Life and death

Earlier this week I stood outside in our courtyard, balanced on a wooden bench, picking dead leaves from the vertical garden my husband and I installed just a few weeks ago. It’s been unseasonably warm in Sydney and the new plants are thriving – mostly; yet here and there curled shoots have fallen by the wayside, lost in the shock of their recent transplant. As I stood there with the sun warming my back and a hand full of crisp, brown leaves, my mind raced ahead to a vision of myself as an old lady stooped over a garden, pruning dead shoots and faded flowers. I have been asking myself in recent days how long this pain will last, but standing up there on the bench, I was struck by the sudden realisation that this pain isn’t going anywhere. Many years from now, I will still feel this ache of losing my husband. Wherever my life goes from here, there will always be the love and loss of him. It is a part of who I am. So while I am terrified about memories of Matt fading – the sound of his laugh, his stubble against my cheek, the weight of his arm draped around my shoulders – the one thing I know I will never lose is this sense of loss for the man who lit my world. It’s so hard not to feel robbed of the very best part of me – of the person who made me feel most myself.

I realise now that death is all around us. Of course it is. Life goes hand-in-hand with death. Yet somehow it feels as though I have been walking around wearing blinkers. It is Matt’s death (and my cousin’s last year) that have ripped them from my eyes. I feel raw to it now – exposed. My senses are heightened to the inevitable cycle of nature, the tragic news stories, and the friends and strangers sharing their own stories of pain and loss with me. I am a new member of a very big club. So many of us, I see, are moving through the world bearing our losses, silently grief-stricken. How did I never notice this before? Why don’t we talk about death more? I find myself watching people, wanting to run up and urge them not to take a moment for granted.

Yet even with all this agony and all this uncharted loneliness and fear, there is still life in our house. It butts up insistently against the death. The plants in the vertical garden are already sending out new shoots that will transform to flowers this spring. The cat noses my laptop out of the way so that he can curl in a circle on my lap. Friends are dropping by with warm hugs and plates of food. And always my two children, their laughter and tears pulling me through the days.

photo 4

There is so much I would like to tell Matt about this strange life we are living. I long to pick up the phone and chat to him. I would tell him about Gracie’s new sleep spot on her bedroom floor, and the game she now plays, dressing up in his belongings – sunglasses, shoes, a hat – before crowing with delight: ‘Look! Daddy’s home. Look Judey, Daddy’s home’. I would tell him about his daughter’s new talent for anger and how his son wears his grief differently: in his downturned mouth, his pale face and the purple shadows under his eyes, so stoic until just before the lights go out and the questions come in a rush. ‘Mum, where do you go when you die? Mum, what does it feel like to be dead? Mum, does anyone still love me? Mum, why can’t we all be immortal jellyfish?’ And hardest of all, ‘Mum, is Daddy ever coming home?’.

Like the kids, I am learning new skills, too. I am the incredible skin woman – empty – hollow – nothing real or warm left inside. I am a sham, pretending at life. I am master of the silent scream; a Munch-esque response to the quietness of the house in the evenings, when the children have fallen still and I find myself alone with my thoughts. When I feel like this, I try to draw upon the mantra my grief counsellor has given me: This is a moment of pain. Pain is a part of life. I wish myself peace.* I try to pull myself back into the safety of the moment with the mindfulness techniques she teaches me. I attempt to focus on the simplest, most immediate details. My hands wrapped around a warm mug. The distant sound of a plane traversing the sky. The sunlight falling onto the last of the Japanese maple leaves. The steady rise and fall of my chest. In these moments I remind myself that I am sad, but I am safe.

And what is perhaps most startling of all is that even amidst the unrelenting pain, there are flashes of light and love, breaking through like flowers rising up through cracked asphalt. Spinning on my husband’s expensive reading chair – the one we were always so careful with. A rainbow breaking over the bay as I walk with friends in memory of Matt. Precious words written by my husband, found in secret places. The ‘Frozen’ birthday party we hosted at home for Gracie’s 4th Birthday earlier today. Even amidst our misery, there is still the urge to keep going, to keep putting one foot in front of the other, to keep breathing, to keep celebrating life’s important moments.

photo 2

So here I sit now, with the paper snowflakes drooping around me, balloons slowly deflating and a half-eaten Birthday cake (which the kindest friend made so I wouldn’t ruin the batter with my tears) attempting to pull myself into this moment. To the familiarity of these computer keys moving beneath my fingers. To the low hum of the fridge in the kitchen. To the cat sighing and stretching on Matt’s chair. To the heavy ball of emotion expanding in my stomach.

