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There is a platitude we like to repeat for grief and trauma: "Time heals all wounds," we say. We may think it's about making those who are sad feel better, to remind them of brighter horizons ahead. But repeating something doesn't make it true, and some wounds simply don't heal.
Ralph and Kathy Kelly's eldest son, Thomas, was killed in a random one punch attack in Kings Cross in 2012. The attack became the catalyst for Sydney's lockout laws.
Four years later, in 2016, their youngest son Stuart took his own life. He had dropped out of university six months prior, following a hazing incident at St Paul's College on the University of Sydney campus.
Thomas and Stuart were both 18 at the time of their deaths.
"People think time heals. I think for a parent it does, I got through [the death's of his parents] thinking they had lovely lives and it was fantastic to have them as my mum and dad. For a child, I don't think it ever leaves you," Ralph told Mamamia this week.
In 2017, Mia Freedman spoke to Kathy Kelly about the deaths of Thomas and Stuart. Post continues below video.
His grief hasn't 'evolved', or moved on. It's still there, just as much as it was directly following Thomas and Stuart's deaths. That same level of grief was with him when he was turning off Thomas' life support, identifying Stuarts' body, picking up their ashes and driving home with them in the back seat, with the same overwhelming need for carefulness he felt when driving home from the hospital with his newborn babies.
"Losing a child is completely different, so I've tried to reframe it in my mind that I had 18 years with both of them," he says.
"For me, I was incredibly grateful and incredibly lucky that I had two fantastic young boys, who I loved dearly. It's better that I had that time with them than no time at all. Even the annoying parts when they were growing up are now fond memories. I look back and think I shouldn't have got annoyed, because actually that was really funny at the time.