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Bonds Beyond Loss: Discovering A New Norm With Mum After Dad’s Passing

Mother’s Day is that special time of the year when we honour mums and celebrate the amazing bond between mothers and their kids. For me, it’s a chance to look back on how my relationship with my mum changed big time after my dad passed away suddenly in 2014.

Growing up as an only child, my dad was my go-to guy. We’d sneak out of our rooms together to catch late-night football games, leaving my mum fuming when she found out. Watching Liverpool and Formula 1 were some of my favourite memories with Dad.

But with my mum, things were a bit different. Sometimes, it felt like we were always butting heads, like fire and ice. We seemed to squabble over the smallest things. I did my best at school, but a part of me felt like I still wasn’t making her proud.

When I left for university, things started to shift for the better – indeed, absence made the heart grow fonder. She wanted to make sure I was doing okay, whether I was eating right, or if I managed to wash my clothes properly (at that point it was the first time in life that I’d attempted doing my own laundry!). Mom’s constant worrying suddenly felt more like caring instead of nagging.

Fast forward a few years, and I graduated from uni; life was just starting out for me. I approached everything with a new-found optimism and zest. My parents also decided to move to Johor (where my dad was based for work) so that we could spend more time together. But alas, God had other plans for my dad. Just after settling down in Johor, my dad suffered a stroke, and left us the very next day.

Coping with sudden loss

When I got the call from Mum, I remember feeling like the ground had been pulled out from under me. Worse, her grief was 10 times more acute than mine as the love of her life had just been taken from her, and she had been heavily reliant on him for… everything. Life would never be the same for us.

The silver lining amid our grief: Mum and I found comfort in each other’s company. We leaned on each other, holding onto memories of Dad like precious gems during those rough days. Things like love for the beautiful game, his tendency to repeat his stories or his quirky eating habits – it became a way for Mum and me to connect on a deeper level.

Dealing with grief wasn’t easy. There were times when we disagreed or didn’t see eye-to-eye. We would argue over the most trivial matters. We stumbled through those moments, but thankfully, one thing stuck in my mind: we had only each other now. I matured quickly, and learnt to be the better person, and picking my battles.

From rocky roads to shared kimchi pancakes

Years passed and my relationship with Mum was steadily on the mend, but then, Covid-19 came along, and turned our lives upside down. Suddenly, we were stuck at home together for what felt like forever. Uh-oh. Could our relationship survive facing each other this long without any respite?

I remember texting my best friends, jokingly saying “RIP, mother-daughter relationship”. But somehow, we figured out how to navigate an unprecedented duration together. We kept each other updated on pandemic-related news, watched K-drama together and even tried out new recipes (kimchi pancake was our fave in 2020).

Mum made sure not to disrupt my WFH routine, and poured herself into making the most nutritious meals – thanks to her, I lost a whopping 10kg (!) during the pandemic. Maybe, at the back of her mind, she knew that we could be in that situation for a very long time, and she displayed none of the usual behaviour that made our relationship so rocky previously. When we finally emerged unscathed from the pandemic, my friends were pleasantly surprised by how much stronger the bond between Mum and me was.

Celebrating shared joys and unsung heroes

As we navigated our new normal without dad, we discovered that we had more in common than we thought. We both love to cook, and I learnt so many new recipes from her. Oddly enough, we even have the same offbeat sense of humour (which my hubby finds extremely amusing). Mum and I also discovered a shared love for travel – we’ve since checked off several countries on her bucket list.

As Mother’s Day approaches, I can’t help but think about the strength and resilience of mums everywhere. They’re the unsung heroes who hold their families together, even during the toughest of times. For me, my mum isn’t just a parent – she’s a constant in my life, and ultimately, has my best interests at heart.

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