Big occasions often come with a mixed-bag of emotions. None more so than Mother’s Day. For many, including Emma Marshall, it is both full of joy; receiving precious cards from her gorgeous girls, but with underlying sadness at missing her Mum who died when Emma was just 12. A brave but gorgeous list this one:
My darling mum lost her battle with breast cancer in 1996. She was 41 years old, I was 12 and a half.
Her tumour was discovered too late. Her illness was brutal, aggressive and quite frankly terrifying.
Whilst I knew she was poorly and that something wasn’t quite right, I didn’t know she had terminal cancer until three days before she died. My mum and dad carried her illness for most of her short battle.
She thought she was protecting us by not telling us sooner, and in the same position, perhaps I would have done the same. But in truth the shockwaves will take a lifetime to subside.
It makes me incredibly sad to think of how lonely that must have been.
There are a million things I didn’t get the chance to say to her, and ask her, and tell her. I like to think she can hear me when I speak them now.
My early childhood was a happy one. We were a family, two parents, two children. Life was light hearted.
My mum was an A and E nurse, and later opened her own nursery. She dedicated herself to caring for people – her family, her patients, the children in her charge. She was kind and loving. She was bright and ambitious. She was a wonderful parent.
The day she died I lost everything I was too. My childhood was obliterated. I had no anchor, no shelter.
The foundations I had built myself on were swept away and what was left came tumbling down.
It’s only been in recent years that I can really recognise the level of trauma that I went through.
You build your entire existence around the early guidance of your parents, and when one of the pillars is removed, you have to start all over again.
I had no external support, no counselling, therapy or professional to talk to.
If I could go back, that would be the first thing I would do.
It took me 20 years to pour my heart out to a stranger. I talked and cried and asked hundreds of questions I will never know the answer to. It was uncomfortable and comforting at the same time. It helped me to heal.
If it wasn’t for the love and warmth of my oldest friend and her family, I’m not entirely sure where I would be today. They gave me sanctuary. It was the home I needed so very much.
We spent hour after hour, doing what teenagers do. Listening to music, growing up.
It was a time that I remember as being predominantly happy.
They will never fully understand what that means to me. Their generosity and kindness was endless. I love them all from the bottom of my heart.
I navigated puberty, the coming of age, friendships, first, second and third love single handedly.
My dad absolutely did his best for me and my brother, and I love him dearly. He never expected to be a single parent to two teenagers, I don’t think anyone ever does.
I craved and begged for love and attention. I was desperate to be someone’s priority, someone’s above all.
From the outside, I probably looked like I was ok. That I was coping. I wasn’t.
Losing a parent at a young age changes the course of your life. It affects every decision you make and every path you choose. It is the start of a new journey that you never wanted to take.
It impacts on your life in every single way imaginable, whether you notice it at the time or not. There are parts of me that are undoubtedly a direct result of what I went through.
I’m fiercely independent. I find it almost impossible to ask for help, to let people in. Although it’s one of the things I need and want the most.
I found myself again in the arms of my husband. He radiates positivity, his glass is half full.
He has nurtured me, protected me, kept me safe.
- There are no words to describe the hope brought by our three precious girls. They bring an inextinguishable light.
- I had my children young. I think part of me needed to be needed, whole heartedly.
- They are the recipients of all the love I didn’t get the chance to give.
- They have taught me how to be part of a family again.
- My girls talk about my mum with a directness that could only come from children. They ask questions, they blurt out her name, they cry sometimes because they miss the Grandma they will never have. They put pictures of her up on their notice boards. They warm my heart.
- They are my sixth sense. I’m sure my eldest daughter knows me better than I know myself.
- Despite being lucky enough to have everything I have ever wanted, I find it incredibly hard to feel content. There is, and always will be, something missing.
- I have come to accept that as part of who I am. To greet it without guilt or judgement.
- Being a mum, without a mum is much harder than I ever imagined. It’s something I wasn’t at all prepared for.
- Throughout my first pregnancy, I really didn’t give any thought to the fact that I would be parenting without my mum’s guidance, advice and love.
- When I brought my first baby home from hospital, I felt her absence so acutely it took my breath away.
- I honestly felt like I had lost her all over again.
- I still get insanely, ridiculously jealous of others who have their mums close by.
- I long for her to share my journey, to walk in the park with, to call when it’s been a tough day.
- It breaks my heart every day that my daughters will never know their grandmother.
- Of course, the big occasions are difficult, all the firsts, wedding days, the birth of children but it’s often the little things that catch you off guard. I mistyped an email address a few weeks ago and it spelt mum. I just stared at it. The realisation that I would never have her number in my phone was heart breaking.
- Grief is exhausting. It ebbs and flows. It’s all consuming and it takes no prisoners. You’re in it for the long haul.
- I don’t like to give advice, loss is such a personal thing, dealt with differently by everyone. But if I could go back and tell my 12-year-old self anything, it would be this:
- You will be ok. You will be sad and angry and you’ll still scream 20 years later at how unfair it is, but you will be happy. You will wake up and meet the day with a smile.
- You will be stronger, and more resilient. You will be braver, but more delicate at the same time.
- You can fall apart anytime and that’s ok. Let yourself feel anything you need to feel.
- It’s ok to cry in the hairdressers 23 years later when her funeral song comes on. Or to falter when someone asks you where your mum lives.
- You are the only person who expects you to put on a brave face.
- Treat yourself the way you would treat a friend going through the same thing. Be kind, be gentle. Go back to bed on the bad days.
- Get some help. Talk to someone who isn’t in your immediate family, someone who you won’t try too hard not to upset or offend. Silence is deafening. Allow yourself to be heard.
- It will make you a better parent. You will love them fiercely and be determined to set your children up with everything they need. There is something so complex, innate and infinitely binding about the mother daughter relationship. You will be lucky enough to navigate that journey with your girls.
- Mother’s day is a double edged sword, and one that I still struggle with.
- When you step back and look, it’s everywhere. Shop windows, tv adverts, social media, the subject line on a hundred emails direct to your inbox. It’s one I’ve just learned to live with and that I desperately try to enjoy from the other perspective.
- Even though she is no longer here, she is still mum. She deserves to be celebrated. We light candles, we have planted roses. We talk about her at the dinner table.
- I still buy flowers on her birthday. I tell my children who they are for.
- I look for her in rainbows, and feathers falling from the sky.
- I hope my mum knows how very much loved she is.
- I hope that I make her proud.