This is a moment of pain. Pain is a part of life. I wish myself peace.

Thank you for reading. I hope my words don’t make you sad, for I wish you peace in this moment, too. x

photo 1

*Since first posting this piece, I have found out from my counsellor, Louise Adams, that the mantra she gave me was created by Dr Kristen Neff. You can find out more about both these amazing women by clicking on their names.

141 thoughts on “Life and death

  1. brendat59 says:

    Beautifully written Hannah. Thank you. Your strength is amazing, and yes, you brought tears to my eyes and a lump in my throat. My thoughts are with you and the children. xx

  2. Travelling Macs says:

    I do not know you and your family but feel I do , from your books and now how you are bringing us still into your world. I have no words , but suspect you aren’t looking for them. In honour of you, your children and Matt though, I am taking that moment I too often lose to show gratitude to those I love. May peace help guide you through the pain to a place where happiness and those cherished memories blossom. x

  3. The Clothesline says:

    Happy Birthday to your little girl. Your description of how your children are grieving really got me. I am so sorry for your loss. Sending you love and light from the other side of the world x

  4. diane gorman (neil gorman's mother x says:

    THIS is without doubt the most beautiful recording of loss I have ever read it was an experience and I felt as though I was walking with you hand in hand through a part of life we must all experience at some time and I thank you for the preparation you have allowed me to share. Hold on in there Hannah he is with you all the way.

  5. cltaylorauthor says:

    I can’t begin to imagine the pain you’re all going through. Your son’s questions made me cry. I am so incredibly sad that you all have to go through this. Xxx

  6. Ruth Franklin says:

    Beautifully written. I’m sure suddenly losing a husband is different to losing an elderly parent but after the 20mths since my dad died the pain still washes over me in waves when I least expect it. When it does I embrace it. It’s like dad being with me, holding me. I hope it never stops because if it does it means he’s really gone from me.

  7. mamabears2013 says:

    Hi Hanna,
    I am that old lady in her garden with her plants, dog, dragonflies and humming birds for company. It’s not so dreadfully bad. I was lucky. My husband died when our children were older, I was older, we’d had more time together than you and Matt. You are right, the sorrow and ache never seems to tire. But it can become more bearable with time. When Death marches up into our own personal space it seems amazing that we don’t consider it’s frequency and finality more often. I live with an understanding that each day of health and life is a gift to be utilized wholeheartedly and fully. Clearly so do you. That will carry you through the tough times.
    And here’s a wee something for your daily smile – For me, living life well includes reading great books. I’ve read both yours and loved them. I don’t get a thing done while I’m reading them because the plots are too good to leave, but that’s OK!
    Take care Hanna.

  8. Melissa says:

    Thank you. I wonder if you realise how blessed you are with a gift of such power and beauty in such a dark time. I wish you tiny pools of peace to rest your broken heart in today. And hope those pools grow deeper and wider for you and your children each day. Love.

    • Dianne says:

      Hanna, I must admit that I became very teary whilst reading your beautiful words and my heart goes out to you and your children. Without sounding cliched, time will make it easier for all of you, but your memories will not fade. I too experienced the loss of a friend whom I had only known for six months, but whose impact on my life I will never forget, I looked after her two very small children following her death for sometime and now they live in another country my bond with them remains thankfully, all because of their mother and my love for her and our friendship. I wish you peace

  9. Moira Maraun says:

    If I could ache for you for even 5 minutes I would give you that, my fellow human being.

    Don’t concern yourself with my sadness to your life’s circumstances today as I understand sadness exists. Though we don’t know each other, your words have now linked us as I read them. My sadness is because I care for you as you trek this unenticing and unfamiliar path with your children.

