Mothering Motherless

{My mother with her grandchildren. This picture captures her essence.}


She died 5 years ago, my mother. Too young to die at 51. They say time heals the pain. In many ways this is true: the knife pain in my heart is now an ache that never quite goes away. The pain is not as sharp but it runs deeper than it did before. I’m a motherless mother.

I often think I would be a better mother if she was here to encourage me. To be with me. There’s grief in that.

I know how much she would have invested in, and loved my children; their life won’t be as rich with out her. There’s grief in that.

I want to pick up the phone right now and tell her something I’m excited about, but I can’t. There’s grief in that.

I miss the feeling of my mother being proud of me. There’s grief in that.

I miss being held by a mother. There’s grief in that.

I want to talk to her about how the children love each other one minute and bicker the next, knowing she would give me advice, not just general advice, but words of wisdom that would take in my situation, my personality and my children. There’s grief in that.

I miss her holding me to the highest and pulling me up when I need it. There’s grief in that.

I miss her encouraging me; being someone who says, “You’re doing a good job.” There’s grief in that.

I miss being known. Truly understood and recognised for who I am. There’s grief in that.

Grief is like that. Yes, it dulls but the pain spreads as you live life, and the gaping holes that remain, become more obvious. They seem to spread until once what was whole, is no more; it’s gone and you are left with an empty feeling of loss. True loss. Gone. That part of my life is lost. I’m a motherless mother.


Loss. It’s everywhere. Grief: in its every form is relative and real to the person experiencing it. It’s in the mother who has lost a child.  It’s in the broken marriage. It’s in the woman who longs for a child.  It’s in the widow and widower. It’s in sickness and discord. It’s in the what-could-have-been. True: some forms of loss are greater than others, but it is all real.

When I’m overwhelmed with an aching sense of loss, I remember what I have.

What I do have

My heritage

Much of who I am I owe to my heritage: The way I was raised; the people I have loved; the love I have experienced.

My memories

Memories can be painful. But they are oh so very beautiful. I’m looking for my mother’s favourite perfume this month. I want the smell to bring back  visceral memories to mind.

My faith

It’s like explaining what it’s like to be in love, or the joy of meeting your first child: I can’t fully explain how my faith has helped me parent.  What I can say: it’s not religion, it’s relationship. It’s a way of living. It’s hope.

My family

My own little family here with me. My husband, my children. We can create our own identity. We have choice. We have love.  We fight through the hard times and fix and build around the broken pieces. I can’t, and won’t dwell on the loss, or the what-could-have-been. I have here. And I have now. And I want to make it count.

Who hasn’t experienced some sort of loss? Yes — loss, grief, the what-could-have-been — they leave holes that never heal. 

Accept: I can’t fill them. I can’t fill the holes. It’s gone. However, I can build on them. And around them. The emptiness — while still there; the essence always gone — is replaced with something new. There is always something new. Something to build. Something beautiful.

There is always strength in weakness. There’s always a way to shine in the darkness.  There is always hope.

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Kelly loves life at both ends of the spectrum: wearing high heel shoes one day and hiking boots the next; sipping tea out of a pretty cup and slurping hot coffee from a camping mug; challenging herself physically and stopping for quiet unhurried moments to feel the wind on her face. Kelly and her husband Matthew seek to live a fun and adventurous life with their four children and pet bird.

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        • Renee Geelen says

          Hey, Veggie Mama: My thoughts exactly! Funny that all the things you miss about your mother, I’ve never had with mine. Do you miss something you’ve never had? I don’t need anyone to tell me I’m doing a good job – after all I’m doing better than her – but I wonder if it might be nice sometimes. I think the worst part is that she is technically part of our lives still, just not in a ‘mother’ role.
          However, I’m lucky enough that my mother-in-law fills the gap to some extent.

          • says

            Yeah I never had it. I think she probably would have given it to me if she knew how. Or thought it was important. I know I’m doing a great job, and I’m navigating the path of grandma-hood with my mother. It will never be what I hoped and dreamed, but I’m willing to make the best of it xo

            • says

              It’s a true testament to the strength and beauty of you two gorgeous mums, Veggie and Renee.

