real life

Jock Zonfrillo's wife's post is heartbreaking to the world, but to us grieving it’s yet another day.

This week the late Jock Zonfrillo's wife Lauren Fried shared their daughter Isla's first birthday on Instagram.

You would have seen the post circulating the internet. The outside world calling it “emotional”, “heartbreaking” or just plain “sad” but us in the grief world call it reality. Yet another day in this strange new normal we find ourselves in. I looked at Lauren’s post with a knowing sympathy, an aching in my chest, a pain not to be wished on my worst enemies.

Jock Zonfrillo's wife emotional Instagram post


I joined the grief club on August 4, 2021, and each day I’ve been dragging one foot in front of the other. Wading through the fog that comes from losing someone you love.  

There is an assumption that firsts like birthdays and anniversaries are the hardest, and there is some truth to it. These dates do become another way to break up the year. A depressing version of financial quarters. Sad quarter one, two, three and four. 

Watch:5 Things About Grief No One Really Tells You. Story continues after audio.

Video via Mamamia.

The big days like anniversaries or birthdays are when loss is the most acknowledged. Your community takes an excursion to grief land to lovingly sit in that stagnant yet sharp space with you. But tomorrow my pain will be the exact same and everyone goes back to the land of the living. As they should, this is not theirs to carry, it's mine and mine alone and that just plain sucks. 

But the hardest times are the mundane firsts. The markers of something you are tackling alone or doing again for the first time since you became a different person. 


The first supermarket trip, surrounded by people walking to the pace of not grieving. Wondering how the world is still turning while yours has completely stopped. It’s almost rude to see people dining at restaurants, laughing with friends in bars while your emotions are so intense they radiate physically. 

By definition grief is the loneliest plane of existence. Not only are no two grief experiences the same, but you just don’t know the feeling until you’re forced to know. 

Lauren’s post to me was not “heart-breaking pain”, these descriptions are recounted as an observer, as if standing behind a glass exhibit at a museum - have a read and then move on. I found Lauren’s post honest.  I recognise the complexity within the love and joy for a birthday and the intense pain of those missing it. 

August 4, 2021 - that’s the day my best friend Katie died. It was smack bang in the middle of lockdown. While we all adhered to restrictions there was one that I was not prepared to encounter, attendees at funerals limited to only 10. Walking into the service with 10 chairs separated by that all too familiar 1.5 metres apart and a camera for hundreds to stream online is a visual burnt into my retina forever. 

Just over one year later, all those hundreds of people came together in real life for the first time, to celebrate her birthday. I woke up and dressed myself crying, the type of crying that is more leaking. No control or specific thoughts, more my body taking over to advise me what I needed to get out. Like eye-lactating. 


The day was that confusing mixture of seize the day and fuck the day. We all hugged, we cried, we drank a lot of rosè. We gave impromptu speeches that anyone passing by would have assumed the guest of honour was in attendance. I woke up the next day, however, exactly the same. The pain is still there, the hole is still there. And that’s how Lauren will be feeling.

We read these “heartbreaking” and “emotional” stories and the only difference between that day and all the days is that it feels appropriate or allowed to be posted about it. 

The world is getting better at holding space for grief to publicly exist, but we can do more. 

I urge everyone to write death anniversaries and birthdays in your calendar and message your people the week before and the week after every year. And not just for the first few years, for as long as that person is in your life. Grief does change over time but it does not go away. 

As the very wise Nora McInerny says: We need to remember that a grieving person is going to laugh again and smile again. They're going to move forward. But that doesn't mean that they've moved on.

Feature Image: Instagram

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