    In this, your darkest moment, your words are shining on and lighting up the most precious jewels that sit firmly placed deep inside of your core being. You are turning your pain into the richest gifts for those who read your words. You are showing not only your children a way forward, but many others who will find themselves in this situation in their darkest times.

    Thank you dear woman. I appreciate your outpouring of heart and soul. I hurt because you hurt. I hurt because you matter.

    I send a heart full of love and strength to you at this time and will continue to do so over the coming times.


  10. Lisa P says:

    Oh my, what incredible words you have written. I am so sorry for your loss. I know that those are just words on a computer screen from someone you have never met, but please know there is very real emotion and feeling behind them. I am so sorry for your loss. I wish you peace and strength in all the moments you will need them.

  11. Niki says:

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts. They were beautifully written. You are correct when you say we don’t discuss death as we should. I remember when my grandad died, people my Nan knew crossed the road to avoid confronting her grief. That was 1982 and I’m sure nothing much has changed.
    Life does go on and memories will alter as time goes on but they won’t fade. Be assured of that.
    Best wishes from someone who hasn’t crossed the road.

  12. Jane Hunterland says:

    I think about about death a great deal lately. Yesterday I lost my sister-in-law, Helen. She is the eighth person I have known to have died in 3 years. My small children have known too much grief in their young lives. I don’t know you or Matt but I know many people who know you both, and you have occupied my thoughts. The sudden death differs to an expected death due to illness. One is no more sad than the other, they are merely different. Helen suffered and withered in pain and indignity but we all had an opportunity to demonstrate and communicate our love for her. I wish you could have had that conversation with Matt but there is small mercy in knowing his death was painless and as a result of his freedom and passion. Your pain and sorrow is palpable but your ability to communicate with others via your grief counsellor, your gorgeous writing and your resilient children will carry you through. At this moment you have given me peace, through my grief and sorrow, and I am grateful to you, Hannah. Thank you for your words on life and death, more poignant and profound than my thoughts could muster.

  13. realmrsmoore says:

    Reblogged this on Same Dollop Different Day and commented:
    Beautiful words. Tragic loss. Death and life and yes we should talk of it more Hannah you are right. You have inspired me and I will write my own tale of those moments of pain on time. Be safe and thank you for sharing so eloquently. I am sorry for your loss.

  14. mjpburfield says:

    I’m so sorry for your loss and the pain and grief you all feel. When my husband was killed, 13 years ago, I wasn’t sure how to get through the pain. With time, you will. He will always be with you in your thoughts and memories, but the sense of loss eases. Hang in there. Grief counselling helped me as well. Huge hugs.

  15. amy says:

    Thank you for sharing these beautiful words. They didn’t make me feel sad. They do remind me of the fragility and strength of everyone moving through the world. Take care.

  16. Carole Hammond says:

    I’m a very good friend of Alexis’ mother, Dee. She shared your tragic loss last Monday when we had dinner. I lost my husband of 48 years five years ago the 26th of August. Your blog is so eloquently written and I might say, “right on”. Until you’ve gone through losing a spouse you have no idea what others have felt until now. I apologized to my friends that had lost husbands that I did not give them more support. You send the cards, take meals, attend services and call occasionally but until you have gone through it, you have no idea the emptiness that is felt. I do know what you are feeling. I’m sure several publications have been recommended to you. I’m going to add to that list. I found Journeying through Grief by Kenneth C. Haugk, series of four booklets to be extremely helpful. So much so that I’ve shared mine with six friends. This feeling will never go away but it does get some easier. Not until last week was I able to go in a restaurant and eat by myself. It took me almost five years to clear that hurdle. I tried it last year when I went to the beach for a week but looked around at the couples sitting and laughing and just couldn’t do it so I ordered my meal to go and went back to my hotel room. This year I took my iPad with a new book on it, sat down and looked only at my server and my book, and I’m proud to say, I did it! You will accomplish small things in your time. My prayers are with you.

    • Hannah Richell says:

      Thank you, Carole. I can see you so clearly at that table with your iPad. Good on you! Thank you for your supportive words – they mean a lot to me. I shall look out for the booklets you recommend too. Take care, Hannah x

  17. Karen says:

    I am forever changed, forever saddened but no longer “mad” with grief……. 2 years ago 24th August 2012 my 38 year old husband died, time does not heal but it helps you live with the grief…..

