"Today I'm thinking of two families whose lives have been shattered."

Today I’m thinking about two families whose hearts have been smashing into a thousand pieces this week. I don’t know either of them although they are both in my circle. Friends of friends.

Matthew Richnell

Yesterday, 40-year-old publishing executive Matt Richell died in a tragic accident while surfing off Tamarama beach in Sydney. Matt’s wife Hannah and their beautiful children aged 3 and 6 have had the centre of their world ripped from them in the most senseless and sudden way.

I cannot imagine their pain.

Earlier this week, journalist Caroline Roessler died after a nine month battle with  leukaemia. Her beloved partner Donna nursed her through her illness and was by Caroline’s side as she passed away. Donna wrote a blog about her and Caroline’s journey through  leukaemia and it’s beautiful, confronting, heart breaking reading. They were together for 22 years. 

I cannot imagine her pain.

Today I’m struck by a heavy feeling of fragility. How the things that hold us up are really so tenuous and can change in an instant. An accident. A diagnosis.

And I can’t work out which is more brutal for those left behind. Knowing what’s coming and having months or years to prepare for the end? Or having it strike like a cobra, without warning. The answer is both. There is never a ‘good’ way to lose someone who holds a piece of your heart.

I keep thinking about Matt saying goodbye to his wife and boys on a glorious sunny morning yesterday as he headed out the door for a surf. I keep thinking about those last moments in a hospice room and the number of people I know who have sat there tenderly holding someone they loved as they took their last breath.



Life and death can feel random and cruel and unfair. Along with the beauty and the gratitude and the love comes unspeakable pain when you least expect it and least deserve it. And I’m not sure if knowing that is meant to make us love a little harder. And I’m not sure if that love is driven by the fear of loss.

Caroline Roessler who died this week after battling cancer

All I know is that every day, the bereaved walk amongst us and they’re mostly invisible. They’re our workmates and our friends; the person who makes our coffee or teaches our children; the mother in the playground, the old man in the supermarket. 

They do not signal their status outwardly but their very being has been altered by the pain of their loss. After the initial shock wears off and the funeral is over, after the thoughtful offers of meals and hugs peter out and they stop crying in public, we can mistakenly assume those left behind are OK. Because we want them to be.

But when your heart has been ripped out, ok feels like it exists only in the past.

There is no closure when you’ve lost someone you love and we must not force that on the bereaved no matter how gentle our intentions. Grief has no end point nor road map and as well-meaning as we are, we must not try to nudge them to a ‘better’ place. This is their own private hell that they must learn to navigate until they reach that point where, as grief counsellor Petrea King puts it “you simply grow more comfortable with your discomfort”.

My heart breaks for Hannah and her son and daughter and for Donna and for the families of everyone who has been taken too soon. Sending you all love and light and strength and compassion. Please know that as well as your own family and friends who are rallying around you right now, the arms of strangers are also holding you up….