Book Review: ‘Without My Mum’

March 3, 2015

I met Leigh Van Der Horst (online) back in 2012 when I first started blogging.  She was one of the first bloggers I got to know.  My first blog was ‘MinsMash – my life by the bay’ and her blog was ‘Six by the Bay’. We had a laugh over the fact that we both lived by the bay but different bays at different parts of Australia. She lives on the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria and I’m here on Moreton Bay in Queensland. We shared a common interest in practicing gratitude (I was doing a 365 Grateful Project at the time), both understanding the benefits of living with an attitude of gratitude. I recall her blogging about her dream of writing a book about the loss of her mum and motherless mothering (mothering when you no longer have your own mother to draw guidance and advice from).

Leigh Van Der Horst

Fast forward to 2015 and we have both re-branded our blogs (hers is now leigh V loves – living life with a grateful heart… ) but more importantly – she has done it! Leigh has written and published her book ‘Without My Mum – Learning to live with a grateful heart after loss and grief’.

Though we have never met in person, I am enormously proud of her and I know her mother would be too!


I pre-ordered and received the book prior to its release. I read it very soon after its arrival and could not put it down. I basically read it cover to cover in one sitting! I smiled, I laughed, and I sobbed my heart out (on my bed with a box of tissues!!).

There’s no doubt that there is a special bond between a mother and daughter. In her own courageous words Leigh shares her story of the heartbreak of losing her mother to cancer in 2008.   At the time, Leigh was 32 and had three young boys aged 8, 5 and 3.

In her book, Leigh takes us through her journey of grief and how she has transformed and rebuilt her life with a determination and commitment to live with a grateful heart, always keeping a positive attitude.

Leigh kept a diary through the days of her mum’s illness and uses excerpts from her diary to help tell her story.   She takes us back to before her mother was ill and shares some of the happy, carefree mother and daughter times they spent together that many of us take for granted. The book then moves through to her mother’s diagnosis with cancer, her treatments, a period of remission where both Leigh and her mother travel overseas together, a relapse, more treatments and ultimately up to the heartbreaking moment when her mother passes away.

The book touches briefly on the birth of all four of her boys, with her youngest son ‘Oliver’ being born a few years after her mother had passed.  As she was a mother to babies and toddlers during the years of her mother’s illness, you can feel through Leigh’s words, her anguish and guilt as she is torn between caring for her children and caring for her mother.

It’s a beautifully written, raw and honest book and there’s no denying that it’s an emotional read.  For this reason, I don’t recommend you read it on your daily commute to work.  It’s a book that is best read at home where you are free to smile, laugh, tear up, and sob loudly – as you inevitably will if you’re anything like me!!

At the back of the book Leigh has invited other motherless mothers to share their stories – ‘Without our Mothers – A collection of stories from motherless mothers’.  Reading this section both broke my heart and make my heart soar.  Broke my heart because – so many young women having to raise their children without the wisdom and guidance of their own mother.  Made my heart soar because – it is so healing for women to talk, share and tell their stories and I love that Leigh provided them with the opportunity to do this!

There are also many pages of mothering wisdom for the various stages of motherhood, from babies through to teens and young adults as well as mothering children with special needs – ‘Words of Wisdom – A sharing of motherly wisdom between loving mums’.  These include input from celebrities such as Jools Oliver, Natalie Bassingthwaite, Lisa Wilkinson, Megan Gale and Amanda de Cadenet as well as lots of regular mums across the world.  This section made my heart soar – women reaching out to other women across the world to share their mothering knowledge and wisdom.  How beautiful is that?

Both of these sections at the back of the book create a beautiful uplifting sense of sisterhood, where women reach out to each other across the globe sharing stories and wisdom.  By doing so, they provide each other with a sense of belonging and a knowing that they are not alone and that there are always others that understand and care and are generously open to providing support and guidance.

There’s no denying that this book is a heartbreaking story, but it includes joyous and happy moments and it provides hope and inspiration to those who have lost their mother and those who have not yet lost their mother.  It provides hope that you can get through the grief to a place of acceptance and gratitude for all your blessings.  Grief and loss will be a part of all of our lives – it’s just that it can sometimes come sooner to some than others.

To further provide a sisterhood of support for motherless mothers – Leigh has created a closed and private Facebook forum so that motherless mothers can stay connected, never feel alone and always have support at hand. In her own words it is A safe place to come for support and inspiration for those without their mothers or experiencing grief.  No judgement, just acceptance and understanding.”

If you’d like a copy of ‘Without my Mum’ – you can go HERE to purchase it.

Congratulations Leigh – what a wonderful achievement!

Ciao for now,


[ This post is linked up with Essentially Jess for #IBOT and With Some Grace for #FYBF ]


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  • Reply Trish March 3, 2015 at 10:41 am

    Thank you for sharing this , I know a few friends who might benefit.

    • Reply Min March 3, 2015 at 9:07 pm

      My pleasure Trish! xo

  • Reply Michelle@myslowlivingadventure March 3, 2015 at 3:04 pm

    That’s really interesting. I have written quite a few things on the same topic, mostly for self therapy. It’s a powerful one. My Mum was diagnosed with Alzheimers just before my first son was born, and it’s been a tough road watching her deteriorate, and essentially missing out on grandchildren she would have adored. And of course them never knowing her as she was.

    • Reply Min March 3, 2015 at 9:08 pm

      I’m so sorry to hear about your mum Michelle. It would be devastating watching her decline. Perhaps the words you write as self therapy may one day also be turned into a book? xo

  • Reply Janet aka Middle Aged Mama March 3, 2015 at 5:48 pm

    It sounds a little silly, but I am a little wary of reading Leigh’s book (which I am sure is wonderful). I just think it might upset me too much. I “mothered motherless” but for very different reasons – mental illness stole my mother from me years before she actually passed away. My mum never even met my children. So you can see why I think it might be a bit of a trigger!

    • Reply Min March 3, 2015 at 9:10 pm

      It’s probably best you don’t read the book if you think it might be a trigger and too upsetting for you Janet. I can completely understand! xo

  • Reply Malinda @mybrownpaperpackages March 3, 2015 at 8:22 pm

    How amazing the online community is that you were able to follow her through her journey to being published. Sounds like a beautiful book too.

    • Reply Min March 3, 2015 at 9:12 pm

      Malinda – I am so inspired by her commitment and dedication and that she pushed on through life’s ups and downs and achieved her goal! So proud of her and I have never actually met her IRL! lol 🙂

  • Reply EssentiallyJess March 3, 2015 at 8:41 pm

    I’m so excited for her! I’ll have to add it to my must read list.

    • Reply Min March 3, 2015 at 9:13 pm

      Me too Jess – such a wonderful achievement! xo

  • Reply Melanie Greenhalgh March 3, 2015 at 10:20 pm

    I lost my Mum in Jan 2009 and subsequently my sister in Jul 2009 and took on her two boys as our own. I still struggle and want to talk to my mum all the time about how things are going and advice on what I should do to make this family whole again. I think I will look this book up and have a read and I definitely have a few friends who would like to read too. Thanks for sharing. Mel xx

    • Reply Min March 4, 2015 at 3:27 pm

      Oh Melanie – what a heartbreaking year 2009 was for you! I cannot begin to imagine what you have been through. I do hope you find Leigh’s book and perhaps even her Facebook group helpful! Take care of you! xo

  • Reply Leslie Susan Clingan February 1, 2023 at 1:02 am

    Hoping I can purchase this book through Amazon.

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