I was interviewed today by my friend, Elizabeth Lesser for Oprah’s radio show about Soul. Oprah has asked Elizabeth to host the show when she, Oprah, is not available. Elizabeth is co-founder of The Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY and is a deeply spiritual/soulful person. We spent a wonderful hour talking together during which I realized that I want to send Elizabeth’s book, “Broken Open,” to Vanessa Redgrave. It is a book about how life’s tragedies and crisis can also be the way in which we are broken open–to deeper, richer parts of ourselves, to the broader community, to the universe. I also remembered with shock that only last year Vanessa played Joan Didion in the one-woman play based on Didion’s book, “The Year of Magical Thinking,” which told of her loss of her husband, John Dunne and her daughter. I feel certain that Didion will be able to help Vanessa now through her own loss.

Perhaps the acuteness of the tragedy of Natasha’s death is magnified for me because of I feel very ‘broken open’ by the nature of this play that I am doing 8 times a week–a play that speaks of life and death, of mothers and daughters.

(These last days it has been hard for me to write my usual ‘sign off’–see you next time. It all seems so arbitrary.)

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  1. My heart really goes out to Natasha’s family. It is so sad. I pray for Vanessa, but she is very lucky to have a friend like you who is there for her and is willing to be there with her through this terrible time. I hope Vanessa starts to heal soon. Let Vanessa know she has a lot of fans who are keeping her in mind.

  2. I was actually just thinking about that the other day, how Vanessa played in THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING, and how she told the story of Joan Dideon’s daughter passing. I remember thinking how incredibly powerful Vanessa’s performance was, and now the character truly does resonate with her. I cannot even fathom what it’s like to lose a child. No one should have to plan a funeral for their own daughter. No one. My heart breaks for the whole family. The whole situation is shocking, horrifying, and so random. I still can’t believe it happened.

    Next time you see Vanessa, hug her tightly.


  3. I love this part of Neil Walsch’s book”Home With God”
    When asked about his own mother’s death. God’s reply:

    “I tell you. I am there to greet everyone. It is impossible to die without God. I will always be there.
    I will embrace you, comfort you, welcome you, and assure you that you are perfect just the way you are, and perfectly ready to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. Then I will turn you back over to the souls of your beloved ones and to the angels, who will guide you the rest of your way, leading you into the spiritual realm…or what you would call “the real” heaven, as opposed to your imagined one. There you will do the work that you went there to do.”

  4. Jane, you and Vanessa Redgrave have always been my two favourite actresses. I am an actor in Toronto. I feel I have learned so much, as an actor, by watching both of you on the screen so many times.

    I am shocked and saddened by this horrible tragedy. I know there’s absolutely nothing I can do except to pray for Natasha’s family. Best of luck and please keep writing. You are an amazing woman.

  5. Dear Jane,
    You are so correct. The untimely death of someone so young with so much yet to offer has a way of forcing us into proper perspective while reminding us to be ever so mindful of the shortness of our stay and to be oh-so appreciative of the important relationships in our lives. I am truly sorry for her family, children, husband, and friends. I think sometimes those of us out here tend to forget that people like you and Miss Richardson are mortals, too, who travel down the same roads with the only difference basically being that we have a familiarity with you that you don’t with us. Thanks for this blog–I’ve been lurking here silently clicking in and out and being somewhat shy about the opportunity to speak directly with someone who has been lurking in my life–whether you know it or not–for quite some time.

