‘How I get through Mother’s Day with­out mum’

Zara Zubeidi’s had to nav­i­gate her twen­ties with­out her num­ber one sup­port and best friend, but she’s found an in­ner-strength she didn’t know she had...

Cosmopolitan (Australia) - - Con­tents -

‘MUMMY, WHAT WILL WE DO WHEN YOU DIE?’ It’s a ques­tion no daugh­ter should ever have to ask, but on Au­gust 21 2012, it be­came a re­al­ity for me when my mum Joanna, at the age of 53, was di­ag­nosed with pan­cre­atic can­cer. Just one month prior, I had cel­e­brated my 21st birth­day, and like many young starry­eyed women, was look­ing for­ward to the fu­ture – my first job in the big wide world, meet­ing The One and mak­ing mum a grand­mother. But that dream came to an abrupt halt within the space of nine months when, af­ter a short bat­tle, mum passed away. This year will mark my fifth Mother’s Day with­out her – and while I’ve man­aged to ac­cept the fact she isn’t com­ing back, nav­i­gat­ing my twen­ties with­out a ma­ter­nal fig­ure has been an on­go­ing strug­gle.

I lost count of the num­ber of times I was told, ‘You’re do­ing so well,’ over the past five years. Af­ter we said good­bye, I threw my­self into land­ing my dream role as an en­ter­tain­ment jour­nal­ist, not only as a way to dis­tract my­self from what had hap­pened, but as a way to make her proud, as she knew how much I wanted to work in the in­dus­try in the lead up to her death.

But be­hind closed doors,

I was fall­ing apart. I felt numb. My re­la­tion­ship with my then­boyfriend broke down as we both re­alised the only per­son who could make me happy was no longer here. I be­came with­drawn and most of all, an­gry. I couldn’t un­der­stand how some­thing so ter­ri­ble could hap­pen to some­body so full of life, and how my broth­ers – the youngest just nine years old at the time – and I would cope.

As mum’s only daugh­ter, I took it upon my­self to step into her shoes by giv­ing my fam­ily the sup­port they needed, ig­nor­ing my need to grieve in the process. I put on a brave face and tried to ex­plain to my lit­tle brother that he’d never see mum again, but that she still lived on in spirit. Yet de­spite my at­tempt at stay­ing strong, I fell into a down­ward spi­ral of anx­i­ety and de­pres­sion. Her pass­ing also took its toll on my re­la­tion­ships, and I’d find my­self feel­ing iso­lated again and again as I yearned to fill that void she’d left be­hind.

Yet, as much as I never thought I’d get to this point, here I am, five years later, a much stronger per­son. Yes, it’s been tough – at times, un­bear­able

– not be­ing able to speak to my best friend when I needed her most. But it’s taught me so much about my­self and in­spired me to do things I never would’ve done oth­er­wise. Last year, I quit my job in the UK, trav­elled the world and moved to Aus­tralia. From wit­ness­ing the mag­nif­i­cent sun­rise at Adam’s Peak in Sri Lanka, jump­ing out of a plane over Lake Taupo in New Zea­land to mark­ing Mother’s Day with a bungee jump in Cairns, I be­gan to adopt mum’s zest for life by say­ing ‘yes’ to ev­ery op­por­tu­nity. It’s dur­ing those in­de­scrib­able mo­ments where I can feel her en­ergy the most. I re­cently came across a beau­ti­ful pas­sage from Bud­dhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh in his book No Death, No Fear, who, like me, con­sid­ered the loss of his mother ‘a se­ri­ous mis­for­tune’ un­til he dis­cov­ered the con­nec­tion he had with her through his en­coun­ters with na­ture. ‘To­gether my mother and I were leav­ing foot­prints in the damp soil,’ he writes. ‘All I had to do was look at the palm of my hand, feel the breeze on my face or the earth un­der my feet to re­mem­ber that my mother is al­ways with me.’

Gaz­ing up at the night sky af­ter hik­ing around Uluru last month, and see­ing a shoot­ing star for the very first time, I know mum and I are still to­gether – and al­ways will be. Mother’s Day is never an easy time for me, but I’d rather have had those 21 amaz­ing years with her than none at all.

‘I fell into a down­ward spi­ral of de­pres­sion’

A MOTHER’S LOVE: BABY ZARA AND HER MUM, JOANNA IN 1990.

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