I write an awful lot about motherhood in my work with my company, mumsback.com – our gifts are for new mums and aim to allow the focus to be on them and their journey. Talk of motherhood goes super mad around Mother's Day. Chat about mums is everywhere. We can't get away from it. How does this feel for people who've lost their mum? I know it's really tricky. I'm so lucky to have my best friend, Natasha, in my life. Sadly, Tash lost her mum when she was 4 years old. Tash is also a mummy and a step mummy now. I wondered what her view of Mother's Day was and how it's changed over the years. Usually I'd ask her over a bottle of wine, but this time she agreed to an interview with me for this blog. She explains what family life was like for her when she was young, and what it's like now. I'm so grateful for her sharing this and love her (and her gorgeous family) very much. xxxx
What was it like growing up with your sis and your dad? What are your fondest memories?
My first thoughts of my childhood are all happy ones. My sister and I are so lucky to have such a loving dad who worked so hard to make sure we never went without and were happy. We had brilliant times just the 3 of us and dad was (and still is) one of the happiest and jolliest people I know. My sister, Shelly, is my best friend now, but we used to fight as only sisters can. I remember Shelly having to look after me in the summer holidays and I'd have to walk behind her and her friends if they decided to go into town. I was the nerdy little sister who had to tag along.
Growing up with my dad and my sister wasn't really something that I would think about too much as I didn't know any different. As I approached my teens I questioned things more. My dad gave me a letter that my mum had written to Shelly and I during her illness. This letter is so special to Shelly and I and something we'll cherish forever. This letter covers all sorts of advice and everything you would want to talk to your children about throughout their lives. It was mind-blowing reading the letter and still is.
My fondest memories are of the 3 of us driving down to the South of France on our annual holiday. We would have our caravan in tow and would always miss the ferry, which was mostly due to my dad thinking it would be funny to do a lap of honour of our street to wave another goodbye to the neighbours, who always came out to wave us off. A big time for us all was when I moved to Brighton for university and Shelly went travelling the same year. Up until this point I think we took each other for granted. Us both moving away brought us closer together. Shelly's my best friend and I love her so much.
Tell us about your lovely mum and what happened. How old were you when she sadly passed away and do you remember it?
My mum, Sue passed away on 16th May, 1985 at the age of 31. She was 30 years old when she was diagnosed with Leukaemia. After several sessions of chemotherapy she became ill with pneumonia, which was too much for her body to take.
I was 4 1/2 years old when my mum died. I remember a little about her being ill and the time after she was gone. I remember when we would live with our family's friends for short periods of time whilst my mum was in hospital. I vividly remember my mum walking into our friends’ living room after she'd been in hospital for treatment. She'd lost all of her hair by this point, but she came walking in with the biggest smile. We didn't realise she was going to be coming home, so it was a complete surprise to us all. I remember pelting it up the length of the living room to give her a massive hug.
I remember visiting my mum at Charing Cross hospital with my dad one time. She was in a private room with a glass window, which I sat at, whilst my dad went in wearing green gowns to help keep my mum and her environment free from germs. I think from memory I didn't want to wear a gown, so I looked through the window at my mum and dad.
I remember sitting on my mum and dad's bed when my dad told my sister and I that “mummy has gone to heaven”. I can't begin to imagine how hard that must have been for my dad. I remember my dad holding us both and I remember noticing that they were both in tears. I saw Shelly crying and started to cry myself. I was so young, I don't think I really understood what was happening. Recently, my Dad told me a story about how my goldfish had died two weeks before my mum did. He said that after he'd told us that Mum had gone, I said in quite a matter of a fact way that now mum could look after my goldfish.
We were always encouraged to talk about our mum and still do. We still have a good old blub together (we're an emotional bunch!). My dad is a great story teller and I'm still learning new things about my mum from him, even 34 years on. I love hearing about her and what sort of personality she had. I often wonder how much of her i have inherited.
Can you recollect past Mother's Days growing up? How did the day make you feel and how were they handled at home and in school etc?
I think being so young when my mum passed away meant that I didn't grieve until I was much older and now that I'm a mum myself.
When I was younger, our teacher asked the class to make a model of their mums out of toilet rolls and wool (nothing but the finest of craft materials!) for Mother's Day. I cracked on and made my dad. That was just how it was. My primary school were very supportive of my dad and allowed myself and my friend to start pre-school a few months earlier than we should have, to help support my dad during this heart breaking time.
My Nan Olive and Grandad Joe played a massive part in our lives too. We would regularly stay with them at the weekends, so my dad could either work or have a well deserved break.
Has the way you view Mother's Day changed a lot over the years? How does it feel now you are a mum yourself?
Mother's Day has become so much more emotional for me now that I'm a Mum to S (the complete mess up of hormones probably hasn't helped either!).
I think about my mum most days, but Mother's Day is probably the hardest. I try not to get down as I want to enjoy my time with S, my husband and my step-children. To cheer me up, last year I took S on his first ride on a miniature steam railway. Seeing him so excited and mesmerised by the train was the best thing, and a memory I'll never forget.
I think about my mum and if we'd have similar views on things, what she might look and sound like, and if we have similar features or characteristics.
What advice do you have for anyone who may have lost a mum and is faced with Mother's Day? Do you have any advice for their friends and family? Or maybe for schools, pre schools and nurseries?
My advice would be to talk about the person you've lost to friends and family. Having stories about them, what they were like and their little quirky ways makes them more real and not a complete mystery. I love hearing stories about my mum; about what she was like as a person and how I'm like her. Our dad and family friends have told us how our mum loved planning day trips out, organising charity gigs and street parties. It's obvious who my sister and I get our organisational skills from. Sorry dad!
How do you like to remember your mum now? Do you have any special rituals, songs or traditions you take part in or listen to, to remember her?
Before bed, S and I say goodnight to all of our family, including Nanny Sue and Nanny Olive, who have prime place on S's wall, as big transfer sticker stars. S points to the stars and is now attempting to say my mum and nan's names. I know they would absolutely adore him.
Do you have anything more to add about the above? Any final thoughts?
Just cherish your families and friends at every opportunity. Life is so precious.
I'm so grateful to Natasha for being so open in this interview, and for being the bestest pal to me for the last 2 decades!
This blog and interview was written and put together by Sally Bunkham, founder of mumsback.com; hamper gifts for new mums focussed on the yummy stuff denied in pregnancy. £1 from every package sold goes to perinatal mental health charity PANDAS Foundation.