real life

Georgie lost her fiancé in 2020. Three years later, she lost Zach in the Hunter Valley bus crash.


"Being in love with Lachie Proctor felt like opening the door to home," Georgie told Mamamia, a smile in her voice. 

She'd known him since she was 15 and had a crush on him for several years, before they finally started dating when they were well into their 20s in 2016.

Georgie Copeland was living her real life fairytale; living with her farmer boyfriend on a property in Mungindi on the NSW/QLD border, dreaming about a future full of kids and memories. 


But an ordinary Monday night in July 2017 changed everything. They'd been in town for dinner, toasting their friend Warren's farewell. 

"Darling, be careful there are roos on the road," she texted Lachie on her way home. She and her stepdad had left early in one car to tend to Whiskey, Georgie and Lachie's dog. 

Lachie and Warren were to follow soon after in the ute — but he informed her they were going to take a detour on the way to pick up fuel. Knowing that'd be an hour round-trip, Georgie tucked herself into bed. 

She'd only been asleep 20 minutes when she woke with a start. Whiskey was sitting beside her staring at her and she immediately knew something was wrong. 

"It was instant," she told Mamamia. "Viscerally in my bones, I knew that something bad happened to him."

She woke her stepdad, and they jumped in the car. They came across Lachie's ute on its lid in a creek not far from home. 

"It was the stuff of nightmares," she told me. 

The ute was a mess. The windscreens were smashed and Lachie's sawn off work boots were sitting there, but he was nowhere to be seen. 

The ambulance had only been 20 minutes ahead of them. The ute had been pushed off a single lane bridge by a mob of kangaroos grazing by the side of the road. As she'd find out later Warren had ran kilometres in the dark, injured, to call for help. If she'd been in that ute, like she'd originally planned, it's probable she would have died. 


Lachie survived, but he very nearly didn't. He had 24 fractures in his pelvis, seven spinal fractures, 11 broken ribs, a hole in his lung and torn muscles in his hand. He spent the next two months in hospital and once home, Georgie became his full-time carer as he started months of rehab and learning how to walk again. 

Lachie hated that. "My beautiful 27-year-old girlfriend looking after a six foot two baby," he'd tell her sadly. 

But Georgie felt no animosity. No burden. 

"An honour is the only way I can describe it," she said. 


Life went on; they got engaged on Valentine's Day 2020 and they settled into their new normal. It was hard — Lachie was still in a lot of pain and dealing with insurance problems and lingering injuries. He also hated what Georgie was sacrificing to be with him. But their love was strong and Georgie was happy. She could see their future, and it was bright. 

But on December 4, 2020, Lachie passed away. As Georgie told me, "he participated in his death." That's the only way she feels comfortable describing that night. To this day, she struggles to take her mind back there. 

That night she had the same sick feeling in her gut. He'd told her he was going to drive the 10 minutes home from where they were having dinner with her family to get his nighttime medication. As soon as he left, she felt off. It was her step-dad that followed him after seeing her distress and confirmed the worst. 

"When he passed I went into complete shock," Georgie told Mamamia. "I broke down, I stopped eating, I wasn't functioning — I was having panic attacks every day, migraines non-stop."


For weeks, Georgie's mum slept with her in her bed. She'd shower her too. Grief was not an unfamiliar feeling for her — she'd lost a son to a brain tumour when he wasn't even three. So Georgie's mum held her, in every way she could while she broke. 

That first year was hell. She was put on suicide watch and those around her were terrified they were going to lose her too. 

"I could see it so clearly for myself, and to be honest, I welcomed it. I would play Romeo and Juliet in my head and think 'I'm ready'... I didn't want to do it [life] by myself. The grief was overwhelming," she remembered. 

Very slowly, Georgie started healing. But she was still very much on that journey when she met Zach Bray in the January of 2022. She was living in the Byron Bay hinterland by then — a fresh start away from the reminders. 


They went on a few dates for a few weeks and Zach asked her to be his girlfriend on Valentine's Day 2022, but she wasn't ready. He had no idea what that date even meant. 

"I was trying to pretend I was okay, but I was not at all. I masked it really well, but when Zach actually asked me [to be official], I freaked out."

She ended it, but they remained friends. There was a connection there, it just wasn't the right time. Especially given Georgie found herself in hospital for a month in February 2023 as her ever-changing grief once again threatened to bubble over. 

When she got out, she was finally ready. Ready to throw herself into life again, and ready to see what was there with Zach — the man who'd patiently been waiting for her. They'd planned a romantic reunion date at the Tweed River House for the middle of June, a beautiful spot on the water to enjoy a winter meal. They were finally going to give their relationship a go. 


"I felt that buzz again," she said. "That excitement of 'this is someone I'm potentially going to have a life with'. I was so open to that again after being so closed off to that thought for years." 

The weekend before their big date, Zach was attending a wedding in the NSW Hunter Valley. 

She'd helped him pick out his outfit over Facetime. They were texting all day, every day by this point, and he was sending her videos from the dancefloor long into the evening.  

