lifestyle

'I miss you, Mum.'

After 29 years of nurturing, Mum and I had fallen into a routine.

Every week, our texts were pretty much the same. However, for whatever reason, on the night of December 7, we wrote something a little different…

“I’m beside the fire with a glass of red, looking at the stars. Thinking of you, Love Mama,” she said. “How lovely, wish I was there. Make a wish.” To which she replied, “And all your dreams will come true… xxx”

It’s the only consolation in what has been an otherwise inconsolable couple of years.

Later that night, Mum was killed in a farming accident, on Kangaroo Island.

 “I’m slowly experiencing true grief for the first time.”

I’ll never forget the phone call. And then the pain. The grief, so searing and debilitating, it bends your knees. Even now, the exact details of Mums death are too unbearable to talk about. So how does one go on? When you’re no longer anchored and buoyed by the one person who knew you before you knew yourself.

“How does one go on? When you’re no longer anchored and buoyed by the one person who knew you before you knew yourself.”

They say grief is a place none of us know until we reach it. Like love, it took me to surprising places: Extreme denial, delusional wishful thinking, reduced functioning, and above all, a shaken sense of self. With family and friends I shut myself off. It was never the right time to bring up the conversation. I wasn’t ready to talk of silver linings. I wanted to hide in the fog. So I would spend time going through her things, paging through a book, staring at an old photograph, caressing her wedding rings, which I now wear.

‘Today, I’m thinking about Sheryl Sandberg, and the acute pain of sudden loss.’

I remember reading Roland Barthes’s “Mourning Diary,” in which he wrote, “No sooner has she departed, than the world deafens me with its continuance.” I experienced a physical spasm of recognition at this, and the world continued, just as he said. But my heightened sensitivity made participating in it difficult and exhausting. “How do you feel?” they would ask, and I would think “awful” and say “ok.”

I did a fantastic job of performing the social norms of dealing with grief: putting on a brave face and appearing to “handle it” well. I was reporting, and threw myself into pursuing my career by working long hours. Although on-air, I was often shaky. Then after work, I said yes to every function. Every invitation. Every event. Being busy was the best way to mask the pain. Mask it. Run from it. And help camouflage it.

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Airlie is a reporter for Channel Nine.

Except on some days. Days when you’d overhear colleagues tell their mothers “love you” on the phone. So casually.

And then the year becomes a landscape filled with little landmines. In my inbox, an email would wait: a limited offer to “treat Mum” to a free gift. I’d see it and something inside me would clench. And I’d hit delete. And then there were the Facebook and Instagram tributes. Incredibly touching, heartfelt posts from friends about their mums. I’d read a couple. And then I’d start to feel the all too familiar stabs.

I began to learn that grief comes in five stages. First there’s denial, followed by anger. Then comes bargaining and depression. For most, the final stage of grief is acceptance.

I’m not sure you ever get over the loss of a mother, however living without her slowly become more bearable. Gradually, crying every day, turned to every week, to every month. You do feel sadness. But at the same time you feel inspired. Because you stop and you look, and you see the beauty. She’s reminded you. And so it is, that you begin to accept the only thing worse than losing a Mum, would be never having had such a wonderful one at all.

“We all – in the end – die in medias res. In the middle of a story.”

At Steve Jobs’ funeral his sister expressed, “We all – in the end – die in medias res. In the middle of a story.” That touched me. As a journalist, I am all too aware that grief and sadness are a part of any family. We report on it daily. This fact is also acknowledged by the Mother’s Day Classic, an event where more than 10,000 people walk or run to raise money for breast cancer research. Mother’s Day is after all, a day about absences, as well as presents. A time for reaching out, for remembering and for resilience.

Mum was someone who truly cared about the people around her. Her generosity and consideration for others was ingrained in every fibre of her being. This Sunday I will miss her. I will crave a mother to talk to. But I won’t cry. I will not shed one salty drop, even when we unite to farewell another family member just days prior. Instead, I will rejoice in the what was, and the what is. I will spend time with my family. I will hold my five week old nephew for the first time. And I will honour Mum, by passing on her love, from one generation to the next.

The other day, I was flicking through my phone, and I found another one of Mum’s messages. It read, “Airlie, I love you always. You are one resilient cookie. Proud of you. Love Mama. xxx.”

Now that day, I allowed myself to cry.

Airlie Walsh joined the Nine Network in 2008 as a producer, and began reporting for Weekend TODAY in 2010, before transferring to the evening 6pm news in 2013. Away from the Channel Nine cameras, Airlie enjoys photography and is a Board Member with Friends of The Australian Ballet.

You can follow her on:
Twitter- @AirlieWalsh
Instagram- @AirlieWalsh