It is Mother’s Day in Australia tomorrow. A happy day for most. But what about those of us without mothers? It is a particularly cruel day for me personally. My mum died, very suddenly, when I was pregant with my first child. The first Mother’s Day I had with my beautiful baby boy, was also the first without my own mum. It is now seven years later. I now have two remarkable, exquisite children. My daughter is named after my mum. Grief is so insidious. You carry on for days, weeks, months at a time, functioning well, and then the grief assaults you again. Mother’s Day is the worst grieving day for me. Because it is the day when the truth is so undeniably present. My son and daughter were robbed of the chance to know their grandmother. My mum was robbed of the chance to hold, know, and love her grandchildren. They did not even get the chance to meet. Not even for a moment. It is nothing other than completely fucked. It is a fucked up situation. There are no other words for it.
Every Mother’s Day I look at my children, and I feel that sublime sensation of utter perfection wash over me – that feeling that only comes from motherhood. I am blessed. I feel it, in every fibre of my being. But then I remember my own mother. And the acute sadness of having lost her weaves into my heart and clenches torturously inwards. It is a pain unlike any I have known before. The thought of what she is missing, of what my kids are missing, of what I am missing … it is unbearable. I see women, about my mum’s age, out and about with their grandkids, and it makes me sickeningly angry. It makes my soul burn with white agony. And there are no words of comfort. No way to make it better. No possible strategy to alleviate that pain. No way to avoid the simple truth of the matter. It is just fact.
When I debated writing tonight on the subject of grief, and of Mother’s Day, I did what I often do; I google searched images of grief, looking for inspiration. Usually I find it in abundance – that inspiration that I crave. But as I scrolled through the images the word ‘grief’ brought up, I got increasingly angered. These beautiful images did not represent grief to me at all. Grief is not pretty. There is nothing beautiful about it. It is hideous and raw and difficult to look at.
But then I remembered that it is different for everyone. The beautiful images in the collective perhaps had every right to be there. Maybe someone saw their grief in them. But I did not. I began to lose hope that I would find an image that embodied grief to me. And then I found it, in the photography of Rosemary Laing. These photographs did what any good art should do – they made me stop dead. They affected me. They spoke to me. They gave my grief a voice. They are raw, vulnerable, and difficult to look at. But there is beauty in that vulnerability. There is a sort of horrendous beauty in seeing someone in such a primal, emotive state. Or at least I think so. That is, after all, what all my art and writing is driven by – that desire to push deeper, and delve further into the core of humanity, no matter how dark the landscape becomes.
So tomorrow, on Mother’s Day, I will relish the time I spend with my beautiful kids. I will feel truly blessed, happy and joyous. But I will also grieve the loss of my own mum. I will, in short, feel like this …
a dozen useless actions for grieving blondes #10
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, Victorian Foundation for Living Australian Artists, 2010
© Rosemary Laing and Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne