• Jevita Nilson

Becoming a Motherless Mother

Updated: Sep 8, 2019

I became a motherless mother in June 2018 when my mum Joanne died at the age of 60. I was 31 years old and was on maternity leave looking after my 8 month old daughter and 3.5 year old son at the time. Her death was not unexpected, she had been unwell for many years and in the 12 months before her death her health had declined significantly. But you can never prepare yourself for the moment someone leaves your world, suddenly not having her positive presence in my life was devastating. She was the rock of our family, the glue that held everything together, and suddenly she wasn't there anymore and the prospect of moving through life without her was too much to bear.

I was very blessed to have a childhood filled with unconditional love from both my parents. Mum was a primary school teacher and teaching was more than a job to her, it was a calling. I idolised my mum and always wanted to be a teacher just like her. She was so intelligent and loved anything to do with words - reading, poetry, crosswords, Scrabble - as a child I was in awe of her knowledge and vocabulary. I was also very blessed to have a best friend in my mum. She was the person I could count on always - for love, care, advice and a helping hand.

As I got older, I remember mum having a lot of health problems. She often didn't sleep well and would get sick quite easy. She went through a stage where she lost her voice for an extended period of time and had to use a microphone at work because she couldn't lift her voice above a whisper. As I kid I didn't really ask questions, it's just the way things were. She saw a few different doctors and none could treat her health problems successfully.

In 2011, the year I was getting married, I remember mum and dad coming over for dinner one night. We we were all sitting around the dining table and they told us that mum had a rare autoimmune condition called Churg-Strauss Syndrome. The condition was well advanced and incurable.  The doctors couldn't give her any definitive answers, but her life expectancy would be significantly reduced, and there was the possibility she would die within 12 months. She was 53 at the time, and she told me she was aiming to make 60.

My world came crashing down at that moment, and if I'm honest, I started to grieve her death from that moment on. The life I had imagined with my mum would no longer be a possibility. We could no longer plan for the future without thinking that mum may not be there, she may not even live to see the birth of my children. After my wedding in the November of 2011, she was hospitalised for a severe infection and when she returned home she was put on permanent oxygen, which she was on until the day she died.

We nearly lost her a few times over the next 7 years, but she was so strong and she fought as long as she could. I was blessed that she was able to walk me down the isle on my wedding day, and was around to see the birth of my two children. We had so many wonderful times together during those 7 years, she tried to live life to the fullest, despite her condition, and she was always so grateful for the blessings in her life.

Her health declined dramatically in December 2017 and within a few months she was unable to leave the house. The last few months of her life were cruel. She was in so much pain and discomfort and she struggled with the fact that she wanted the pain and suffering to be over, but at the same time she wasn't ready to leave this world. She died at home on June 12, 2018 with my dad and brother at her side. I had seen her that day but wasn't there when she passed away.

In the weeks and months after her death I wrote a lot, I found it cathartic to let my thoughts and feelings out within the safe space of my notebook. I wrote about her final days and the days following her death, I wrote openly about my grief, and then I wrote Happy Hearts, my dedication to her.

J x

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