              It makes me sad that you haven’t had a mum to encourage you Renee. I read your comment and I feel so proud of you! So proud of your determination, strength and the obvious love you have for your kids.

              Veggie, you’re simply beautiful, inside and out, and this is so obvious through your words, your blog and pics.

  1. Annette says

    Thanks for sharing what it is like to be motherless. My mother passed away in 2005 at only 66. I miss her more since I became a mother for the first time. Before she was married, she was a nurse for the baby clinics at Queensland Health. She didn’t get to meet her grandchildren as she passed away early. She had early-onset dementia which was a cruel disease. I miss her dearly but life has changed forever. I just need to focus on the positives. I have a loving husband and a georgous little girl.

    • says

      Annette, I can totally understand how you would love to share your little girl with her. Hugs to you xxx

      My mother met my three girls before she died. But my son. She didn’t get to meet my son.

  2. Nicky Paora says

    A beautuful, honest and heart wrenching post to read Kelly. From someone who faces losing their own mother in the short future to a terrible disease, I cried and cried. For me I can only treasure these special days I have left and build memories for my young children xx

  3. Nicole says

    <3 If you were my daughter, I would tell you how much I loved you and how very very very proud I was of you. If Zoe grows up to be the person you are I would be a very happy mum. xxoo

      • Nicole says

        Sorry, but its very true, what mother would not be proud to call you her daughter. You are so honest, you bravely share your perceived flaws, you help us all to feel “normal” you brighten our day with your ideas and experiences. Even in your grief you reach out and help others. What I want for you is what your mother would want for you is that you are happy. Not the smartes, fastest, richest woman in the world but happy. In the end of the day its the memories you create that count the most, And you know what, I would not be ablt to share these words with you today if you had not shared them with me over the past couple of years. Please go and have a lovely cuppa, hug your kids, kiss the sky for your mum and enjoy your afternoon, (no more tears today) :) xx

  4. El P says

    You seem like such a beautiful soul. Your mum would be so, so proud… And she will looking at you now as a woman and a mother, a wife and thinking, my goodness, didn’t I do a good job. Take pleasure in that knowledge and appreciate how much joy you must have bought to her life. It really isn’t fair. (And you all have me tearing up now!)

  5. Amanda Stevenson says

    It takes a strong person to put their pain out there for all to see. I remember your mum from primary school and I know she would be Soo proud of you (and your sisters) and how you have all turned out. She would be so proud how you speak about yr faith and even in the hardest times u put 100% into your beliefs and doing what u believe is right. Its your coping mechanism and you’re living proof that it works. Kel, you have no idea how many people u touch with your blogs and the impact you have on so many who read them. For me these sort of posts are the ones I like the most. We all go through hard times in our lives but very few are willing to publicly announce it to the world. Sometimes at your weakest you are actually at your strongest xx You’re doing great babe. Keep up the good work. Your mum couldn’t be prouder :)

  6. says

    Many hugs…

    I think about what my husband misses out when it comes to being a father without his father and what my children miss out on with having no Grandfather…. and it makes me feel both sad and incredibly lucky for the time we did have with my FIL (he died when my girls were 2 after a very very long illness) and that I still have both my parents to support and celebrate me and my family.

  7. Jaime says

    Your post has me with tears pouring down my face, I could have written every word myself.
    Mum has been gone for almost 13 years, taken at age 42. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think ‘what would mum do, say, think’ etc.
    She never met any of her grandkids, but I know she’s loving them every day, they sure love her.

  8. says

    This is one of the reasons why I pushed to go see my family this year, not in the next two years. I want them to have time with my little one. Life is too short.

