It's been almost three years since Heath Ledger's death and his former fiancée, Michelle Williams, is only now opening up about her struggle to return to normality since his loss. The "Blue Valentine" star talks to Marie Claire about losing Ledger, raising their daughter Matilda Rose as a single parent, and how her work saved her when she was lost in her own grief.
Heath Ledger died from an accidental drug overdose on January 22, 2008, five months after he and Williams had separated, at the age of 28. Their daughter, Matilda Rose, was 2 years old. Though the couple had split, Ledger was still a huge part of Williams' life, and his passing hit her hard, and continues to do so three years down the road. "Very obviously, for me and for her [daughter Matilda], there's a hole in our life," Williams says, adding, "Of course the natural inclination is to want to fill it and make it disappear, but what I've come to recently is that it's impossible. Nothing will fit in that hole because what we want back we can't get, which is this one person. I'm not going to rush anything and scamper around like a mad person and make myself crazy. I'm trying to be respectful of the absence. I'm not trying to fill it up. It is what it is."
Williams has had other relationships since Ledger's passing, including one with film director Spike Jonze, but she hasn't yet found a man she wants to settle down with for the rest of her life. "I don't know what my version of a relationship or marriage is yet, because the typical model seems a little broken to me," admits the star. "At the same time, I was raised on all those princess fairy tales and I'm a romantic; I want to be a one-man girl."
She hasn't given up hope though, and even has a sense of humor about the rumors that surfaced recently about her and her handsome "Blue Valentine" co-star Ryan Gosling. "My poor mom really wants me to meet someone. I think she wanted to believe the Ryan Gosling rumor more than anybody," says Williams with a wry smile.
Traveling the world for work over the past few years, Williams found solace in the characters she played, and new purpose and drive in challenging herself every day on set. "With the last three movies I've made, I've had the feeling of working at the edge of my abilities," Williams says. "That's an exhilarating and terrifying place to live, and I don't go there easily. It has its rewards, but it's not a dinner party."
Adds Williams, "I'm constantly pushed up against the wall of what I'm capable of doing, and that can be an excruciating place to confront yourself. But I don't want to lose sight of the fact that work gives you a good feeling about yourself. My work has seen me through a lot of situations, and if not for work, I would have stayed stuck in the experience. I've had something outside of myself to attend to, and it's carried me through. It's been invaluable, and I want to pass on that lesson to my daughter."
Though she suffered a tragedy few do at such a young age -- she was 27 -- Williams is philosophical about her loss, and is grateful for the love, support, and resources she has at her disposal. "When things are difficult for me as a single parent, I always reflect on how much harder it would be if I didn't have money -- if I couldn't afford a babysitter to go to a yoga class or out to dinner with a girlfriend," she says. "Sometimes it feels as if those are the strings that are holding my sanity together. In the worst of all possible worlds, I've found something to feel lucky about, but it takes effort and it takes committing to it on a daily basis. To give credit where credit is due, I was sharing a difficulty I was experiencing with Reese Witherspoon, and she said, 'Yes, I understand, but think about how much more difficult this would be without the luxury of a reliable, steady income.' From that day forward, my eyes were open, and it changed my attitude. Everyone has challenges; everyone has a tragedy. I met mine a little early. Or a lot early."