real life

"I will never forget my first Mother's Day without my mum."

I will never forget my first Mother’s Day without my mum. It was May 2009. Almost one year after she had been taken from those who loved her, far too soon, from cancer. It was a horrendous day. So conflicting… I had 3 young sons who were so excited yet I had heightened emotions and an increased feeling of loss. I literally wished the day away.

For many, as Mother’s Day approaches, there is a renewed sense of loss. That old familiar feeling of pain creeps back into the hearts of those who are reminded, over and over of what they can no longer celebrate. To add to the turmoil, many of those are mothers themselves, expected to look forward to the day, and rightly so, as they will be celebrated.

No matter how long you have been without your mother, each Mother’s Day is tough. Sometimes, for unexplained reasons, some years are harder than others.

What I have learned as I approach my 7th Mother’s Day since my mother passed away is to be open to anything. I remind my family of the sadness I feel to help them understand and I just put one foot in front of the other, making sure that I am kind to myself, as that is what is most important. I know it sounds dramatic, but there is a reason for that.

Author, Leigh Van Der Horst. image supplied

When we lose someone we love, we move through the grief process until we are comfortable with our progress and we tend to hover there for a while until we are forced to continue moving forward. For those who have lost someone who is Internationally celebrated annually, there is no escaping the obvious hole that we have in our lives with them gone. We are reminded by television, print media, social media, retail, advertisements, giveaways; you name it.

Our friends have plans to spoil their mothers and our husbands hope we are strong enough to attend family events in honour of his mother. Our hearts yearn to do the same but we just can’t.

Acceptance is a major component of moving forward after loss. And mostly, I believe that I have accepted my mother's death from cancer (albeit, still unfair) yet, each year, I am challenged to ‘accept’ all over again, which can be tiring and damaging. By the 7th year however, I have learned some valuable coping lessons and here they are.

Knowing that you are vulnerable will help you get through.

Be aware that you are entering a stage that will feel somewhat sad and don’t feel as though you must apologise. You will be snappy, you might take things a little more personally than usual, you might be teary. This is all a normal reaction to the hype surrounding Mother's Day, roll with it and try to get lots of rest to stay strong.

Leigh, with her son. image supplied

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It is OK to talk about your mother on Mother's Day.

The subject of your mum is not taboo. Some people may not bring it up for fear of seeming insensitive but the best way to handle that is by being honest and up front. Be clear in how you struggle at this time of year, explain that you still miss your mum, reminisce about lovely memories. Although she may not physically be there, she is still worthy of celebrating.

Avoid the shops the week leading up to Mother's Day.

An obvious one. Almost impossible, I know, as a mother but honestly, Mother's Day retail goes off the charts with sales and hoopla, you really are best to stay away. I have been asked many times over now 'is this for your mum?'

The first time I literally cried! Now, I simply reply, that no, she passed away, hoping that it might teach them to not always make assumptions at this time of year.

Plan something YOU want to do on Mother's Day.

This is SO IMPORTANT! You have every right to put your foot down and verbalise what it is that you want to do on this tough day. Last year I went so far as insisting that we schedule our Bali holiday around it, which was heavenly. (If only I could do it EVERY year!) Do you want to go for a nice long drive? Do it. Feel like being pampered and having a day at the Day Spa? Do it. How about a nice long lunch at a winery? DO IT! I promise you, if you do what you want to do, the day will be much nicer. You may even enjoy it.

Allow yourself to be celebrated.

It took me a few years to understand that my children had the right to celebrate me, and that I was not lessening my mothers importance by allowing myself to be spoilt. Just as we loved showering our mothers with gifts and cuddles, so do our children. Try not to meet that with tears and sadness. It only confuses them and makes them think they are doing something wrong. Your mother would be beaming at the sight of her grandchildren smothering
you in love. Welcome it, be thankful for it and soak it up, you have earned it after all.

Mothers Day will never go away. You will have to face it each and every year. I promise you that you will get better at it as time goes on and there is hope for new and heartfelt traditions and memories to form. Be kind to yourselves ladies and lean on those you love.

Happy Mother's Day to our beautiful Mothers.

Without My Mum: A Daughter's Guide to Grief, Loss and Reclaiming Life by Leigh Van Der Horst is published by Nero Books and available now.

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