8th May 2018

Zara’s story

It’s hard to lose a parent at any age, but it’s particularly tough for those in their teens and early twenties. I had only just celebrated my 21st birthday when my mother Joanna was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Nine months later she passed away at Woking Hospice, aged 53.

As the only daughter I took it upon myself to step into her shoes and care for my family, but behind closed doors I was falling apart, and ignoring my grief and putting on a brave face meant I fell into a downward spiral of depression.

Nearly six years later, I am now a much stronger person and have learned a lot about myself. Her passing has also inspired me to do things I never otherwise would have done such as quitting my UK job, travelling the world and moving to Australia.

Mum was in and out of Woking Hospice, as well as cared for at home, up until her death in 2012. She used to describe the staff as ‘angels’. They felt like friends to her and I remember her sharing lots of laughs with them. At one point she even strutted down the hospice corridor showing the staff her new outfit and shoes for a party she was going to the following weekend! They made her stay so comfortable and instead of feeling like a hospital mum felt like she was just in a second ‘home away from home’.

Soon after mum died my brother Damian had wristbands made to raise funds for the hospice, and my brother Adam did a silent fundraiser at work. My best friend Olivia also ran the London Marathon in 2016, with all proceeds going to the hospice.

I am now based in Sydney where I work as an entertainment journalist and recently wrote an article for Cosmopolitan, Australia, about losing mum. I hope it will help others, especially youngsters, who have to face the loss of a parent.

I have started to adopt mum’s zest for life by saying ‘yes’ to every opportunity, and it’s during those indescribable moments where I can feel her energy the most. It is still tough and unbearable at times, but I am grateful to have had those 21 amazing years with her than none at all.

Read Zara’s article about ‘Mothers day without mum’ published in Cosmopolitan, Australia, May 2018