Mothering when you’ve lost your own Mom

Being a mom when yours isn’t around…

Parenting is one of the most rewarding and challenging aspects of life that any of us can experience.  There are highs and lows and as they say, it takes a village to raise a child.  But what do you do when you don’t have your own mom around?

My mom Hannah passed away 4 years ago and not a day goes by where I don’t miss her, think about her, wish she was here or talk to her constantly in my head.  I miss our chats, her driving me insane at times and the 50 plus calls or texts we’d exchange daily, but no more so than when I’m at a loss for help and advice with my own kids.

I was incredibly lucky that she got to meet my two kids.  She adored them.  She had raised me all by herself and it was just the two of us.  She was incredibly kind and loved kids and I know would have loved to have had a dozen of them.  Instead she put all her energy into me. 

We didn’t have money growing up and we struggled.  An unmarried mother in the 70’s raising a child alone posed its own set of unique issues and problems, but she worked tirelessly to ensure I never went without.  But that’s not what this is about.  This is about the fact that as a mom, there are days when I struggle and not having your own mom there to hold your hand, step in when you need a break or just give you a hug, is a pain that I never thought could be so visceral.

The natural order of life is we lose a parent first and it’s how it should be. But nothing prepares you for when they go.  The empty feeling, the calls that don’t come anymore, the text messages you save and re read knowing there’ll never be new ones. 

At one of our infamous parties
I was pregnant with Calum here

I was spoiled with having her as a mom.  When my daughter came along, she gave up her job, so she could look after her while I worked.  When my son came along, I’d never seen her so happy – I think she secretly always wanted a little boy too.  I worked in a high-pressured job and she would pick up the slack.  She was always there.  My husband’s speech at our wedding said, “there’s three people in our marriage, and I’m ok with that”!  And he was, he loved her too.  His family live aboard so we are on our own when it comes to a lot of the day to day goings on that life throws at you.  I have amazing friends and extended family, but nothing replaces your own mom to get you through this life.

What a mother offers isn’t companionship which you can get from those around you, you just want your mom.  You’re acutely aware of loss when it comes to your own child too.  You do your best to ensure they know you’re there for them, you’ll never leave them.  You want them to feel safe and secure and never want them to feel the pain of loss and in a sense, abandonment.  This can be acute, even a feeling of no control because she was taken away too soon. 

In other ways, I feel sorry for my kids as they’re missing out on a nana that adored them and loved them as deeply as me and at times, it doesn’t feel fair.  They talk about her all the time which is both wonderful and heart-breaking.  But it’s critically important to me, I don’t want them to forget her.  I sing the songs she sang to me and tell them stories of when I was a child & the adventures we had.

She gave me a love of beauty, always told me to treat people the way I’d like to be treated and her favourite saying was “any job worth doing, is worth doing well”. She was full of energy that I don’t think I’ll ever replicate, and she has left a hole in our world that can never be replaced.

No matter what age you are, we all need our moms to tell us it’s going to be ok and mine isn’t here.  There are days where I can do it all but on certain days, I miss that connection of being able to call her and simply say “I need you”.

I’m forever grateful and beyond lucky I had her so long as many don’t get that chance, but sometimes it’s ok to feel a bit sorry for yourself.  I know having her in my life and losing her too soon has made me fiercely strong, self-reliant and independent but sometimes I need minding too. 

A few years before I came along
6 weeks before she passed away

Grief is cyclical, not linear.  Adapting to being a motherless mom can often feel like an uphill battle but be kind to yourself if you’re in a similar situation.  There are many phases of loss and I know my mom would want me to be happy and enjoy my own children as best I can.  One thing she said before she died was that she was happy she never experienced the loss of a child and this was the way it was meant to be.  True but her absence is still profound.

Cherish every moment you have with yours, there really isn’t any way to replace a mother’s love…and if you’re in a similar situation, you are not alone but try to make what happened be just a part of who you are, not all of who you are. I know it’s what my mother would wish for.

Maria McKenzie

Maria McKenzie



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