Actress Blythe Danner on Love and Loss

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Actress Blythe Danner discusses love lost and her own personal growth.

You haven't spoken publicly about your husband's death before. What made you feel you were ready now?
I just felt it was of the utmost importance to do this. I saw that [the issue of head and neck cancer] had not gotten into the mainstream media, and I know that Bruce would want me to get this message out—that's the kind of guy he was. He was always curious and informing people about so many things. And now that I have grandchildren … I thought I would like to see the number of these cancers come down. Forty thousand people a year contract [head and neck] cancer. And I'm hoping that by the time they're grown it will be diminished quite a bit.

When Bruce's cancer was diagnosed in 1999, had he been having symptoms for a while?
That was the tragedy … We missed the early signs. He'd always had a hoarse voice, but it became increasingly so. I did ask him to go to the doctor, but being strong-willed (and men often balk at that idea), he wouldn't go. When he finally did, it was too late. That's what I could kick myself for—not just making the appointment and getting him there.

You've had a very rich and active career. Did that help you through the mourning period?
It definitely did. I was very fortunate, and I always say I think Bruce was directing it all from above, because all these great things [an Emmy win for her role as Isabelle "Izzy" Huffstoldt on Huff, a role in Meet the Fockers, appearances on Will and Grace, and various theater roles] happened so soon after he died—it really did keep me going.

What's the wisest thing anyone ever said to you about grief?