and then …

… and then your son asks if he can visit the place ‘where daddy died’ and so you wag a morning off school and drive down to Tamarama while the rest of the city sleeps and you find the gulls lying upon the beach with their beaks tucked under their wings, and you kick off your shoes and walk down onto the sand amidst sculptures that have washed-up like treasures from the deep, and you watch as your boy scrambles onto the cliffs and picks a tiny yellow flower which he carries down carefully for you, and you attempt to answer the hardest questions, questions without answers, and you try not to cry as your daughter looks for her father’s footprints in the sand, and then you all return to the car and drive back through the city which is awake now and glittering in the mid-morning sunshine and you are all so quiet, lost in your thoughts and your love and your pain …

tamarama flower

… and then you’re sitting at home, alone, surrounded by a thousand physical reminders of your old life, struggling simply to draw breath when an envelope arrives through your door and inside is a card with a sprig of freshly-pressed thyme and a piece of feathery tissue paper which you carefully unfold to reveal a poem handprinted with painstaking care, and you read the words which speak to you in ways you had forgotten words could, and even though you can’t stop the tears you know that the sheer pointlessness-of-carrying-on that you have been wrestling with has been proven false by this simple kindness from a stranger who understands, and while you don’t know this person you want to somehow thank them for their gesture and tell them that their envelope contained so much more than a card and a poem and a sprig of green from a faraway garden; you want to tell them that their envelope contained hope …


Pablo Neruda, Sonnet XCIV

… and then, when the tears have dried, you lift your gaze and look about at the vast, transparent house you now reside in and you see how many walls there are to hang pictures upon and you think about how best to honour your husband’s ‘heritage of joy’, and you wonder if you’re even brave enough to try, but you know you must, so even though you’re terrified, and even though you know you’re not the same person you were four months ago, you open your laptop and you begin to write, one word at a time, you begin to write again.

and then …

56 thoughts on “and then …

  1. Julia Cahill says:

    Beautiful Hannah. I admire your bravery and my heart breaks for what you and your children are having to endure. I wish you gentleness and peace to nurture the tiny flame of hope as you move forward one small step at a time. xxx

  2. donnawebeck says:

    Once again I am left in awe of both your resilience and the powerful beauty of your words. I can only hope that peace finds its way back to you in time x

  3. Patrick C says:

    And then….. You touch all our hearts. I’m not sure if you have read it or mentioned it but when you feel strong I recommend to you Joan Didions book “The Year of Magical Thinking” Thank you for sharing with us.

  4. Frankie says:

    You are immensely brave Hannah and I can tell you are the most amazing mum to your little ones. I absolutely love your writing and honesty and I have no doubt your words in this blog will help others. Thinking of you and sending love.

  5. Michelle Parsons says:

    I am so glad that you have found your way back to your writing Hannah (I assume you mean your books). I know that you have been writing such beautifully eloquent posts on your blog, which not only help you but also so many other people who read your words, but reconnecting with your ‘other’ writing may allow you to find some refuge from the pain, a refuge that will allow you to rebuild your strength. I know that when I am writing, I become so immersed in the imaginary world that I am creating, that the real world momentarily steps out of the picture so that I can fully embrace the magic of the words as they flow onto the page. My wish is that you reconnect with that magic Hannah; embrace it as a time for you to just be ‘you’ and to do something that has brought you so much joy in the past, something that will bring you joy again in the future. Shell.x

  6. Travelling Macs says:

    The writing is you. Grief changes you – no denying that, you grow in different ways but like a vine can be trained to take a new path, you too can bloom on that new guiding trellis, maybe not the same but with a new beauty and a new strength. Love to you as you find your new strength 🙂

  7. Bodil Beier says:

    OH Hannah, marvelous, you are writing again, which means, you are facing life for your children and yourself. So much looking forward to follow your strenght.

  8. Jodie Ansted says:

    Just beautiful, Hannah. And what a lovely, thoughtful thing for someone to do for you. Your writing is too fabulous to remain inside your head – it should be shared with the world.