    The skinny of Jane lurking in my life: You got me in big trouble with Barbarella. I was denied permission to go to the local theater to see it, but I went anyway. Didn’t get the sexual references–I was in the 6th grade and, to tell you the truth, I’m pretty sure the extent of my urgency to see Barbarella had more to do with 6th grade boys rather than the content of the film. Barefoot in the Park made me want to be a young newlywed in NY. (Of course, the little girl in Mississippi would not grow up & move to NY, not experience the seemingly strange arrangement of a NY flat–all those stairs, and, I know this will be a shock to you, I did not marry Robert Redford.) Among so many others, Coming Home, On Golden Pond, Stanley and Iris–beautiful films which did to me what those films are intended to do. Nine to Five got me in trouble again–I’m thinking the bravado I showed in my secretarial job at the time was a direct result of inspiration I gained from the movie. While the movie was tremendously funny, my getting fired was not nearly as funny–I’m thinking I could have used a more appreciative audience. (Never mind all that. I would later go to school, both undergrad and graduate as a mother, putting an end to my secretarial jobs and the attendant risk of getting fired for insubordination–at least as a secretary.) The Electric Horseman renewed my Barefoot-in-the-park-thing and, no, I still did not marry Redford. I laughed my arse off in Monster-In-Law. I saw it in Boston on a very cold and snowy evening with my doctor daughter who I was accompanying on residency interviews. (She’s at Dartmouth now.) (Speaking of oldest daughter, Jane enters my life when I packed my daughter off to college years earlier as a freshman. Got her in and didn’t want to leave. I recalled, at the time, an interview where you had experienced the same thing with Vanessa. Very poignant.) Back to Boston and residency interviews: oldest daughter claims the protected species in the family is Baby Boy (now 21) and, don’t tell her, but she’s really kind of justified in her belief. Oldest daughter caused me to miss several lines the first time I saw the movie because she kept insisting that I would behave as Jane, the monster in law, when the day comes that baby boy wants to marry. She may be right.

    Seriously, thanks for all you work and the entertainment you have provided for all of us out here. Keep it up–you are a pleasure to watch. Now, I have a concern. I am considering a trip to NYC for the protected species, Baby Boy, when the spring term ends in May. I’ll be bringing my niece, the “sister-cousin” of oldest daughter who will hopefully be joining us from NH. Baby Boy has never been to NY–it’s time. I would love, love, love to get tickets for 33; however, I see under your appearances that you have Canada scheduled for the early part of May, the time we will be visiting. What’s up with that? While I think Colin is preciously cute, I would love to watch the one and only Jane Fonda on stage. Will you be there?

  6. May Tash’s soul rest in perfect peace. I sincerely hope that Vanessa receives the comfort and support she needs. To bury ones child is the saddest thing one can do.

  7. MS. FONDA:


  8. What a lovely jesture. Vanessa Redgrave & the entire Redgrave dynasty have given so much over the decades it is time to give them something. My Mum was a friend of Rachel Kempson & she always said how Rachel was such a warm & strong person. She also said she was a fiercly independent peorson who truly valued autonomy. They are certainly a gracious Family!
    Ken Blankstein-Ure

  9. There is nothing wrong with feeling super sensitive at a time like this. There may be a myraid of reasons for how you’re feeling. Not that I’m preaching, but I try to remember to accept the grief and/or pain when it comes. After that, I recharge by diving straight in to the “now” – I must add that I never knew you were such a prolific writer. You’re a really remarkable human being. I’m just one of your million live-long fans… happy to have found your presence online.

    Nancy H. Hennen
    24/7 responsible reporting
    news + views

  10. Yes, everything is so arbitrary, especially within a tragedy like Natasha’s death. I just lost my best friend this past summer and my world is dull without him. However, like you said, I am broken open every time I have a loss or a tragedy and I have had quite a few in the last year. It has forced me to go deeper, which is a good thing. I also agree with you about your play magnifying the tragedy for you…33 variations is getting us and you to listen…I must go see it. Think the world of you and have for 30 years. Be well.

  11. Ms. Fonda,

    Every day, husbands lose wives, wives lose husbands, parents lose children (of all ages), children lose parents, and we all lose those we love.

    My mother lost her mother, her 11 week old baby and her 33y/o husband by the time she was 34 in 1951. She said losing my brother was the most difficult and never ending pain. She died in 2000 at 82 still grieving for them all. She wasn’t good at grieving.

