'You've lost your anchor': What it's like to mark Mother's Day without your mum (2024)

Danielle Snelling’s mum Rosa isn’t around to tell her daughter not to waste her money on a Mother’s Day card.

She died from cancer 11 years ago.

Being 23 years old at the time she lost her mother, Ms Snelling was experiencing something most of her peers had not.

“I felt a huge disconnect from all my other friends, who had their mums so I was really lonely and isolated,” she said.

It was that sense of isolation that led Ms Snelling to co-found a group for women without mothers, a group that is now 15,000 strong.

Seeking others who understood losing a mother

She said mothers and their children had a special bond and daughters felt the loss in a specific way.

"You don't have that unconditional love, you don't have the advice, you've lost your anchor, you've lost a piece of your life puzzle," Ms Snelling said.

In her search for understanding and support in light of her mum’s death, Ms Snelling joined an online group and posted a call out for other young women in her position.

“She responded and we met in a cafe and we chatted and chatted and that was amazing, the connection was like I hadn't been able to find anywhere else and so we went from there because we thought there's got to be other women like us,” she said.

What do you say to someone who's lost their mum?

The two went on to co-found Motherless Daughters Australia in 2013.

Ms Snelling said the organisation's membership of 15,000 women was just "a drop in the ocean" of all the Australian women who had lost their mother.

She said Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows that 3.9 million Australian women have experienced mother loss and 1.2 million of those have experienced mother loss before the age of 44.

The organisation not only brings together women who have lost their mothers, to comfort and support each other in a non-judgemental space but also aims to raise awareness within the wider community of the impacts losing a mother can have on a woman.

Comment: Why I don’t celebrate Mother’s Day

“Society in general is very awkward about grief. They don’t want to talk about it and don’t know how to talk about it,” she said.

“Definitely ask about her, you're not going to remind anyone that they've got a dead mum by asking because we know every day,” she said.

"Ask about their mum, share a story if you have one of their mum, ask them to share a story with you, just acknowledge it, the worst thing you can do is not acknowledge and just ignore the fact because it's kind of screaming really loudly in your head if you if you haven't got mum."

Marking Mother's Day

Some years Ms Snelling makes plans for the second Sunday of May, and others she keeps things more low-key.

"I normally just see how I feel in the morning, my mum was Italian so I make her food for comfort purposes and I just have a nice glass of red wine to honour her and just choose my audience on the day and just talk to those people who understand, so my friends that I've made through the MDA community," she said.

takes place in the week leading up to Mother's Day.

Motherless Daughters held get-togethers around the country for its members, including a breakfast at Parliament House on Thursday where

Federal MP Allegra Spender

was among those who shared their stories.

She spoke about the shock of losing her mother, fashion designer,

Carla Zampatti


"We all have that story of loss, for me, she went out one evening, fell over and hit her head, went into a coma, and died a week later and it was incredibly traumatic and difficult," Ms Spender said.

"It is not only mothers who we grieve for but it is certainly for many of us, a relationship that is very defining," she said.

Iconic Australian fashion designer Carla Zampatti farewelled in style at NSW state funeral

Ms Snelling said key issues facing those women at the breakfast were raised with MPs present including a call for grief counselling to be covered by Medicare.

"Grief can be quite pathologised but it's not a mental health issue, it shouldn't be lumped into that category. At the moment Medicare provide subsidies for psychologist but we really want to see Medicare cover grief counsellors as well," she said.

The origins of Mother's Day

Ms Snelling's mum Rosa was not big on celebrating Mother’s Day.

“I would always buy her something because I cherished her but she was always saying, save your money," Ms Snelling said.

“She's like, don't waste your money on me, it’s a bloody Hallmark day," she said, referring to the name of a well-known card company.

'You've lost your anchor': What it's like to mark Mother's Day without your mum (4)

Danielle Snelling (centre) has been raising awareness of the loss experienced by women who lose their mothers for a decade now. Source: Supplied

Funnily enough, the very woman who began the early celebrations of Mother’s Day ended up thinking similarly to Ms Snelling’s mum.

in honour of her mother who was no longer around.

Ms Jarvis’ mother had worked to provide education and assistance to mothers in Virginia in the United States to improve the health and sanitary conditions for families.

She herself had hoped to establish a day to recognise the work mothers do but did not get to see her vision become a reality, so her daughter saw it through.

‘Army food with gravy’ for dinner: Why Becky is using Mother’s Day to make up for lost time with her children

“In honour of her mum Anna Jarvis asked everyone to wear white carnations at the first gathering and then later wanted the day abolished because it had lost its true meaning and became commercialised,” Ms Snelling said.

She encouraged anyone who would be celebrating with their mothers on Sunday to also think of those who can’t.

"Just be mindful that, you know, we want to celebrate all mums this Mother's Day, including those who have grown their wings," she said.

"Let's just be inclusive and acknowledge that some people don't have their mum but it's nice to acknowledge them anyway."

'You've lost your anchor': What it's like to mark Mother's Day without your mum (2024)


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