real life

'My mum’s favourite daughter died, and I can't replace her no matter how hard I try.'

The author of this story is known to Mamamia but has chosen to remain anonymous for privacy reasons. The feature image used is a stock photo.

The first thing I thought of when I got the call that my sister had died suddenly was my mum. No mother should ever have to lose a child.

I knew, in that instant, things would never be the same again. My mum, who has said goodbye to her parents, her in-laws, a sister, her best friend, and a husband of 30 years, could not possibly bear losing a daughter, too. 

I know my mum; this will, and has, drawn her further into herself. She is very, very angry about a lot of things, and rightfully so. My sister should be here. 

In the late years of her life, my mum deserved some peace.

It’s difficult to watch my mother grieve, mostly because I know I can’t fix it. I can’t make this better for her. It’s not going to be better in five years.

To be honest, it’s not a consolation to my mum that she has another daughter. There’s no, “At least we have each other still”, or anything like that.

My mum finds no comfort in my presence because I am not my sister. I am not her favourite daughter.

They say parents don’t have favourites, but of course they do. My mother loves me, supports me unconditionally, would do anything for me. But she doesn’t understand my ‘strange’ lifestyle choices, such as living as a divorcee and not re-partnering.

Mum thinks my skirts are too short, that I let my child have too much screentime, that I gave up a solid career for a less sure one. 

Those things are all true. I have always been the rebellious problem child. 

But my sister, in my mother’s eyes, was perfect. From how she presented herself to her incredible career, my sister was undoubtedly the light of my mother’s life. There’s one photo where mum is looking at her with a particular expression. I recognise it, because it’s the same expression when I look at my own child.

Beaming adoration and pride.

My mother has never looked at me like that. She just doesn’t enjoy me in the same way, and I’ve grown up accepting that to a large extent. I know we’re very different people.


I get it; my sister had a lot more in common with my mum than I do. 

But now my sister isn’t here anymore, it hasn’t drawn my mum and I together; it hasn’t made us closer. And I knew it wouldn’t.

In fact, the first time we saw each other after the news, I hugged my mum, and said, “I’m sorry you’re left with me.”

Rebecca Sparrow and Robin Bailey discuss their experiences in dealing with grief on The Well podcast. Post continues below. 

Since my sister’s death, I have tried my best to look after Mum. I listen to her sob, say comforting words; but I know in my heart that there’s nothing that will make this better for her. 

The light of her life is gone, and I’m an insufficient substitute.

There have been times that I wonder if my mum, in her deepest, darkest moments, resents me a little because it wasn’t me who went first. I say this not out of self-pity or bitterness, because, to be honest, I’ve also wondered why it wasn’t me, because I’m older than my sister.

Mum now openly, regularly says to me, “I’ve lost my best friend.” On a rational level I know she has. On a rational level, I feel so ripped off on her behalf. My sister and my mum did not deserve for this to happen to them.

My sister was one of my best friends for decades, so I have some insight into the loss mum feels as a parent.

But when she calls my sister her best friend, I admit it hurts because I’m trying. I’m trying so hard to be the daughter mum needs me to be right now. But I can’t, because I’m not my sister.

I am not enough, never will be; and while that doesn’t feel good, it also makes sense, because my sister was, indeed, irreplaceable, and we were all spoilt by her presence in our lives.

Feature Image: Getty.

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