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  • Julie Von Nonveiller Cairnes

‘Un-Mothered’

Updated: Jan 3


"We have not ‘lost’ our mothers. We say that to be polite, but in truth, we have become un-mothered."


- David Ferguson


Photo by NRG · Unsplash


One of my dearest friends lost his partner suddenly. Jack was choreographing a contemporary dance piece in the gorgeous oceanside Sydney Pier Ballet studios.

He left so fast.

I’ll never forget how this was for his partner.


The near unbearable pain brought an extraordinary sense of part of his own soul being pulled through death’s portal into the same dimension his partner now travelled in. Davy just wasn’t fully here for a long time after.

Losing all depth perception for a time and stepping from the road onto the footpath became as dangerous and fraught as stepping through parallel universes.


Grief holds us and wants us to travel alone. For a time.


The pain of grief is visceral, not purely emotional .


At times you feel it travelling like ice cold glass through your veins.


Bringing up any old pain you’ve put to the side, anything you haven’t dealt with will arrive, along with the mountain of pain you’re already feeling, like iron chips to a magnet.


It all comes in like a howling wind that cannot be escaped.

When my mother died, a number of years after my brother’s death, I went through a wild and fierce rollercoaster of emotions.

Deciding to MC her funeral kept me grounded to a degree, but I remember times where my legs went from under me in the first week or so, when I just couldn’t stand for the pain.

Going into her home on the day of her death, after she’d left, was intense.

Her bedroom was absolutely radiant with a powerful brilliant light.

Her yellow curtains were filled with sunshine and a beautiful unearthly light saturated the room. I’ll never forget it, it seeped into my soul as a deeply healing balm.

And as the Earth and Heavens do when a great and humble soul leaves, they put on a show.

An incredible and now famous dust storm rolled through Australia, blanketing the country in a surreal dusky red haze for one amazing week. There are some things you just never forget.

My frail elderly mother was in love with at least two men when she died.

Completely in love with both Barack Obama whose birthday she shared, and David Suzuki.

And also with Adrian, a dear friend of hers who didn’t know. But also loved her.

He died very soon after she did.

To us all she became even more beautiful as she’d aged, it was as though her skin became translucent, and the light shone clearly through her.

I’d sat with her a few weeks before she died, a knowing in our bones, and organised all she wanted for her funeral.

She wanted everyone to wear bright colourful clothes and no black. Her coffin was to be draped in beautiful roses. Because her name was Rose. Patricia Rose.

Both so heart-weary after that conversation about her funeral, taking almost two hours, and she was so very frail.

We looked each other in the eyes when we were done and we knew it was hard but it was good.

It would be just so.

I knew the music, the poetry, all she wanted. This carried me through the initial blinding grief stage and out the other side.

Freya Ridings · Lost Without You

When someone we love dies, the relationship is not over. It just changes.

We speak in different ways now.

Silently from our heart. And they hear and answer in often surprising ways.

They visit us in dreams, or connect through songs on the radio. Birds fly suddenly beside us for a time as we travel on the highway. For some it’s butterflies. You just know. Messages come.

And when someone dies suddenly, often part of the grief can be about the unresolved business in the relationship.

With seemingly any opportunity for any resolution gone. But this is not really so. And my mother and I had already healed the seemingly unhealable.

It had been a difficult, and painful relationship from early childhood, fraught with violence and fear in my little life, related to her alcohol and prescription drug addictions.

I’d felt she was two different people — the beautiful and warm, loving and incredibly insightful mother when sober, and the frightening persona when in her cups.

To this day I don’t much like to drink and rarely do. In fact for decades now, I just don't.

But in her final years we came to a beautiful place, in the main, although there were still some sticking points, that will never be denied.

After her death, all I felt from her thereafter and unto this day, is beautiful light and goodwill, and her supportive energies around me.

With my brother and all my other beloved ones who’ve left. They all come in to help and leave messages to let me know.

Grief has its own time frame. Never let anyone tell you how long you should grieve. Don’t let them pathologize your pain.

It stays and goes in its own time.

With no predictable rhythm or rhyme. We do not grieve in straight lines: grief denial anger acceptance. No.

It’s no linear process. We go around in crazy circles and cycles. We cannot see where the light is or even the tunnel.

But our life continues inexorably and we finally learn to laugh and live again.

In our own way and in our own time.

A deeply personal process.

I still miss her.

And then we realise we’ve become the mother now. The mother of mothers still yet to be.

But when we’ve experienced many sudden deaths time after time, our own life can seem constantly on edge - on shaky ground — as though the world could drop from beneath our feet at any moment.

Then we learn to live again.

We learn to love the feeling of the warmth of sunlight on our face once more, the gentleness of a soft tropical breeze, or even the dank chill of winter can bring us fully back into our skin again, and the gift and the pain of everything all becomes part of the one thing.

"Death — the last sleep? No, it is the final awakening."

~ Walter Scott

[Some names changed to respect their privacy] *

Photographer unknown



Copyright 2019/2020 © Julie Von Nonveiller Cairnes. All rights reserved.

I first published this on MEDIUM on May 5, 2019 + on FB a few years prior

https://medium.com/my-family-other-free-radicals/un-mothered-a8894422dbab


Love. You.

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