Finding Support

Paula's Story: MDA has made my grief journey possible

Mum was very unwell during her final weeks, but being very pregnant I didn't mind just lying in bed with her for most of the day and I now cherish this time I had with her.

Portrait of a Motherless Daughter
My name is Paula. I am 45 years old and have spent 19 years going living without my Mum, Therese. I currently own and operate a small catering business, but I am also a support worker. Being a support worker is what I am passionate about. When my Mum was terminally ill for two years before her passing, I was the first one to help look after her and even at the end of her life the decisions that needed to be made were left up to me. I like to think that she played a part in me choosing this career path.

My Mum and I weren't the closest when I was growing up. Her and my dad worked full time and I remember spending most of the time they were home, with my Dad. When I was 17 years old, my mum and dad moved two hours away and I was left to live with family members. This put a fairly prominent strain on my relationship with both of them.

When I fell pregnant with my first daughter at 21 years of age, the relationship with my mum changed. We became closer and once my daughter Breanna was born, it was like my mum was given a second chance. She adored Breanna. Just two short years later, on Christmas Eve, Mum was diagnosed with terminal bowel cancer. She was given an estimate of 3-5 years of life left. After her diagnosis she endured many rounds of chemotherapy that just made her terribly ill. We all continued to live our life as best we could and just over a year later, I fell pregnant with my second daughter.

During my pregnancy, Mum's health rapidly declined and she passed away on the 19th December 2004, just two years after her diagnosis and when I was 37 weeks pregnant. The days, weeks, and months after her passing still seem surreal. I don't remember a lot of what happened, but what stands out the most is the amount of times I was told to "stay strong for the baby". I did this, but little did I know how great of an impact this was going to have on my future life. Not being allowed to grieve still impacts me today nearly 20 years later.

Mum was very unwell during her final weeks, but being very pregnant I didn't mind just lying in bed with her for most of the day and I now cherish this time I had with her. The day before she passed, she was taken to the hospital, and I knew it was the end. My Dad and the rest of the family were in denial, but I just wanted her to be out of pain. My Dad couldn't handle making the final decisions, so I was made Mum's next of kin. This was a hard task, but I feel I made the right decisions for her. She had been through too much and had no fight left. She needed to go.

In the early afternoon on the day she passed, I took Breanna in to say goodbye to her; she was just about to turn 4.Before I left, I told my mum what was happening and that she was allowed to go. She told me that she loved me for the first time in my life. I went home to rest and before I got back to the hospital she had passed. I saw her afterwards and I thought she looked at peace. There was no longer a strain in her face and that made me feel content.

Those days between her death and the funeral were horrible. It's like I was living in a void. We made all thefuneral arrangements quickly so it could take place before Christmas. We laidMum to rest on the 23rd December, 2004. Life did not stop, not for one minute.I had a 4 year old that was waiting for Santa and a baby coming in just overtwo weeks. There was no time for grieving, and I just continued on.


On the 11th January 2005, my second daughter, Mikayla Therese was born. I was booked in for a C-section and as I was being wheeled to theatre the morning of, I saw my dad walking up the corridor and my heart completely broke. Mum should have been walking next to him and I will never not cry when I think about that moment. The next few days in hospital were tough. We were all so sad but so happy at the same time. There is not a way to describe the emotions felt in those days. Life continued, my daughters grew, and my third daughter, Olivia, was born in 2007. We celebrated birthdays, christenings, first days of school, last days of school, many good times and many bad times, all without my mum. Two of my daughters never got to meet her, but Breanna got to spend four beautiful years with her. Breanna made my mum a different person and the bond they had was unbreakable.

What I found most difficult after my Mum had passed was not being able to pick up the phone to speak to her. I would call her many times a day to tell her every minor detail of my day and then this just stopped. Another thing that was hard for me was getting used to not having to ever buy her another present. I would see things in the shops that I thought she would like and then I would remember that she was no longer here. Today I struggle with only having old pictures of her. There are no new or recent pictures to post on social media. They are all a minimum of 19 years old.

Motherless Daughters Australia (MDA) has made my grief journey possible. When I joined this community five years ago, I still had not grieved the loss of Mum. The people I have met, the stories I have read, the events I have attended, the podcasts I have listened to, have made my grieving possible. Nothing will ever take away the pain of losing Mum, but the other daughters I have met over the years have made it more manageable. I knew I had to be an active part of the MDA community. The support and love are like nothing I have experienced before.

The biggest piece of advice I can give to anyone who is faced with the loss of their mum is to allow yourself to grieve. No matter what else is happening at the time, it is your human right to be allowed to grieve in the way that you need to. It is a necessity to allow yourself to go through the grief process.


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Fiona's Story: grief is simply love with no place to go

I thought about Mum all the time during that first year with my baby, wishing she could be there to guide me on this new motherhood journey. It made my heart ache so much picturing her as a grandmother and knowing how much she would have loved my baby girl.

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Mary's story: a whole new world

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Jaimee's story: gratitude & joy in grief

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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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