  9. says

    Sad … I come to it from a different point of view. Although my mum only died recently, she never saw my kids (aged 17 & nearly 15). She refused to come to my wedding (21 years ago). Her severe mental health issues stole her from us long before death did. I guess I am jealous that you got to enjoy your mother while she was here; some of us I didn’t get that opportunity. (You can read more of my story at

    • says

      Was thinking about my comment after I posted it last night, sorry didn’t mean to come across such a grumpy old sad sack! Put it down to the green eyed monster 😉

      I love the photo of your mum, can’t tell you how much I wish my mum had been like that. No wonder you miss her so very very much.

      love Janet xxx

      • says

        No offensive taken at all Janet. I guess a huge part of my post was exactly that: we all have greif and loss and it’s valid and real to the person.

        When my daughter was very little, she lost a most precious and beloved toy. To her, it was devestating. Absolutely devestating. Her grief was real to her. Very real. It’s relative.

        On a slightly different tangent, I get annoyed when someone dies and people say, “At least they were doing something they love.” I’m sure Steve Irwin’s kids or wife couldn’t have cared a less about that at the time. It doesn’t bring him back. And what about my mum? Who didn’t die doing what she loved? Does that make her death, or life, any less important? No.

    • says

      That is so sad Janet. I’m so sorry you didn’t have a positive relationship with your mum; there is a lot of grief in that.

      I absolutely know how fortunate I am to of had such an amazing mother, even though she was taken early. I feel blessed, just very sad.

  10. says

    I miss my mum too… Everyday.
    I know exactly the emotions you are trying to convey and exactly what it is like to be a motherless mother and there are no words as to just how deep the pain runs in our hearts.
    My mother died at just 39, i was 11. And in 10 years time when my daughter turns 11 i will be 39… Everyday i realise that i am looking at my daughter just as my mother would look at me – and i wish with every heart beat that she was here to see me, and i wonder how my life would have been different if she were here.
    There is not much we can do for each other but simply do as you are doing and write about it just so others out there know how lucky they are to have their mothers still around….
    *HUGS* to all the motherless mothers out there – i am thinking of you tonight x

  11. Mel Windly says

    Beautiful Kelly. Makes me more determined than ever to appreciate every moment I have with my parents and to tell them how I feel about them regularly. Thanks. x

  12. says

    Very moving article Kel…..Although I am yet to be a Mother and my own Mother is still with us, I have lost my Dad and all of your points are so true to the core…here is to never ever forgetting our loved ones xxxx

  13. Vanessa says

    Wow, thank you for this post Kelly. You know it’s funny how life works because I wasn’t quite feeling myself today and then I just happened to be on facebook to see this. It came at just the right time and allowed me to shed a few tears and realise that I had just been missing my mum all day. I lost her almost 10yrs ago now but the hole has never been bigger than since I have had my two beautiful girls. I accept that I can’t change it now & my main focus is on my own family…my great husband, gorgeous girls & a wonderful mother-in-law that is a huge help, but when I see my kids faces light up at the sight of their Nana I can’t help but feel a twinge of sadness & a little angry that my mum will never have that & my kids will never have that with her. So all I can do is try and bring all the good things my mum taught me into the mothering of my children…and have a good cry every now and then!

  14. Bonnie says

    I re-read Scotch Broth by Anne Hepple this weekend, one of my Mum’s favorite books. I felt closer to her as I read it again but I cried because she’s not here for me to laugh with her about it. I miss her. So much.

  15. says

    Beautiful Kelly, I am blessed to still have have my mum who is an amazing woman, so thankyou for sharing those gorgeous words reminding me to appreciate all that I have. And in experiencing the loss of a child I know too well that dull ache that will never go away but am too blessed with the hope of the beautiful family I do have around me xx

  16. Kathryn Rodda says

    I agree with so many things the others said, and it’s so true how you describe ongoing grief. I lost my Dad when I was 11, and I don’t think it really hit me then, but it was later when I graduated with my degree, my 21st, my wedding and of course my boys have never met their Grandfather. And other things – like when friends or others complain about their Dad’s and stop talking to them etc, it makes me want to scream at them to think about it – at least they have their Dad here – treasure those moments, don’t destroy them. But like you Kelly, I have faith and know that I will see him again one day. But it’s still not the same as having him here. I also agree with BookChook – you definately are like you Mum (even though I never met her, just by the photo and what you wrote)