  18. David says:

    Darling Hannah
    Thank you so much for putting into words how those of us who still mourn every day a loved one whose light has suddenly been extinguished.
    This is not a time to question “Why us? Why now?” We know that the most important thing is to carry on doing the best we can for those loved ones still here.
    Take care of yourself
    David xx

    • Hannah Richell says:

      Thanks, David. That’s something my grief counsellor advised too – don’t focus on the ‘why’ questions but only on the ‘what’. What do I need right now? What do I feel right now? I think of Jack every day. Hope you’re doing OK. x

  19. Satty says:

    I can relate to your grief only now. I lost my mother 3 weeks ago to cancer. She lived only 3 months from diagnosis. I was with her when she passed away and I will forever have to live with that feeling of hopelessness that we could not do anything for her. Our only solace was she was with us one last time rather than a cold ICU.

    My favourite quote since has been “The light has gone out”! When I said this to a cousin of mine he said “No never. It always there.” Yes he is right. That light is always with us in the form of their memories.

    Sometimes I just can’t help but cry for her. In a way its a release for a grief which seems pent-up every time.

    I wish you all the strength in dealing with your grief.

    • Hannah Richell says:

      I completely understand what you say about the ‘release of grief’ – it feels like a relief sometimes. I’m so sorry to hear about your mother. I hope you’re finding moments of peace and strength in your own grief.

  20. Jill says:

    A beautiful and sad meditation on the loss of a spouse. I am so sorry that at such a young age you have had to join this terrible club. I am nearly a year into my own widow journey and it is an entirely different life now. I was married to my husband for 27 years, with him for 30. Some bad times, some good times. Death of a spouse is not like any other loss. I lost my mother 3 months before my husband’s cancer diagnosis, one of our cats 4 months after it, my husband 3 months after that, and our other cat three months after THAT. Our cats were like our children so I lost ALL ties to my old life. But NOTHING is like losing the person to whom we chose to bond our lives. No matter how bad things may be on any given day, there is a love that transcends everything, and when that bond is severed, it leaves a big gaping hole. I wish healing for you and your children. I wish you strength to navigate these troubled waters for however long it takes and I wish you the ability to experience joy as you go forward.

  21. Andy says:

    I am going through bereavement currently, and this really resonated with me. Hannah, you are not alone. And your writing is beautiful. Stay strong.

  22. Paul Davies says:

    Hey Han, beautiful words. Jon, Sanger and I are thinking about you and the family constantly and sending our love. We never forget those who are gone. xxx

  23. Renata Shabanz says:

    Dear Hannah,

    I lost my Dearest Father a Year and a half ago so sudden and it hurts sooo very much.

    But one thing I have: is Loving Memories of my Father. I go back whenever I think I forgot how he looks like ,how his voice sound. We are so very Lucky to have beautiful memories of Loved ones!!!!

    I wish You and You children all the strength and love you have, to deal with everyday challenge.

    I am sure your husband is looking over You and Your children

    Take care

  24. Glenn Orgias says:

    I have been thinking of you and your children. I wish that I could offer some words of comfort, that I could say something that would make it easier for you. I hope that one day your pain will ease, perhaps it will never go away, but it will dim: you learn to live with the dimness. We exist in each others hearts and minds and souls, and live on in there, and this is very sad but also very beautiful. I watch the water now before I go in; I think about what it might mean for me to go out there in the surf, and I do not take a second for granted. I’m so sorry.

  25. Kristin Boyle says:

    Such a beautifully written and deeply touching piece Hannah. I ache for you. Thank you so much for choosing to share with us at such a time. I am so deeply sorry for the loss of your husband, and your children their father.

  26. Peter says:

    Dear Hannah,

    I found this piece in the Sydney Morning Herald and it took me back to March 2012 when my wife passed away at the age of 37 and found myself the sole father of a 3yr old girl and a 1yr old boy. Like Gracie, my daughter’s 4th birthday was a few weeks after my wife dying so I think I can understand how you may have felt as you wrote your words. For me – I struggled with balancing the happiness of a birthday party for my daughter and her friends with the pain of knowing that my wife would have loved being there with us, lighting the candles and organising the party games (she was always the hostess of our house).