But the next day her phone was silent. There was none of his usual 'good morning' banter. She'd assumed he'd had a big one, and was simply sleeping in. 

But when her mum mentioned a headline in the news around midday — a horrifying bus crash in the Hunter carrying a load of wedding guests late the night before, Georgie knew. It was that same familiar gut feeling.

She had only met Zach's mum twice before, but she felt the urge to call. 

"It's Georgie," she said down the line. "I don't know if Zach told you," she began. She wasn't sure if she'd know they'd been talking. 

Through tears Zach's mum Jacqui replied, "Darling, he told me everything... I've been thinking of you."

Zach was one of 10 people who lost their lives when a coach carrying dozens of wedding guests crashed at 11:30pm on June 11, 2023. It was the worst Australian road crash in two decades, and a tragedy that brought our country to a standstill.


Zach Bray was one of 10 victims of the Hunter Valley bus crash in June, 2023.

It took a week for Zach's body to be identified, and Georgie spoke to his family daily. As they waited for news, she kept thinking, "there's got to be some sort of lesson here? There's a reason I am here, I've done this before."


"The beautiful thing about the horrific stuff I'd been through with Lach, was that I could be there for Zach's family," she said. "I went to Sydney for about five weeks and lived in an apartment with his family. I helped them wherever I could."

That doesn't mean her own grief journey was easy, however. As the reality of Zach's death sunk in, Georgie's thoughts became overwhelming once more.

"When he did pass away, I thought, 'no, no, no, I'm not. I'm not doing this again. I'm cursed'. I really thought I was cursed for a while," she remembered. 

On Instagram, she shared her heartbreak at the loss of what could have been. 

"You were showing me that there is happiness again," she wrote. "I was terrified to actually let you fully in. Going through incredible loss changes you, it guards you in a way that stops you from living. But you were patient. Zachy you have so much kindness, so much happiness, so much fire and so much love for your family and friends it was hard to keep those walls that I had up with someone as special as you.

"Over a year and a half on from our first date I finally was ready to let you really in to my heart where you always were, you were ready from the get go. I wish I let my walls down sooner and f*** we were excited about really giving this a go. I wanted to dive on in, the way you had always from our first date. I’m just so grateful you knew before you got on that bus what you meant to me," she continued. 


Grieving the loss of Lachie years into their love-story, and grieving the loss of Zach at the start of theirs, "everything about it was different," Georgie shared.

"The only thing that is the same, is that it almost feels like it didn't happen," she said. 

She added, "I was able to talk myself into a better place in a different way [after Zach's death], because of my experiences only two years prior." 


After everything she's endured, Georgie hopes her story makes others experiencing the suffocating depths of grief feel less alone. Because a year on from the death of Zach and more than three years since losing Lachie, she is happy. 

Never fully healed, forever grieving, but in a good place. 

With the support of her loved ones and professionals, she now has the tools to hold space for herself, tend to her often complex feelings, and work through the moments of pain that inevitably still pop up. 

"I journal every day," she said. "It really helps me get my thoughts in order and if I do it in the morning, I get it all out and I feel calmer for the day." 

It's something she feels proud of — surviving her grief. She did it herself (with the support of professionals and loved ones), in her own time and in her own way. 

"I think I am pretty strong," she told me, confidently. It's something she wants those reading to believe about themselves too.

"Whatever it is, the bad news, it's going to be okay in the long-run," she insisted. 

"Maybe not right now, but just breathe and tell yourself you can do this. You can... You've got this."

In 2024 aged 33, Georgie is happy. There will always be pain, but she is finally living with peace and joy again. 


She wasn't even looking for love when she met Jack in early 2024. But there he was; gentle, welcoming of all of her 'baggage' as she calls it, and endlessly supportive. 

"I spoke to my psychologist, and I said, 'Is there something wrong with me? Am I a love addict or something?'" she admitted. 

At the start, there was a lot of anxiety mixed in. 


"I started getting bad anxiety, because I've gone, 'am I cursed? Is he going to die? How am I going to deal with that?'" Georgie told me.

But her psychologist's words of wisdom helped settle her fears. 

"You know you can live your life in fear and keep closing yourself off to opportunities because you're scared you're going to hurt again. But I don't want you living a life like that. That's not what I want for you."

It's not what Georgie wants for her life either. So here she is, throwing herself into life and love again.

She has moments of heightened fear where the thoughts of "I'm going to be the girl three times over" rage in her head. But her new love is proving to be a very safe space. She doesn't think that's a mistake. 

"I have the best guardian angels," she told me. 

"I think Lachie and Zach really are looking out for me. I believe they sent me Jack."

If you think you may be experiencing depression or another mental health problem, please contact your GP or health professional. If you're based in Australia, 24-hour support is available through Lifeline on 13 11 14, beyondblue on 1300 22 4636 or the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467. In an emergency call 000.  

Feature image: Georgie Copeland. 

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