I became a motherless daughter at 23.
My life changed forever in January 2012 when my mum died. She was 56. I’d been her main carer for the two years she battled cancer then all of a sudden my life was quiet, although my mind was far from peaceful.
My mum was gone and I was no longer the daughter of a living mother. The planning of the funeral filled this void for a few days, but then that was it. I was left to process the last two years of a complete role reversal and a future without ever having the support from my mum.
I wish Mum had spoken to me about dying but she never even mentioned it. I wish I had been more switched on about the inevitable and what was to come in a life without her or thought to ask her all sorts of questions when I had the chance. Will I get swollen legs when I am pregnant like she did with me and if so, what do I do about it? What to do when my baby won’t sleep at night? What happens if my stupid milk ducts don’t work?
After she died my mind would race with those unanswered questions and it still does now when I think of all the milestones she has already missed and will miss in the future. I was doing my teaching degree when she was ill, she was too sick to come to my graduation.
Mum died before my first day of teaching and I desperately wanted to tell her all about it. She never got to meet my wonderful partner and she wont be there when I get engaged, or married, when I buy a house, or have a baby. The list just goes on and on.
I had no friends who had been through this type of loss and to be honest, I pushed most of them away while she was unwell because my life wasn’t carefree, I simply couldn’t relate to them anymore. I longed to talk to someone my age that’d also lost her mum. I felt that there would be something really comforting about knowing there was someone out there, just like me, feeling and thinking the same. Someone who could tell me I was normal and that hopefully this pain would somehow lesson one day. I decided that I would try to establish a not for profit organisation that would bring all girls and women who’ve experienced mother loss together.
I was on an American Motherless Daughters page and put a shout out to anyone in Australia who might like to be involved in sharing my vision and hopes. A woman named Eloise Hughes did, she was 13 when her mum died. We met and the connection was beautiful and unbeknownst to me, was the start of what would be a lifelong friendship and a wonderful community that would help hundreds of women Australia wide – Motherless Daughters Australia was on its way with a huge vision and many goals.
We want to connect women Australia-wide over high tea events and via an online network on Facebook. We have big hopes of being able to support younger girls by implementing programs into schools and provide professional development for teachers around Mother’s Day stalls in school. It will extend to supporting younger girls through their fathers that will, in turn, help the dads in practical ways. Workshops on all things mums usually do like brushing and styling hair, washing, cooking, cleaning, puberty, bras, tampons, etc. And arguably at a time when a girl needs their mum most, we want to partner with hospitals for childbirth and support post-birth.
With mentoring from Breast Cancer Network Australia founder Lyn Swinburne, I was well equipped with some strategies, skills and expertise to move forward in setting up this much-needed support network. We have surrounded ourselves with women who now form our Board of Directors to ensure we have the help, skill set and shared vision to achieve what we want and need.
Last year Motherless Daughters Australia held its first High Tea. Over 30 women came along to a free event in Melbourne, eight of them coming from interstate as far from Perth. It was a truly beautiful and inspirational day with so many connections and newfound friendships.
It’s not about gathering to be sad, there is reflection of course but there was a real buzz in the room. It confirmed that there's a need for this type of support. In December we had a cocktail party that again was very successful and a few weeks ago our first High Tea was held in Sydney with 28 women.
The feedback from our small but beautiful gatherings is overwhelming. ‘This was amazing’, ‘When is the next one?’, ‘I have made some new friends today.’ ‘This has helped me to feel so much more comforted and normal’, ‘We are all the same.’
Our shared experience and great conversation will hopefully make this Mother’s Day a little less sad. We have now reached over 1500 women on Facebook and have a closed group with over 600 members who support each other from the unique perspective of firsthand experience every single day. We have two more upcoming pre Mother’s Day High Tea events in Melbourne and Canberra and will also be at the Mother’s Day Classic in Melbourne with a participating team – Motherless Daughters Australia.
From little things, big things grow but already I am so proud of where we are today and difference this has made in women’s lives that I have had the privilege of witnessing. This is my silver lining.