Leigh Van Der Horst, an Australian mum of four, lost her beloved mother to cancer in 2008. Then a 32 year old mother to 3 young boys, Leigh felt as though her world had fallen apart. After picking up the pieces and completely re-building who she was, Leigh set about creating a book called Without My Mum for others who had experienced a similar loss in the hope that they would not feel alone in their grief. She shared 5 lessons she has learned since the death of her mother.
∇ Heartbreak actually hurts
Once you lose someone that you love dearly, the physical pain sets in. And it sits within your chest for quite some time. It aches and throbs and at times it may waver but does not disappear until you begin to heal. Rubbing it doesn’t make it go away, believe me, I know. Heartbreak may bring with it a close companion called ‘Anxiety’, adding to the hurt. Feelings of nausea, stomach flutters and an inability to catch your breath are all normal but there is a very distinct feeling that is indeed heartbreak and only those who have felt it will recognize it. Learn to breathe deeply when these feelings intensify and slow down your days. You are what matters most and you need to grant yourself the time to respond to this pain.
∇ You will change forever
I have heard it a thousand times over. When your mother passes away, a piece of you goes with her, never to return. I often explain it to be that a part of me went silent. The part that knew about the safety net of a mother. The part that shared anything and everything knowing that it would not be received with judgement but very sound advice. I am all too aware of this missing piece of me but I don’t believe that I can ever get ‘her’ back as that part of me was solely for my mother. I do miss ‘my missing self’, but I understand that often when we are faced with trauma, certain reactions are beyond our control. It is what it is. Let it go and work on what you are left with. Re-build to become a better version of who you were.
∇ True friends will reveal themselves
You will have a divide between your friends from the moment your mother dies. This is not to say that you must choose from that moment who to love and who not to love but there will be a clear line in the sand. It will be broken up between as I like to call them; ‘the callers’ and ‘the suggesters’… You will have friends that will make damn sure that you are ok. That you’re children are ok. They will cook, clean, shop, call, visit, write, hug, talk, and then continue to do so until they feel you are on the mend. They won’t be worried about getting in your space, they will just make darn sure that they help you get through this tough time. Other friends will take a huge step back, you won’t hear from them, and if you run into them by chance they most likely won’t bring up the reality of your loss. They are not to be blamed for this, they just don’t know how to deal with such a heavy emotion. But you need support, so lean towards those who can care for you. They will stick by you as your grief progresses, they are your true friends.
∇ Your mother may be gone physically but she is still around
It has been almost 8 years since I last was with my mother but strangely, I ammore like her now than I was then. Over the years, without any conscious effort, I’ve continued to mirror my mother so much. My mannerisms, my movements, the sound of my voice, how I react to certain events, my approach to people… How is it possible for someone to have such a strong influence over you when they are not here to do so? I think they are still with us, guiding us through and making the same impact they did when we could physically see them. I feel my mother around me all the time, perhaps it’s all ‘mumbo jumbo’ but I simply have no other explanation. This interpretation comforts me.
∇ You will be OK.
Now, I am sure people did say to me “you will get over this, you will be ok..” but not for a second did I believe them! But the truth of it all is, you WILL be ok. It will take time, an unimaginable length of time, but you will be happy again. Yes, life will throw you the odd curve ball and you will feel as though it is the end of the world but these moments will remind you of just how strong you are and how far you have come and you will be so proud of yourself for being able to stand on your own two feet and deal with what comes your way. You will laugh, like good old belly laughs, without guilt and you will do it often. You will dream, you will carve out a future that you love and chase every dream that you desire. You will be confident and love life, it just takes time. Just as a physical wound needs time to heal, as do our souls. Be patient, be kind to yourself and have faith.
Life will be wonderful again, I assure you…
Leigh self-published her book last year and after a wonderful response from the public, Leigh signed Without My Mum onto a Traditional Australian Publisher. Leigh now proudly hosts a private Facebook group for Motherless Women called Without My Mum and runs meet-ups in Melbourne, Australia to give women the chance to connect and support each other in person. Without My Mum is available in all major stores and bookstores Australia wide and online worldwide.
Leigh continues to support and empower women through her inspiring website Her Sisterhood.