Feature

Attenborough’s lasting grief

Richard Attenborough is a deeply wounded man, says Nigel Farndale in the London Telegraph. The Oscar-winning director and actor’s eldest daughter, Jane, and his granddaughter, Lucy, were among the 225,000 victims of the tsunami that slammed into Sri Lanka

Richard Attenborough is a deeply wounded man, says Nigel Farndale in the London Telegraph. The Oscar-winning director and actor’s eldest daughter, Jane, and his granddaughter, Lucy, were among the 225,000 victims of the tsunami that slammed into Sri Lanka, India, Thailand, and Indonesia on Dec. 26, 2004. Jane and Lucy had been vacationing in Phuket, Thailand. Three years later, Attenborough chokes up at the mere mention of the calamity. “My wife, Poppy, and I can’t even talk about it privately to each other,” he says. “I still can’t cope with it. If I stop and think about it, I just cry. It was the most terrible day of our lives.” Gazing out the window, his eyes glistening, he says, “You can’t outrun your grief. The pain doesn’t diminish.” To cope, he takes refuge in the past. “What does happen is that you assemble armor—an ability to compartmentalize your grief, put it in a place that you can revisit when you choose. Also, you learn to place it in juxtaposition with positive memories. We had 50 happy years with Jane, and 14 with Lucy. So you can suddenly recall joy. It is available. You just have to reach down into your memory to find it. I remember when Jinny—we called her Jinny—first visited the seaside. I remember the time we took her to a Picasso exhibition. I may still weep, but the box of memory no longer seems empty.”

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