    We lost our 19 y/o son in a drunk driving accident in 1995. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of him and wish I knew what he would have been. But I try very hard to concentrate on what we had, not what we lost. For me, that is the only way I can survive the loss, to remember having.

    We are perishable, not superhuman. We all die and it’s only been about 100 years that we live, on average, past 50.

    You can grow through the death of a loved one, a child. I’d love to throw my arms around Vanessa Redgrave and tell her that it sucks for a good solid year. Then it slowly gets easier but never better, never quite goes away. But you can smile, eventually, and laugh and remember with joy.

    I have no knowledge of how to send these words to Ms. Redgrave and Mr. Neeson and his sons. Would you be kind and pass them on? I would appreciate it so very much.

    Thank you,

    Marcie Weiler

  12. Hi Jane. Wondering … what do you think happens to our souls when we die? Do we reunite with our loved ones in an afterlife? Do we reincarnate?

  13. We all love Vanessa for many different reasons and our prayers are with her

    on a lighter note we all would love to see you and her unite for another performance-maybe something light hearted like “Grumpy Old Women” a female version of Grumpy Old Men(Walter and Jack) but with Robert Redford as the catch
    that would be fun

  14. Its occasions like this that make me see the benefits of religion. I didnt know Natasha Richardson of course but if one believes in any religion there is comfort in ‘knowing’ that youre going to your ‘reward’ when you die. It makes it easier for those left behind to cope with the loss, well I assume it does. I remember watching The Parent Trap over and over with my 2 girls. I was sad to hear she passed away. I feel for her family.

  15. I’ve not read “Broken Open,” but it sounds like something we all need to read. None of us totally escapes tragedy and sorrow, though Ms. Redgrave’s loss is bigger than anyone should have to bear. I keep Natasha and her family in my prayers.

  16. Jane–I also am completely moved and anguished over the loss of Natasha. I know these are personal friends of yours, and I certainly have never met them..but my heart has been so broken for the family in the last few days that it has been all I can think about. I have been praying for the family constantly…I am also so sorry for your personal loss, as you are friend of the family. These are difficult times, times that draw us together. You are in my thoughts and prayers..

  17. Hi Jane, I’m enjoying your blog and website also… My name is Bruno and im 14, yeah You heard me good… :)… i found your website by entering the “jane fonda” in google search and i’ve open it… I’m so glad that you share all these things with world… and im so glad ’cause i can read this … I found out many things in your blog posts that made me happy person even if im just 15… Your life is really a big adventure and i like to read your posts, i mean i enjoy in reading cause these words are from the woman “in age” and She is so happy and proud with herself… so keep going with writing cause you can bet that i will read the new posts… Thank You for doing this … See you soon, Bruno from Croatia… ( Sorry if my english is bad, but im just a boy who learning every day new things ) If you reading this at the moment, if you answear with comment i would be so happy… love your writing, bye 🙂

  18. After enjoying your autobiography, I’ve been devouring your blog which reflects the same open realness. I hope you continue this long after your play because these days people, women in particular, can be enriched by your words. I know I am.

    The most striking sadness about the death of Natasha Richardson, with every tribute written that mirrors the warmth and effervesence of her photographs, is not just the huge void she leaves behind in those who loved her, but the stark reality that she is forever gone.

  19. Dave and I lost our son, Rich, two years ago. (You may have met him at CNN, as well, where he was an accomplished videographer.)

    You are so right, Jane, about that horrible hole that ‘breaks open’ the heart of a grieving parent. It can’t be filled, but it does provide space to nurture deep empathy for others, such as may not have existed before the devastation.

    I hurt so much for Vanessa Redgrave and for all parents who suffer this loss, this worst of horrors.

