10 years after Natasha Richardson's tragic death in a ski accent, mother Vanessa Redgrave and sister Joely Richardson reflect to PEOPLE about coping with grief and honoring her memory

By Dana Rose Falcone and Monique Jessen
January 16, 2019 10:00 AM
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Nearly 10 years have passed since actress Natasha Richardson died suddenly after a tragic ski accident. And her family still feels the heartbreak.

“Time does not heal; that would seem to me to say that suddenly it’s okay, and it’s not,” Richardson’s mother, acting legend Vanessa Redgrave, 81, tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue. “It never becomes OK.”

Her younger daughter and fellow actress Joely Richardson — with whom Redgrave stars in a new movie adaptation of The Aspern Papers — also opens up about the loss.

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Vanessa Redgrave, Liam Neeson, Natasha Richardson and Joely Richardson in 2000.

“You are different. You aren’t stronger or weaker,” Joely, 54, says. “Just different—changed. What we have done well as a family is that in honoring and supporting one another, we reformed to become a strong, loving unit.”RELATED VIDEO: Vanessa Redgrave Teams Up With Daughter Joely Richardson in New Film The Aspern Papers

Natasha, who was 45 and had two children with her husband Liam Neeson, died of trauma to the head in March 2009 after what initially seemed to be a minor fall on a beginner ski slope in Quebec. Redgrave says that the loss gave her and her family new appreciation for their lives and the people in them.

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Vanessa Redgrave and Joely Richardson in 2017.
| Credit: John Phillips/Getty

Redgrave and Joely Richardson in London in 2017.

“In my case, I treasure my family much, much more because you realize that the difference being alive and dead is the difference of a little fingernail,” she says. “I think that makes you more aware and more caring.”

Working together in The Aspern Papers and filming in Venice gave Redgrave — also mom to son Carlo Gabriel with her partner Franco Nero — and Joely another opportunity to spend time together. (They also costarred in the TV series Nip/Tuck.)

  • For more on Vanessa Redgrave and Joely Richardson, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on stands Friday

“Try to find the joy in life because we are so lucky to be here,” Joely says. “Every day, every birthday that goes by, I’m just so grateful.”

The Aspern Papers, also starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers, is out now.