    I think everyone’s experience is different on this hard and lonely path. Sadly I can’t say that the pain becomes less over time but rather our ability to manage the pain improves and thus the impact of the pain seems less pronounced. Now and then when things become difficult with the business of life the pain bubbles to the surface only because my resilience and ability to manage the pain diminishes.

    I think I understand what you mean about your realisation that death is all around us. My first experience of death was my wife (both of my grandparents were still alive as were all of my immediate and extended family) and uncle on the same day within 2 hours of each other. Up until then I was unaware of it beyond a vague sense when it happened to other people. Now it seems my awareness of it significantly more heightened. On one hand this awareness means that I feel a lot more pain for others and on the other hand I now have a lot more compassion and empathy than I did when I just didn’t have a clue about what it meant to lose someone.

    One thing I have learned over the last 2 ½ years has been to appreciate the insights of my children. Kids don’t think about the consequences of their words and I have found that I have some very insightful (and sobering) conversations with my now 6yr old daughter about mummy. She constantly amazes me with her insights and her maturity. You may be surprised by the ability for Gracie to provide support to you in the most unusual ways (in addition to driving you crazy as young kids can). As a parent of grieving children every bone in my body wants to protect and support them – often however I find it working the other way around.
    Anyway – thanks for sharing your story. I hope that your family and friends continue to hold you close and support you in the months and years ahead. You will find reserves of strength you didn’t realise you had.

    • Hannah Richell says:

      Thank you, Peter. I’m so sorry to hear about your wife and your own journey through grief with your children. Your words strike a real chord in me and I take heart from your comments about the insights of your children. I find that they are pulling me through this in a myriad of unexpected ways. I wish you and your family peace and happiness in the years ahead, too. x

  27. Tim Stackpool says:

    Thanks for sharing such intimate thoughts and words Hannah. Your beautiful words express both the sorrow and the remarkable strength that lies in your heart. Peace to you and your family.

  28. Pam Foster says:

    Hannah, you don’t know how much you have helped me. I am a Pastoral care worker in the nursing home where my now 50 yr old daughter lives ( has done for 11 yrs) due to a massive stroke. My husband succumbed very quickly in April this yr to Motor Neurone Disease. This, whilst expected soon, happened so quickly we were all left in shock. I had pneumonia and was hospitalised a month later and felt that it would be better if I also didn’t recover. The plane crash was the catalyst which finally unleashed my grief as devastating as one our church families lost their son. Thank you so much for your words. God Bless you and your family.

  29. Rachael says:

    When I heard of your husband’s accident in the surf my heart went out to you and your family. No-one knows of the pain you are experiencing, but thanks to your incredible post we have some idea and hopefully we can take some of the burden just by reading it and letting you know we care. I hope you find some peace in the everyday moments and continue to draw strength and love from your relationship with Matt, which sounds like it was a wonderful journey. I wish you well on this difficult path…

  30. David says:

    Your words have made me sad and reflective and many other things besides. But that’s okay, because sharing in the pain and the joy of others is one of the most meaningful parts of life. You write eloquently and with an abiding passion that is both sorrowful and inspiring. This is a new, if unasked for, journey for you Hannah. For your children too. I hope that there can be blessings amid these terrible troubles. If you keep writing, some good will follow.

  31. Samantha Langley says:

    I just ready your blog in smh online. I wanted to send you and your children a big hug from one mother to another . Lots of love to you. Wish I could ease your pain somehow. XXXX

  32. EJD says:

    Amazing words.. You have indeed joined a very big club you never saw before but you will be the better for it.

    The path ahead will see your pain change, your tolerance for nonsense shorten, and your appreciation for your loss (as odd as that sounds) will manifest itself in who you, and your children, will become and how you will satisfy the memory of your departed in your future self. If the cost of love is grief, then the price of resilience is inevitably loss.

    Everything will be alright. That I can promise you and you can promise yourself.

