The Loss of Your Mother: Michelle Ozanne

By Michelle Ozanne


The day my life changed forever forward was October 1, 2022. It was a Saturday. The night before I had a call from my dad telling me Mum wasn’t herself, he thought she was having a breakdown. I told him I would be straight there, but he assured me she was okay and was in bed now sleeping. I respected that.

In the morning, I rushed down to my parents. They only live 400 metres away (they only moved to the area in February and lived with me until their house settled in June). My brother was there and I immediately knew something wasn’t right. After asking Mum a few questions, I called an ambulance. I believed she had already had a stroke.

The ambulance came and found no signs of anything amiss. I won’t go into the details of that day, but it ended with emergency lifesaving brain surgery to drain and allow space for her brain, which was bleeding. I was alone, I hadn’t left her side. I had to call my 81-year-old dad, my brother, my partner and my kids to rush to the hospital to make this decision which wasn’t mine to make. The thoughts going through my head were unbearable and I just couldn’t believe what was happening.

They rushed Mum off and I was inconsolable. We were told there was no space for us and we needed to go home awaiting the call. Surgery was a success, but now we had to wait. The next day, I received a call to say that blood was again pooling and they needed to insert a drain tube in my mum’s brain. It was at this time I realised there was no hope, but I still kept hope for my kids, my dad and my family.

I began moving photos on my phone to a folder ready for the funeral and I began writing my eulogy. I just knew, however, I wasn’t giving up. She had been off sedation the day they drained her brain and I went to the hospital that day hoping to see her with her eyes open. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be.

I spent every waking hour with Mum begging her to open her eyes. When I wasn’t with Mum, I was with Dad holding him strong, taking care of him. No one was taking care of me, I was still running around like nothing was happening. Tuesday morning a meeting was called by the neurological team and I feared the worst at this meeting. Unfortunately, the worst was realised and we were advised it was in Mum’s best interest to remove the ventilator and allow her to pass peacefully without pain. As hard as it was, we knew it was what needed to happen, however, my eldest brother was in South Africa and couldn’t return until Thursday. The doctors agreed she was comfortable and it was fair to wait until Thursday.

I’ll never forget telling my partner and kids to come to the hospital as I needed to tell them what was decided. I didn’t want to tell them on the phone so I just told them to come, they thought she had woken up, but I had to tell them we had to let her go… That was the worst moment for me as I needed to stay strong for them. That meant we now needed to begin saying our goodbyes and begin dealing with the loss ahead of us in two days’ time. It was hard going to the hospital each day when there was no hope, but we did.

The day came and I felt so many emotions. I had a massive panic attack and the nurse needed to take me aside and just let me feel it. I gathered my strength and knew I needed to be there for Mum and that I was going to be by her side the whole time holding her hand and I did.

I was numb for days, not understanding why I couldn’t cry, not knowing what I was feeling and staying strong for everyone else. I would stay up at night worrying about Dad and my kids. The next few weeks were a blur, I still couldn’t feel and I was just running through the motions trying to keep it together. I felt like I was letting my boss down.

I went back to work about two or three weeks later, I can’t even remember. That day I lost it, I was barely keeping it together and had a massive panic attack. The pain was so intense. How could I just go to work? How can life just go on without my mum? Why was everything still moving? I was so confused and dazed. I was struggling to breathe for the next few months. I still feel that way now.

Eight months on and it comes in waves. It comes and it goes, sometimes many times a day, sometimes once a day, sometimes not at all, but it’s always there. I couldn’t understand what I was feeling and I couldn’t control it, I had no control over it. I would find myself driving and would need to pull over because I would burst into tears, so much was overwhelming in my life at this time as well, which made it all more intense. I’ve struggled to be alone, I’ve struggled with my mind repeating every moment over and over again wondering why and how it all happened, what I should have done, etc.

One night I went to bed alone and I found myself crying myself into a panic attack. I couldn’t breathe, I had no control and I couldn’t be consoled. My partner tried everything: music, hugging me, water, food and finally he gave me an A3 blank scrapbook and a pen and told me to write what I was feeling (my mind wouldn’t allow me to stop, it was full of so many thoughts). Within 15 minutes, the book was full. I was calming down and I found a way to take it away from me and put it on the paper. I was able to breathe again. From that moment, I realised my way of getting through this was to write. It wasn’t taking the pain away, but allowing me to get my thoughts and feelings out in a healthier way.

I still have the odd panic attack and I still cry almost every day, but writing helps me. I began writing letters to my mum telling her about life and I began talking to her more and more. I started an Instagram account sharing my grief with memes or just thoughts when I can. This has helped me connect with some lovely people who understand what I am feeling, learn from them or just not feel so alone with my grief. I now know I am not the only person feeling like this.

I have also found focusing on my dad has helped me, doing things I know my mum did and making sure I take care of him is in a way honouring my mum as that is what she would be proud of me for. I know she always appreciated the help I gave them. My mum had so many beautiful recipes that our families loved, so I try to make them often. I have worked out her vegetable soup recipe for my brother, nephews and dad as, although I never ate her soup, they all loved it. I am keeping that tradition alive for her now. I make her chow mein once a week and this is something that makes me feel loved by her and I remember us making it together, she cooked it for me often. These things give me comfort, they allow me to remember her as I learn this new way of life without her. It’s still so fresh and I’m still learning, the anger comes sometimes and the tears flow a lot.

For more information about Michelle, you can check out her website.


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