It’s been close to two years since the death of actor Heath Ledger, time which Michelle Williams has spent coping with the immense grief that comes with her former fiancé’s passing.
Dodging the unsolicited media attention, the actress and her daughter Matilda Rose, who turns 4 next month, have spent time in both Brooklyn and upstate New York, as Michelle slowly comes to terms with her “boundaries” for the outside world.
“I can talk about grief, because that’s mine; about single parenting; about trying to balance work and kids,” she reveals in the October issue of Vogue. “But what I don’t have to talk about is what happened between Heath and me in our relationship.”
Staying true to her word, Michelle is open about her day-to-day struggles as she seeks peace while raising Matilda as a single mother. In the months following the couple’s split and Heath’s subsequent passing, a “seriously distracted” Michelle was left to cope with the pain each day. “[I would] cry, nap, sit and stare, try to figure out what to make [Matilda] for dinner, talk to friends on the phone,” she admits. “I was holding it together by a string and a paper clip in the fall and winter. I didn’t know if I could keep it all together.”
Relying heavily on her close friends and family, Michelle can remember the moment she finally caught a glimpse of light at the end of the dark tunnel. “Women and kids really got us through the winter. One got me gardening in the spring, and that’s when it started to turn around,” she says. “I remember being on my hands and knees. The ground was cold and muddy. I pushed back the dead leaves and saw the bright green shoots of spring.” For Michelle, the new life that had sprung up served as a personal reminder.
“Under all this decay something was growing. Caring for the garden reminded me to care for myself.”
In addition to her new found love of gardening, Michelle sought solace in The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion‘s memoir of her journey through the loss of her husband and daughter in the same year. “You console yourself by saying it’s all a deepening process. After the first year, the pain is less intense; it’s less immediate,” Michelle explains.
Fortunately for the actress, a constant memory of Heath is never far, as the couple’s daughter Matilda is the spitting-image of her late father.
“But every time I really miss him and wonder where he’s gone, I just look at her.”
Click below to read about how Michelle explains the public’s interest to Matilda.
While Michelle and Matilda may be slowly moving past their grief, the pair are often faced with stark reminders of the family’s situation from the prying public. During one of their many morning runs to the local coffee shop, Matilda was put on the spot by a little girl asking about her father. “[She said,] ‘What’s it like being famous? Are you so sad that your daddy died like Michael Jackson?’” Michelle recalls. “That girl was six.”
Although she realizes the incessant paparazzi attention is a direct result of Heath’s death — making it “hard to be graceful and understanding about it” — Michelle is determined her daughter stay as innocent in the situation as possible. “[I tell her,] ‘It’s because people really loved your daddy that they want to take your picture, to know you’re all right,’” she explains.
Noting that “my reaction to it is going to be her reaction to it,” Michelle shares her role as both “the man and the woman in that [paparazzi] situation” takes its toll.
“It’s an okay model for [Matilda] to see that her mom has boundaries. It’s okay for me to be upset and raise my voice. But it’s an ongoing struggle…Heath always used to do that for us.”
As she finds her way through single motherhood, Michelle is focusing her attention solely on Matilda. Previously linked with director Spike Jonze, she admits that the relationship has since ended. “The timing was impossible. I thought falling in love again was the only thing that was going to save me from the pain,” she says, adding that dating with a small child is something she has yet to figure out.
Noting that she is “falling more and more in love” with Matilda, Michelle feels ever so “lucky” to be spending all of her time with her daughter.
“I can work. She can go to a good school,” she says, being surrounded all the while by those who can help keep the memory of Heath alive. And for that, the actress is grateful.
“[Matilda] can know her dad in so many ways, and so many of his friends who will be able to tell her so many stories. His friends, his family — they were a big part of his life, and they will be a big part of her life.”
Source: Vogue; October issue