  17. Megan says

    I really enjoyed your post. I was 8 when my mother passed. I am not yet a mother, but that is something that I wish she would have been there for. She missed my high school and college graduations, will miss my wedding, and she will miss when I give birth to my own children. I’d like to think that she is still here, in me, in my sisters. Just today I walked past a floral shop and smelled the lilies that were everywhere at her funeral. I can’t stand that smell- just a reminder of that day. I began crying there on the sidewalk. Like you, I miss being held by my mom. I miss the grapes cut into 4ths in a plastic baggie in my lunch because she was so afraid of us choking, I miss her rough hands that smelled like dawn from doing the dishes right before she tucked me in. I miss her happily getting a bag of ice for my arm- after she saw that I was jealous of my sister who had broken her arm and was using one. I’m glad I’m not the only one in this situation. Thanks for your blog entry! I appreciate it more than you know.

    • says

      Aw sweetie. I’m so sorry. I know what you mean about your mum being in your sister. I feel just the same. I have three sisters and we be as much as we can for eachother — it’s a real comfort.

      Your description of your mum made me cry. The smell, the little things she did that you remember. It reminds me that the little things are just SO important… so thank you Megan. xx

  18. Lyndall says

    While I didn’t have the pleasure of knowing your Mum well, I always admired your family for the close bond you all had (and still have). What a beautiful legacy she has left you all. I cannot fathom living life without my mum – you are doing so well and would make her so proud. What a reunion to look forward to one day! I gave a tribute to my Dad this Father’s Day – a book with treasured family photos and the story of the things I remember from childhood and appreciate about him…. I am now working on my Mum’s. What you’ve said here spurs me on to show my parents how much I appreciate them – to love the moment with them too- and to be the best Mum I can be to my girls today. Thanks so much!

  19. Veronica @ Mixed Gems says

    Such a beautiful, raw, honest, yet hopeful post. You have such a beautiful spirit, Kelly. My mother is still with me so I cannot imagine how you feel. Just trying to was really upsetting. Even so, my mother lives interstate and I seldom get to see her. I know becoming a mother myself has deepened my respect for her and desire to be able to share mothering and motherhood with her. In that sense, I get your reaction of there being a gaping hole. You may be a motherless mother, but your children are not and they all the more blessed that it is you who is their mother.

  20. Trish says

    Your mother was the most amazing friendly kind woman Kelly, i can remember fondly many of my chats with her and how kind she was to me…your sisters and yourself have grown into amazing wonderful ladies and i know your mother would be smiling down from heaven on u all and your beautiful families…its so unfair life took her from u all so young it breaks my heart for u… she may not physically be on this earth but she is also shining out of each and every one of u and your sisters for now and eternity…ppl say time will heal the wounds of her early passing but i don’t think time will ever heal the wounds…and u shouldn’t have to lay aside that pain…its a part of u and who u r and it just makes u all more understanding of others in the similar situation …i will never forget your mother either…she was a very very amazing lady! Hugs Trish

  21. Nards says

    This made me cry… I lost my mum when she was only 42. That was 15 years ago and I now have my own little girl who is nearly six months old. I don’t think I’ve ever missed my mum more :(

  22. says

    I have just read this post and wow! how it resonates with me. So reassuring to read someone else feels like I do, thankyou Kel.
    It’s been 10 months ago I lost my Mum and I to, continue to grieve. I’m not quite sure you recover from such a loss and I truly feel changed for it. I’m looking forward to finding me again and I am looking back to my childhood to really discover what I like and dislike. Your point in missing the fact that you are known is exactly what I have come to realise I’m missing right now and although I have people surroundng me that love me – I don’t feel ‘known’. I feel she knew me the most and not being able to pick up the phone and share, especially the updates on the children which she loved .and just those heart to hearts. She was my personal cheerleader and I miss her loyal support and love and encouragement. She was my best friend – and although I have a great relationship with my hubby, I miss my BFF.

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