal fluid and required urgent surgery. We were frightened, angry and confused.

Cranial surgery carries significant risk and my darling mother wasn’t the same when she woke up, losing the ability to speak. The doctors spoke in hushed voices to my dad and his face was grey. I remember walking out of her hospital room and asking one of her doctors to give me the prognosis, 6 months if we were lucky. Three weeks later I was standing by her hospital bed being told to say goodbye.

I went to the hospital cafeteria with my brothers that windy morning of March 31st 2009. Dad had told me to take my brothers for some fresh air and something to eat. As we sat there, a nurse emerged, grim faced and I knew. My darling mother was gone. We walked back to Mum’s room and I collapsed at the door, completely overcome with grief and shock. With help, I walked to her, kissed her and wrapped my arms around her, unable to fathom that this would be the last time I would ever hug her.

What followed was a blur of funeral arrangements, visitors and people fussing over us. Then, quiet. Family went home, people stopped bringing food and life went on. Except, we didn’t know how to go on.

My grief has changed over the years, at first I felt numb, then came the unbearable pain. That raw pain eases with time, but the ache in my heart remains. Sometimes, my grief can still knock the wind out of me and I allow myself to cry and remember her. It’s been twelve years since I lost my mum, and the source of my grief is now focussed on all of the big life moments mum is missing like my engagement, my wedding, my first home, my kids.

Mum was my best friend, and our relationship was changing as I was entering adulthood, we were robbed of a lifetime of love and happiness. I see other women out at the shops with their mum, the doting grandma, pushing her grandkids in the pram and my heart longs for that. Mum would have been the most incredible Oma and my kids would have adored her.

Despite having been faced with unimaginable pain, my brothers, my dad and I are all incredibly close and live full, happy lives. It took a lot of time to learn how to live in a world without mum, and we still lean on each other for support when our grief reemerges or we want to reminisce.

I had my youngest child, a daughter just under a year ago. I was 31 when she was born, coincidentally the same age mum was when I was born. We gave her the middle name Julie to honour my beautiful mother.

As I get older, I see her face more and more when I look in the mirror, and notice I laugh the same way she did, have the same unruly hair and the same hands. I treasure this, knowing that while she’s no longer here, she’s still part of me and my kids and always will be.

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Jevita's Story: writing a book to remember mum

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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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