    One step at a time, eh? xox

  9. Saranne says:

    Hannah – that poem is a beautiful way into a new world of possibilities – your post arrived when I was feeling particularly low, and has lifted my spirits amazingly – the power of writing is strong and appealing, I hope that you can continue to write and heal yourself and I wish you so much contentment and strength – Saranne

  10. Joanne says:

    How wonderful to receive such a poem just when you needed it the most. I am not a religious person but I think someone knew you how you were feeling that morning and he wanted to remind you that through the dark clouds there will always be sunshine once again xxxxx

  11. Sheryl Dabb says:

    Thank you, Pablo, for your wonderfully written, comforting words. I can’t stop reading them … over and over again. Thank you, Hannah for sharing them with me. I too am travelling your path, just eight weeks ahead of you. It’s a journey I wasn’t expecting and one I’m finding incredibly difficult to navigate. I have to say, after six months, the fog of pain and anger and every emotion I didn’t know I was capable of feeling is starting to lift a little. This poem is saying be gentle to yourself. I hope you continue to be gentle with yourself, Hannah, on your continuing journey.

    • Hannah Richell says:

      Hi Sheryl, I’m so sorry we’re travelling the same difficult road. Yes, the emotions are contradictory and hard to bear. I’m glad my post brought Pablo’s beautiful poem to you. There’s a web of connectedness that seems to spread between so many of us feeling this pain. You aren’t alone. x

  12. sallyannejames says:

    Thank you Hannah for you words. My husband drowned in an accident nearly 2 years ago. We have three children and the girls and I have taken a break from our reality in Sydney and are living in France for a year. Your words help others, even if it’s just knowing we are not alone in our pain and grief. So thank you. I have read the poem you shared over and over. I am trying to live as Chris would want us to. Warmest wishes to you and your children. Sally

    • Hannah Richell says:

      Oh Sally. I’m so sorry. I hope France is proving restorative in some ways for you and your family. I read your comment and tonight I just want to shake my fist at the sky. It’s just so senseless. I’m glad the poem helps a little. Such a kind soul who shared it with me. I hope she sees these comments and knows how much she has helped. Take care, Hannah

  13. Steven says:

    Hello Hannah. I’ve mentioned before on this blog that my wife Jan died in July. With me in the background, my daughter and her three sisters finally took the deep breath and went through Jan’s clothes and jewellery and things today, and dealt with it all in one way or another. So it all has a different home now or has suffered another fate. Anyway, I came across a book she must have been reading not long before she passed away, called The Shadow Year. I’d never heard of the book or the author before I saw this blog. But I hope she finished it. I’m sure she would have liked it. My thoughts are with you for Christmas – a bittersweet time for some of us this year, but let’s try to find some space for happiness. Regards, Steven Creber

    • Hannah Richell says:

      Dear Steven, I opened up your comment as I sat outside on a friend’s porch last night. I was at a Christmas drinks party with good friends, but finding myself a little overwhelmed, I had to escape for a moment to be alone in the night air and look up at the stars. Your message made my phone beep and I read your comment through my tears. Yesterday must have been such a hard day for you all. I am quite blown away by the strange coincidence of my book being found amongst Jan’s belongings. I guess the many ways us humans are connected can never be fully understood, but there is comfort to be found amongst the connection, I think. I wish you and your family a peaceful Christmas and I hope you find those moments of happiness. We shall be seeking them too. All best, Hannah

  14. Sarah says:

    Hi Hannah, You don’t know me but I’ve long been reading your books and your blog. I remember first discovering you/your book on Twitter (someone recommended SotT and I bought it immediately), and I was so heartbroken when I heard about your husband’s passing. I cried then and am crying again now, reading this post. I too am a writer and I have a four-year-old, Frozen-obsessed daughter like you, and I think about you often 🙂 I have no words of comfort but wanted to let you know that I’m sending lots of lovely, positive, healing thoughts your way, and I hope you manage to get through the Christmas season with lots of love and support around you xxxx

    • Hannah Richell says:

      Hi Sarah, thank you for your message. It’s so kind of you to contact me and send those positive thoughts at this difficult time. There have been many, many painful days but we’re still here, still breathing, still moving into 2015 and just hoping it brings some brightness to us all. Thanks for your kindness. x

  15. amandarosebenton says:

    Stumbled upon your blog, all the way from a rural town in Oklahoma… Your words pierced my soul and brought painful tears to my eyes. I get so comfortable in life that I tend to overlook the simple things … The things that actually mean anything. Thank you for reminding me to not take life for granted… To hug my babies a little tighter and love deeper.

  16. Thesilove says:

    It’s breathtaking … I can’t imagine what you ve been through but your words made me cry too. They’re beautiful and you’re a brave woman… thanks for sharing it with us 🙂

  17. Writer's Blog says:

    I’m speechless,seriously.your way of expressing exact feeling is amazing,your bravery from darkness to light is inspiring and gives hope to others.keep sharing,i’m looking forward to your new posts.

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