real life

'Two weeks ago, I lost my mum'

Amy and her mum

By AMY LEHPAMER

I’m a 26 year old from Melbourne. I lost my mum two weeks ago.

Grief should be simple: it’s a transaction. You lose something and so you grieve. Only it’s not simple because it’s never a fair trade. The something we had was a someone we held, loved and considered integral to the way our life was led. They go and what’s left is a cacophony of emotions, a bunch of clothes and photos and a terrifying notion that you might be okay without them.

Grieving is surrendering a part of myself to a change that I don’t want to make. But I have to.  And for me, the hardest part of grieving is this overwhelming urge to change myself into something better.

My beautiful mother is no longer a phone call away.  When she was – most days I didn’t make that call.  I don’t think I ever told her she was beautiful.  I never really knew what it meant to not have her, even though my headstrong stubborn streak assumed I didn’t need her years ago.

I know my mum knew me better than I ever gave her credit for and she learned all these things about me without me saying much.  For all the maturity I thought I had, I realise that when it came to mum, I was always very much a child.  I know that in so many ways I am like her but I didn’t know what to say to her as cancer whittled her life away. I made these little fantasy plans in my head, had the idea of getting mum to narrate her life story to me, then I could write a reflection on what it was like to hear it. I had almost worked up the courage to ask her if that was a good idea but I didn’t see how sick she was and time literally ran out.

I wanted us all to gather around and tell her all the things we would say in her eulogy. I know she knew I loved her but I don’t know if she knew how much.

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Mum was worried about me.  All the time.  And all I can think is that I don’t want to f*ck it up from here. I don’t want to be paralysed by mum’s illness and passing.  I want to honour her by being the best version of myself I can possibly be. I want to be better at life and not have regrets that I held myself back by my own malaise.

In the last 6 months of my mum’s life, she was diagnosed with an unbeatable disease. I did not cope very well but spent most of that time not accepting that I wasn’t coping very well. Mum could sense it and wanted me to get things in order for myself.  She apologised to me in her last days for the pain her illness was causing me. I still can’t believe her selflessness and I don’t think I will ever understand it.  Mum was just that good.

I know that all these thoughts are valid and natural and that guilt is something that I have no obligation to feel.  It’s natural but it’s not healthy and grief shouldn’t have to be a process of self flagellation.  Holy cow it’s hard not to go there though, and as much as every good friend and family member is telling me to go lightly, to take time and feel okay to embrace the shitness, it feels like my every molecule is fighting the idea.

My version of grief, this complicated mess of energy and guilt and wants and needs and sadness isn’t going to go away quickly.  Strangely, that is one of my most comforting thoughts. It’s something to carry with me and in some ways be thankful for because it is a way of knowing that I loved my mum and yearn to have a sense of her with me at all times. So far, grief has made me closer with my siblings and my dad and more receptive to the thoughts and acts of others.

Grief is teaching me a lot.

Amy Lehpamer is a 26 year old actor and singer from Melbourne, who recently starred in the musical ‘Rock of Ages’. Between musicals, theatre, and playing violin, Amy writes a blog called Can’t Be Trusted With A Puppy.

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