Cheryl’s Story

motherhood without a mum

My mother was truly beautiful, inside and out. She was an only child and always wanted a large family. She was softly spoken, patient, loving, supportive, always there for my dad and her kids. Very caring and honest. She touched the lives of so many people in the town we lived and gave me and my three brothers a wonderful upbringing in the country in New South Wales, Australia.

My mother was diagnosed with cancer when she was 55 years old and I was 23 years old. She came to Sydney with my father to tell me she had cancer but said she felt fantastic and not to worry. About 10 months later she went down hill very rapidly. She stopped eating, and started loosing weight. She said she didn’t want chemotherapy or radiotherapy, but she did have it right at the end, but by that time it was too late.

A year later on the eve of her 56th birthday I put her into hospital as she had come back to Sydney to stay with me. Two months later she passed away. Immediately after she died I was devastated, life as I knew it had changed. My heart was broken. I was broken. I did not stop crying for weeks, months, years – I still cry for her. She was my everything. I did alot of work on myself, saw counsellors, read books, even spent the day with a family friend of ours who was a priest trying to get the answers on death. I thought I’d come a long way.

But then I got married, and had my son, and all the grief came flooding back. Becoming a mother was hard (I thought it was going to be amazing). No one told me just how hard it could be, especially when you don’t have your own mother around. My son was not a good feeder or sleeper which made life very challenging and while I had wonderful friends around me they were all busy with their own lives and children.

My husband was amazing but he had to go to work and I felt very alone. I just wanted to call my mother and ask her what to do, or see if she could come over whilst I had a nap, or ask if she could cook a meal for me… the list goes on.

I know I was very lucky to have her for so long and experience such unconditional love growing up, but not having her is difficult. I think of her everyday and miss those special moments that only a mother and daughter understand. Simple things like going for a coffee, or popping in for a visit, or sharing old recipes. It’s the little things that are the hardest, but of course so too are birthdays, and the kids starting school, all those big things that you just want to tell your mum about.

But I have tried to turn my sadness into strength and help others going through similar situations with my recently launched project Brave Birds. It focuses on turning sadness into strength and being brave, even when your mother is not there to support you. This keeps me happy. And focusing on what I have got and not what I don’t have.

And I take a lot of photos of my kids, I don’t want to miss anything. Photos make me happy, I love looking at photos of my husband, the kids, our family. I don’t think I would take as many photos if my mother was still here because I probably wouldn’t appreciate life as I do today. I think because of her loss I appreciate every day, every moment and every photo even more, and I try to remain as positive as I can, as I know my mum would want me to.

Cheryl is 43 years and lives in Sydney, Australia with her husband Darren and their two children, Lachie, aged seven and Ella, aged five.

Find out more about Cheryl’s new project, Brave Birds, here.