Michael Palin opens up about grief after death of Helen, his wife of 57 years

Michael Palin opens up about grief after death of Helen, his wife of 57 years

Michael Palin has opened up about his experience of grief after the death of his wife Helen Gibbins.

Gibbins, who married the Monty Python star in 1966, died of kidney failure in May. She also suffered with chronic pain for several years.

In a new interview with The Sunday Times, broadcaster and comedian Palin spoke of the “great sort of emptiness” he has experienced in the wake of Gibbins’ death, which occurred just weeks after the couple’s 57th wedding anniversary.

“When someone’s gone, someone who has been so much part of your life for the past 60 years, you can’t believe they’re not there to enjoy a little joke, or an observation, or a b**** about somebody,” he said. “A great sort of emptiness comes in.”

Palin, 80, said that his wife had relied on dialysis for “so many years” in order to “keep her alive”, explaining that she eventually “took the decision, along with the children and the doctors, to give it up”.

He added that he had “never seen her happier in a way” than during the final 10 days of her life, after choosing to stop the treatment.

“She’d accepted it, we’d accepted it, she was in a wonderful hospice,” Palin said. “The children and grandchildren had all come to see her, so her death was a great deliverance for her.”

The comedy legend also revealed that he had experienced a full circle moment when he had to register Gibbins’ death, during which he saw a couple with a young baby at the registry office.

“I saw the father, I presume, holding on his chest this tiny, tiny little newborn baby,” he said. “And I thought, yes, that’s it, a new person – one in, one out.”

Michael Palin with his wife Helen (Getty Images)
Michael Palin with his wife Helen (Getty Images)

Announcing Gibbins’ death on his website in May, Palin shared a heartbreaking statement in which he hailed her as “the bedrock of my life”.

He revealed how the pair had met as teenagers on holiday before eventually tying the knot in their early twenties, and said that her passing was an “indescribable loss” for the whole family.

“My dearest wife Helen died peacefully in the early hours of Tuesday morning,” Palin wrote. “She had been suffering with chronic pain for several years, which was compounded a few years ago by a diagnosis of kidney failure.

“We first met on a summer holiday on the Suffolk coast when we were both 16 and we married in our early 20s. Two and a half weeks ago we celebrated our 57th wedding anniversary.

“Her death is an indescribable loss for myself, our three children and four grandchildren. Helen was the bedrock of my life. Her quietly wise judgement informed all my decisions and her humour and practical good sense was at the heart of our life together.”

Palin fictionalised the story of the couple’s meeting in the BBC television drama East of Ipswich, which aired in 1987.