  33. Stevie says:

    I stumbled across this today as if I was meant to. Thank you for sharing your pain. I am going through loss of my own that has crippled me this week. But hearing your words gave me such perspective and strength. I wish you well, I wish you love, and I wish you peace.

  34. emmhop says:

    Hi Hannah,
    What a beautifully written piece you have shared. This was passed on to me by one of the young widows I have met since sadly becoming one myself last July 2013. We chat all day and night on Young Widows Australia (on facebook) if you ever want to blurt out your feelings, and hear from others who totally “Get it….”
    Thanks for sharing.

  35. Louise says:

    Dear Hannah,
    I don’t know you but was very moved by your piece, and your story in general. I’m so terribly sorry for the sudden death of your lovely husband – for you and your children. So much of what you said rang true for me, though in my case it was my son who died, shortly after his (full-term) birth. I remember having the sudden realisation that for the previous 34 years, I had taken life for granted. I had somehow very naively assumed that suffering wouldn’t come my way. After my son’s death, my perspective changed completely. Ads on T.V seemed ridiculously trivial and shallow. I found my friendships changed and I had more in common with others who’d experienced suffering. Some knew the right things to say. Some were silent on my son’s death – I found that the hardest. I also realised that the grief and pain wouldn’t go away – I would just learn to live with it. That was 5 years ago and I can say that the grief is less raw, but often catches me by surprise. Life will never be the same again, but death has taught me to take more notice of all I’ve been blessed with. Do you pray, or read the Bible? Being a Christian has made sense of things and given me far more hope than anything else. All the very best to you at this very hard time.

  36. erinmadethis says:

    What an incredible post.

    I too have been fortunate enough to have been helped by Louise in dealing with my Dad’s terminal cancer diagnosis.

    Learning about self compassion completely changed my life that was frequently used through a pretty rough patch. We’ve had about six months of great news and it’s something I’ve had stuck in the back of my mind.

    All day I’ve been trying to make sense of some bad news about Dad we recieved yesterday. Then I found this post.

    Thank you.

    I am right here wishing you so much peace.

    • Hannah Richell says:

      I feel so lucky to have Louise as a guide through this. I’m glad you have her too. Sorry to hear about your bad news – hope you and your Dad are OK. I wish you and your family peace too.

  37. Fiona says:

    Dear Hannah,
    We don’t know each other, nor do I know your family. I read about Matt’s death in the paper and since then you and your children have been frequently in my prayers and thoughts. I continue to pray that somehow you will manage through this indescribable grief and anguish. And that when you feel so much pain that you don’t know how to express it, nor how to take another breath, that God will hear the groan of your heart and be your peace and comfort.
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts in your blog. Please keep writing.

  38. Chris says:

    A beautiful and touching piece Hannah. Thank you. Please keep on sharing that spirit you have inside you because it enlightens and inspires everyone around you.

  39. Janet Lynden says:

    Hannah – beautiful words to express such pain – wish I could have expressed myself in the same way when I lost my husband 40 years ago – and I still miss him – he too was such a loving father and husband – in all the happy and sad family times how devasted I am that he has missed the sharing. He holds a special part in my heart as Matt does in yours. My thoughts are with you.

  40. SS says:

    Oh Hannah, such beautiful beautiful words. My heart is breaking for you and your children. Like many people who have commented here, grief is a companion of mine too. I remember the rawness of those early days and months. Wishing you and peace and love during these very difficult days.

  41. Inappropriate-leigh (@LeighRex) says:

    Oh Hannah – your words DO make me sad, for you, for your beautiful children, for the unfairness of life ending in death – sudden death…..
    I have experienced a lot of death in my 45 years, 3 dads and 1 brother are the prominent ones but there are more.
    I just want to say I am so so sorry for your loss and your pain and your overwhelming situation. Thankfully I still have my husband and my beautiful children but I know that pain of instantaneous sudden loss – it is excruciating. My 33YO brother committed suicide almost a year ago – his father did the same thing almost 26 years ago…………the pain of the death of loved ones is breathtaking in the worst possible way.
    I am so very sorry for your loss Hannah – all my love, Leigh xo

  42. Jenny W says:

    Hi Hannah.

