Earlier this year, I lamented the lack of books and stories about grief when I shared my own story of grief. I was, and remain, annoyed that grief is a largely taboo subject. We are expected to sweep feelings of grief and loss under the carpet, and to keep these feelings that are part of every human experience hidden.
So last month, when I was given the opportunity to read and review Without My Mum, I jumped at the chance. And here’s why.
Without My Mum / Leigh Van Der Horst
(Vivid Publishing, 2015)
Perhaps the only thing that can impact and shape a woman’s life with the same power as her mother’s love and guidance is her mother’s death. In Without My Mum, Leigh Van Der Horst shares her own honest, heartfelt story of losing her beloved mother to cancer in 2008. She invites us on a journey that is at times heartbreaking and others heartwarming, yet is ultimately comforting and inspiring. With genuine warmth and candor, Leigh tells of her transformative passage through devastating grief to rediscover and redefine her own identity.
This book is divided into sections. The first section is written in first-person (past tense) and tells Van Der Horst’s story. It is punctuated with journal entries (a mixture of past and present tense), and the narrative adopts the same familiar, reflective tone as the journal entries. It is powerful. As I read this section, there were giggles, naaawwww moments, then tears. Then more tears. And still more.
The grammatical pedant in me has to point out that there are spelling and sentence form errors. But the errors are consistent, and there came a point where I ignored the grammatical slips because I was reading someone’s life. I was holding Van Der Horst’s hand as she came to grips with first her mother’s illness, and then her death. And then with life without her mother.
The second section includes snippets from mothers the world over who have also lost their mothers. Some said goodbye to their mothers after they had become mothers themselves; some before they had the chance. Others farewelled their mothers before they’d left their own childhoods behind. All have wisdom to share and observations to make. Some are accepting, others confused and still others are angry. It’s real and raw. You may need tissues.
The third section offers parenting advice or, as Van Der Horst puts it, ‘a sharing of motherly wisdom between loving mums’. It is further divided into sections by child’s age and, as they get older, also by gender, before ending with general tips.
Without My Mum made me reflect on my own relationship with my mother, treasuring it all the more and making me admit to myself that I take her presence in my life for granted. It made me reflect on my memories of my father, and feel angry that he’s not here to enjoy his grandchildren. It made me feel happy, it made me feel sad and it made me feel angry.
It made me feel all of the feelings associated with losing someone.
- It was too hard to comprehend. Basically, I chose to take that path – to not comprehend. Then it didn’t have to feel real!
- Mum’s final smile was such a lovely lasting memory for me to hold.
- I had come to realise that only very few people could handle the reality of deep, dark grief.
- You must acknowledge that grief has no limit. There is not a switch to turn it off and your journey to feeling whole again will take as long as is needed.
Without My Mum is an important book that opens up discussions about loss and grief. Recommended for anyone going through something difficult, and those trying to understand the journey of someone who is. You can purchase Without My Mum from Booktopia here or from Book Depository here.
Have you read Without My Mum? What did you think?
(NB: I received a copy of Without My Mum for the purposes of review. I have not been paid for this post. Thank you for sharing your book with me, Leigh, and congratulations.)
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