'The Trent Dalton quote that helped me process the loss of my seven-and-a-half-week-old daughter.'

Every year, around the January 26 public holiday, my family goes on an annual holiday to Minjerribah, a beautiful sand island off the east coast of Brisbane. We came here as kids too, but the tradition restarted again eight years ago, when my older daughter was six. This year, our holiday fell exactly one month after losing my seven-and-a-half-week-old baby, Orla Rose.

Sarah with her baby, Orla Rose. Image: Supplied.

Orla passed on Christmas Day. We were at lunch at my dad's, my partner had just fastened her into her capsule, ready for the journey home. The last thing she ever did was to grip his finger in her tiny little hand. 


Then, when he turned around to say goodbye to my family, without any sound at all, she took her last breath and died.

It was peaceful for her, not for us. What followed can only be described as a group trauma as my dad and my brother both worked frantically administering CPR, trying to save her. 

I, meanwhile, was on the floor. My head was on the carpet. I could not move from the shock but I remember the sounds - my breath, blood thumping in my temple, my other daughter screaming.

That was one month ago. It feels impossible, but somehow, life goes on. My humongous and ever-expanding family is still gathered at this beach house. The same one we come to every year. Life is the same, and yet it is also, so horrifically different. 

This is also the year Brisbane has been gripped by Trent Dalton fever. Ever since Boy Swallows Universe came out, all of us have been obsessed. Not just because it is a ripper yarn, but because it is a ripper yarn set in Brisbane. You see, there are four kids in my family and all four of us have chosen to stay settled in Brisbane. It's not that we haven't travelled, we have — we just think, regardless of where we go, Brisbane remains The Best.

Watch: A tribute to the babies we've lost and the significance of remembering their names. Post continues after video.

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For me, despite living abroad in countries all over the world, something about this sleepy subtropical town gets in my blood and stays there. Trent Dalton articulates this. He knows what we know; he feels what we feel and now, in 2024 it's because of him that Brisbane has really made it onto the world stage by getting that beloved book adapted into a Netflix series

The houses, the clothing, and the suburbs of 1980s Brisbane are being depicted on the biggest streaming platform in the world! But because my family are Trent Dalton tragics, we must go further than nerding out on the TV series. It started there (of course), but my littlest brother took it a step further. He made each of us read two of his favourite excerpts from Trent's short story book Love Stories and dared us not to cry. I read them but it is a quote from a later story that really got me. It reads:

"I know what love is. The ones we love are the stars in our black skies, blinking every evening after dinner to remind us that the darkness stretches out forever, but the darkness does not win this thing." 

Listen to Mamamia Book Club where Jessie Stephens interviews Trent Dalton about Boy Swallows Universe. Post continues below.

It really brought me up short, that quote. I thought that was the dichotomy of grief. It is love that makes it so hard, and it is love that will get you through. That quote summed up the reason I was there, on that holiday, despite my world collapsing. Not that it didn't matter, and that we were prepared to just keep going as before. It was because, when you are in the depths of grief, you have a choice — do you let it swallow you up? Or do you decide that "the darkness does not win this thing"?


Now every day, I get up and instead of letting the tightness in my chest and the heaviness in my bones reach out and pull me under, I say to myself: "The darkness does not win this thing."

Sarah with her elder daughter. Image: Supplied.

On that holiday, I had days when I woke up and cried, had breakfast and cried, and said hello to my family before retreating downstairs to cry. But I also went to the beach. I revelled in the perfect temperature of the water, the green glass colour of it. I lay on my back and let its buoyancy buoy my spirit and I let love in because love always wins in the end.

Feature Image: Supplied.