In December 2021 it will be two years since Mum passed away. I have spent these past two years getting to know myself on a whole new level. I have learned to sit with those uncomfortable feelings until they pass.
My Mum was sunshine in a human form. She was one of those people who made others feel instantly calm. Her warmth and infectious smile lit up every room she entered. She was the perfect balance of gentleness and mischievousness. She was my best friend, my partner in crime and the one person I knew I could never do life without.
One day, the idea of living without my mum became a reality. I felt lost. I felt helpless. I felt an overwhelming amount of fear around the thought of navigating my life without Mum. It felt like my world had crumbled around me and like time was standing still. We came home from saying goodbye to Mum and I was exhausted. We had spent four days by mum’s bed, waiting, and secretly clinging onto the irrational hope that maybe a miracle would happen and she would recover. We had spent the past year, watching Mum slowly let go. Now, it was all over. Now, I could finally rest. I crawled into bed and tried to make up for the months of sleep deprivation, but I couldn’t. It felt like my sense of identity had gone with Mum and I didn’t know what I should do for the next hour, let alone for the rest of my life.
Over the days, weeks and months that followed, Mum’s impact on the world became undeniable. Hundreds of people came to celebrate her life and honor the ray of sunshine that they all loved. Mum had surrounded herself by the most incredible people and we were lucky to now call them part of our family. Each day, someone would remind us of just how loved Mum was and how supported we were. Each day, I began to feel a little better. Each day, I chose to focus on the gratitude I felt towards all of the wonderful people in my life. Whenever I felt the sadness creeping in I would turn to those around me. I would find a way to feel happy again.
It wasn’t until I was alone that I felt those overwhelming feelings. There was a stabbing pain in my chest that felt like I was having a heart attack. The pain was so intense that it terrified me. It felt like too much for me to handle. The pain made me question if I even wanted to do life without Mum. So, I kept busy. I avoided being alone because I knew the feelings would arise. I still had days where I hardly left bed, but the next day I would pick myself up and carry on with my life.
Then, COVID happened. I went from being a full time Prep teacher, surrounded by20 kids, to being home alone every day. Home alone, in the house where I had lived with Mum. Home alone and surrounded by memories, the good and the bad. Worst of all, home alone with my feelings. I couldn’t stay busy anymore. I couldn’t distract myself from the pain. Finally, with what felt like no other choice, I surrendered I let the tears fall and when the stabbing pains started, I didn’t stop. I screamed. I cursed at the world. I cuddled my pillow and begged for my Mum. I knew that I had to fight the fears of being alone. I had to learn to love my own company and that’s just what I did. I spent majority of2020 in lockdown working from home. I started each day by writing down three things that I am grateful for. I started a meditation and yoga practice. I started sitting with my feelings instead of running from them. I started listening to podcasts and stories of people who had experienced devastation. I felt inspired by their stories and the way they had grown from their loss.
In December 2021 it will be two years since Mum passed away. I have spent these past two years getting to know myself on a whole new level. I have learned to sit with those uncomfortable feelings until they pass. I have learned to listen to my body and stop when I need to. I have learned that I don’t have to be that happy and positive person all of the time. I have learned to connect with new people and listen with compassion.
I have learnt that grief is not linear and it is never ending. I have learned that you have to feel it to heal it. Sometimes, life is extremely cruel and we are allowed to feel angry at the world for what we have lost. However, I have also learned that life after loss can be beautiful. Navigating your life without your person, is an opportunity for you to change direction and create a life you know that they would be so incredibly proud of. I have learned that no matter how isolating grief feels, I am never alone. Even when it feels like the world doesn’t understand my pain, it does. There are other motherless daughters just like me and I am so lucky to be able to connect with them through Motherless Daughters Australia. We are all just trying to navigate our new life without our loved one and now we don’t have to do it alone.
I have experienced many milestones without Mum. I have made some big life decisions without her by my side. I have felt all of those emotions over and over again like it only happened yesterday. I have found new ways to share these moments with her. Sometimes, this means buying a new dress for myself because Mum loved to shop. Sometimes, it means indulging in our favourite chocolate that we use to share. Sometimes, it means sitting by the ocean and talking to her. Mum has also found new ways of sharing these moments with me. She is always giving me signs to remind me that she is still here. My Mum is still here cheering me on, she is still here listening to my problems, she is still holding my hand through every big decision and she is still here telling me to stop leaving my shoes lying around the house. My Mum is everywhere, because she is sunshine and sunshine never disappears.
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.
I became a motherless daughter in June 2018 when my mum, Joanne died at the age of 60. I was 31 years old and was on maternity leave looking after my two young children. Her death was not unexpected, she had been unwell for many years.
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.