Widowed at 38, Michelle Moriarty knows about grief and what to say to someone who has lost a loved one
At just 42, Michelle Moriarty has learnt a lot about grief.
In 2018, she became a widow when her partner, 39-year-old Nathan Johnston, died suddenly.
“Nathan and I had our whole lives ahead of us and I had a two-year-old and a six-year-old and we were very excited about life and life changed … every aspect of our life changed that night,” she said.
Looking for others who shared a similar experience, Michelle — who lives in Bunbury, two hours south of Perth — set up a young widow’s Facebook group.
“Despite having so much support from family, friends and my community, I still felt really isolated in my grief,” she said.
What not to say
Michelle said there were some things that should be considered before speaking to someone who was grieving.
“If you’re grocery shopping and you’re trying to get on with a daily task and if you see someone that you might have seen 20 years ago and they ask a question that may raise trauma such as ‘So how did your person die?’, that might not necessarily be appropriate.”
She also said it was important to follow through with promises.
For example, if you say you’ll invite a grieving person over for a barbecue, you should do it.
“I really hung on to invitations [like that] and was disappointed when people didn’t follow through,” Michelle said.
A story of hope
Last night Michelle won the 2023 WA Rural Women’s Award for her commitment to supporting widowed people across regional WA.
“It’s an absolute honour and privilege to be recognised in this role… and it means a lot to me,” she said.
Michelle’s grief is still palpable and she says Nathan will always have a special place in her life.
But she wants her story to be one of hope and is happy to share that she recently became engaged to Ross Craigie, who she reconnected with after Nathan died.
“In those early days I couldn’t see through to the next day,” she said.
“But here I am four and a half years later and I delight in life. I’ve found joy in life and I love.
“I keep people who fill my cup and make my energy levels high, I keep them really close to me.
“I think that’s really key going forward as well and just hanging on and remembering that tomorrow’s a new day.”