    Having become a widow in 2012 at the age of 48, I can relate to many parts of your story. However we had been battling his cancer for 2 years so had time to “prepare”. A week before he died (having been told he had 6 months) we celebrated our 28th anniversary and just over a week after he died, our sons and I celebrated his birthday for the first time without him.

    I keep telling myself there is nothing surer in life than death. If I can take one thing from each of them who have left us then I will be all the better for having known them.

    I cannot change what has happened and it’s not about “moving on”, I just have to learn to accept it and manage it. You will have good days and bad days. Certain movies, songs, stories will trigger your emotions.

    Our sons are older than your kids and I am older than you, however I am sure you will find your strength from them as I do from our sons who have been my pillar. You will have good days and bad days, but just keep taking each day, week month as it comes.

    Take care and try and learn to manage the change in your life and all that comes with it. Remember the good times as well as the bad. Yell at his photo, cry with the kids and smile when you feel him around you.

  43. Dash says:

    Dear Hannah,

    I read your heart wrenching story in the SMH today. My partner shared the link with me as he had connected to your raw emotion on multiple levels. As the little boy who lost his father unexpectedly. As a child seeing his mother grieve and feeling her deep pain, even 18 years later. As a person who understands your suffering. He is the grown up version of your little boy. The sudden death of his father as a child changed his life from that moment on and completely shaped him in to become the incredible human being he is today. Someone who is so acutely aware of the fragility of life, and for that reason, lives it passionately and wholeheartedly. I imagine that your little son will grow up to be a similar amazing human being, especially having such a strong and brave mother as a role model.

    Every one of your honest and sensitive words drew me in to your world and filled me with so many emotions (sadness, hope, empathy), so much that I felt compelled to write this message to let you know that your story stopped me in my tracks today…to really appreciate…the precious…fleeting…moments…we have in our awakened lives.

    As someone who loves writing, I appreciated every carefully chosen word you used to convey this powerful message.

    I admire your ability to use writing to give you strength during this difficult time and I hope that with every step you take from here on, you will find permanent inner peace.

    • Hannah Richell says:

      Thank you for your wonderful words. I take such comfort from them – for my little boy, and for our future as a family. I do feel ‘awakened’, as you so eloquently put it … and determined to live and enjoy even while experiencing this immense pain. We will honour Matt in the way we choose to move forwards. He was always a very ‘in the moment’ man – his life and his death has taught me so much already. Take care – and thank you for taking the time to write to me here.

  44. Murray Slee says:

    You’ve written an amazing piece. Although it wasn’t you intention to illicit sadness I tried to focus on what I think is underlying in that we must treasure each day. I have a 2 and 1/2 yo daughter and my wife has twins on the way. I biggest fear is what you are living. In the next few years I will be teaching these little ones to surf. If you would want your children to learn as well I would be more than happy to teach them together with mine. @murrayslee
    Take care of yourself, I will be using your mantra.

  45. gabathan says:

    Hannah, My mum lost her husband of 49.5 years at 64 years of age only 10 months ago (my wonderful dad), and a close girlfriend suddenly lost her 37 year old husband of 10 years only 4 months ago. I want to heal their hearts and hug them until the pain goes away. Instead I will my mum your article and I know she will find comfort in another ‘club member’ whose eloquent words will warm heart….thank you x
    P.S. My darling 2.5 year old (her name so Hannah too) also found a sleep spot on the floor. Such joy to found amongst us!

  46. lisacocks says:

    Oh Hannah, I am so sorry for your loss.
    This is such a beautifully written piece which will resonate with so many, thank you for sharing your deepest feelings. I have no doubt that your husband would be so very proud of you and your gorgeous children.
    With tears streaming down my face, my heart aches for you.
    Wishing you all the best on your journey for peace.

