When people hear I have been widowed twice, they look at me askance.
To use an Oscar Wilde cliche, to lose one husband is deemed unfortunate, but to lose two is simply careless.
But when they hear I’ve also buried a 16-month-old son, people tend to look very awkward and shuffle backwards until they are out of the room.
They seldom stick around to hear that since then, I’ve made a genuinely happy life where I have learnt to live alongside my grief. I even married again and had two sons.
Ok, so it’s not finally the white picket fence ending I always wanted, where I raise children with my husband and we all live happily ever after. Turns out my baggage was too heavy for my lightweight third husband, so we subsequently divorced when our children were little.
But my life has been pretty damn glorious – these many years as a single mum raising my sons in Australia have sparkled with joy.
Of course the deep sorrow and horror of my past never go away and it is always lurking in the neighbourhood of my mind. But I have learnt to surf the waves of anguish which roll through, the waves now less frequent and less intense.
Has my life experience given me some super power or incredible epiphany? No. But it has taught me that time is a great healer, even though when people tell you that, you want to smack them.
Did such sorrow change me fundamentally? Did it make me stronger and more resilient? Sadly, again no.
I became less brave, more hesitant, a lot more bitter and brittle, and with each tragedy, I faded that little bit more. But like a ball, I bounce back. Just not as high.
It was simply a case of shoulders back, tits forward, and onwards. This requires no special powers, no courage and little resilience; there’s no alternative because life carries on.
The sun rises and sets, same as ever, time ticks on, and the world carries on turning. Unless you opt to jump off this earthly merry-go-round, you just hold tight and ride on.
Besides, anyone who has suffered a terrible loss will know, we are initially too confused and exhausted and incapacitated by pain to do anything but make it through each day, one by one.
When my phone rung 30 years ago to tell me my husband had been shot in a war zone in South Africa two weeks before the first democratic elections, I thought it was the worst day of my life.
Not even a horror movie could have predicted the rollercoaster ride my life would take in the decade following this nightmare.