  20. Dear Jane-

    I’ve been reading these updates with tremendous delight, thank you so much for sharing this exciting chapter of your life with all of us who love and appreciate you and your work! What an amazing, inspiring theatrical journey this has been and continues to be. I can’t wait to experience it next Sunday (the perfect birthday present to myself!) Re. Natasha, I’ve been taking her death pretty hard as well…its a similar feeling for me as when Diana died, that sense of shock and protest, that its not ok for the universe to dim her bright light. The only thing that brings me comfort is remembering the Buddhist teachings about the truth of impermanence, that when recognized, allows me to deepen in gratitude for every moment of this precious fleeting existence… much love and many thanks to you, for the illumination you bring to this world:)

  21. I hope you can find that sense of peace that surpasses all understanding. I always wondered how hard it must be to perform when emotionally challenged by the death of a friend or some other heavy concern. I guess it does take its toll. I have had a reminder myself recently that life delivers it’s share of twists and turns. I try to remember in my life I really have no control over things, despite my delusional beliefs that in some ways I do. I try to count my blessings as often as possible, and experience each day. I also remind myself that there are things that just make no sense to me, and I have to accept that. Other peoples tragedy acts as a reminder to me that I need to be ready for the next one to visit my life, and to trust that God will not abandon me in my time of need. He never has.
    I am so excited and look forward to seeing your show this coming Thursday. I am a big fan of your work, and this wil be such a thrill. 🙂 Hang in there, you will work through it.

  22. Natasha’s death keeps a lump in my throat every time I hear/think about it. I’ve always admired Vanessa.

    On a lighter note, TCM is playing Cat Ballou as I’m writing this…. it … is … HILARIOUS!

    You are such a wonderful actor! and Lee Marvin? OMG

    Thank you for writing your blog… I feel glamorous just reading it! 😉


  23. Can’t wait to hear the interview – will be good to hear you speak on this topic.

  24. I feel so bad for Natasha’s family and pray that they have the strength to heal from this horrific tragedy. I too lost a daughter at 25 to brain injury. She was brought back to us after being declared clinically dead. She has been in a hospital for 4 and a half years, minimally conscious. The pain of losing a child is searing! But we are blessed as our daughter left us her daughter which happens to be named Natasha! Please pass on to Vanessa, Liam and the rest of the family that they have many people sending them their love, support and prayers. Thank you!

  25. Thanks for the book suggestion. I placed a hold on it at my library. Such sadness. Your performance and that of Vanessa Redgrave in Julia were more than spectacular. What an incredible film for a young *then lesbian on so many levels.

  26. thank you so much for sharing these words and the link to elizabeth lesser’s book. i look forward to reading it… and i sit here in wonder thinking about how ms. redgrave played joan didion. yes. truly extraordinary.

    in this moment, i think about how the wide, deep path of grief cracks us open in ways we cannot begin to imagine when we are in pain. and yet through these cracks light appears and unexpected beauty begin to grow.

    sending peace and light to you and your friends…

  27. Your so right Jane,tragedy in our life bring a new self vision.
    My own experience of loss was strange, as a graduate school student
    working within the University’s Learning Center,as a graduate assistant
    my mother had a heart attack and passed on within a year well I was writing my masters theses on information can knowledge in higher education, my father died, my father passed away at a VA hospital right across form the University library where I was working. With in a two year I lost my mother, father and divorced and was in a auto accident with everything I owned in the car. I walk away with a briefcase in the rain .
    I was 28 years old and homeless with 100 dollars in my pocket.

  28. I have a 23 year old daughter, my only child. I absolutely cannot imagine how I would live if she died. I choke just thinking about it. The physicality of that grief is frightening and powerful. It’s like a monster devouring you just because you loved. After the tsunami in the Indian Ocean, I heard about one young Buddhist monk who was inquiring about the fate of his father. He was given the news that his father was killed in the flood. The young monk was said to be expressionless as he turned to walk away. The reporter marvelled at this detachment and attributed it to the Buddhist philosophy. I thought about this alot. Detachment would definately save us from suffering grief and loss. But I can’t reconcile where love fits in if love is attachment.

    I can only imagine that after the physical loss there must be some strength left to cope with the rest of the grief that washes up about the future. Can we really gain strength from our friends and well-wishers? I hope so. I’ve tried to give it before, never knowing whether it has done any good.

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