  47. Michelle says:

    Hannah, my husband died recently after a long, valiant battle with cancer. He will forever be my hero. Our 2 small boys are both a painful reminder and my only reason to get up each day. Your words resonated so personally, I feel you could be crawling around in my head. Thank you for putting so eloquently what struggle to express. May you find moments of peace and strength in your words. x

  48. Kym says:

    Dear Hannah, thank you for sharing your story. I think your words were beautiful and heartfelt and raw and it is so good that you can share this with the world thru your gift of writing. I too lost my husband…. 4 and a half years ago now. I was 30 with a 1yr old & 3yr old. So I totally get where you are at. My thoughts go out to you at this time. Sending you and your children hugs and hope that there will be a rainbow for you all, it just takes time. Cherish the memories and always talk about your husband and you will be surprised how much the children remember! Lots of love xx Kym

    • Hannah Richell says:

      Dear Kym, thank you for your message. I’m so sorry to learn we are travelling a similar path. I hope you and your children are doing OK. I appreciate you reaching out to us with your comforting words. x

  49. dileeshus says:

    Hello Hannah, I am so, so sorry for your loss. I can’t begin to imagine the pain and hurt and sense of questioning outrage you and your family must be feeling right now. And you continue will feel it. The loss of Matt is now a part of your identity, but I hope it doesn’t define you. Keep breathing, keep living, keep reading, keep writing, even if you just make it through the next second, minute, hour, day, week. Keep Matt alive in your conversations and memories and thoughts, because that is where we find our immortality. That, and with our children. And if you need something to read that both “gets” where you are right now and is a salve, try Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed. You are in my thoughts xo

  50. Sascha says:

    Hannah, I am so sorry for your loss and I too wish you and your children peace. You are a brilliant writer and I have never read such a spot-on, eloquent, gritty and heartbreaking description of grief.
    I lost my father when I was 12 (21 years ago now) and have felt my membership in that club you speak of since that day – your eyes never close to death again. You’re absolutely right, you don’t ever lose the sense of loss – it does become part of you, and although the memories may fade a little, the important stuff stays with you and, of course, the love holds strong.
    Some advice (to take or leave) from a stranger: never stop talking to your kids about their father. It will be painful but it will help you all and they will grow up with a real sense of who their father was, feeling his presence in their lives. After this loss, your kids will grow up strong, resilient and with hearts full of empathy. I hope this thought brings you a little peace.
    Thank you for writing this article. It will help so many people, and it is its own flash of light and love.

    • Hannah Richell says:

      Thank you for the advice and the reassurances about my kids. I’m determined that they will feel him with them still, through the memories and love we all share. It’s really comforting to read your words, Sascha. Thank you.

  51. boo jones says:

    Thank you for writing this, your words strike a definite chord. I lost my husband in April this year. He was the best of me; I grieve not for him but for the loss of us.

    Life goes on.

  52. Bec Sparrow says:

    Hi Hannah, I don’t know you. I just wanted to say that I am so truly sorry that you lost Matt. And I haven’t been so moved by a single piece of writing in, well, I don’t know how long. What you wrote – every line – was filled with love and magic. I wish you peace and also courage and strength in those dark moments when life feels bleak. And in those moments I hope you feel the arms of everyone who loves you holding you up.

  53. Sue says:

    Hannah, I’ve been married 18 years and don’t think I ever had what you guys had. One day I a very long time you will get through the day without the constant sadness. Thank you for sharing, I am going to try and see my husband now and try and be grateful for what I have.

  54. Nicola Alton says:

    Dear Hannah, I wept when a friend sent me this extract from your blog. I lost my husband suddenly on June 6th and I empathise deeply with you, especially as like you, I have two young children. I am also coming to an acceptance that there will never be an ‘end’ to this grief, just the hope that I can learn to live alongside it. Feel free to drop me a line, you’re not alone xxxx

  55. jessicasaid says:

    Hannah, your words are beautiful and true. Thank you for articulating your feelings in such a way that touches all who read your words, including myself. I think that’s the power of honesty in writing, and the reason why writing is important. If nothing else, thank you for delivering words that help those who read them.
    I wish peace for you and your family.

  56. Michelle says:

    Hannah, thankyou so much for this post. I bookmarked it in the Sydney Morning Herald when it first appeared as it’s a brilliant insight for dealing with life’s pain. I remembered it this week and read it again as I’m struggling to grieve and heal from an ectopic pregnancy. Thankyou for reminding me that this pain is part of life. I wish us all peace.

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