Samuel Johnson has encountered more heartbreak than many after losing both his mother and girlfriend to suicide, while also watching as his beloved sister lose her battle with cancer more recently.
But he’s now opened up in an exclusive chat with Starts at 60 on how he overcame the grief and shock following his late partner Lainie’s death in 2006, safe in the knowledge that his final words to her were ones of love.
Lainie tragically took her own life in 2006, just hours after Samuel ended their relationship. However, he has since revealed the break was amicable and he had nothing but love for her at the time – something which gives him comfort now.
“I’m really lucky that I said everything to my lost loved ones, they knew exactly where I stood. Even my girlfriend who committed suicide, the last words I spoke to her were, ‘I love you’,” he explained.
“I was able to, even in that case, know that she knew how I felt. I’m incredibly lucky that I was raised to share my emotions and my feelings.
“Because of that I have no regrets about what hasn’t been said. Not one single regret. If anything I’ve probably said too much!”
Samuel has now published a moving book, Dear Dad, containing a series of letters from Aussie stars to their fathers saying all the things they have previously left unsaid – whether their dads are still alive or have passed away.
It got him thinking about those he’s lost himself, including Lainie, and he admitted knowing that he told her he loved her before she passed away has saved him in the years since.
“It saved me from utter ruin. If we had of ended things negatively, that would still be tearing me to pieces now,” he admitted. “I would say that’s everything when it comes to me, I believe that.”
Asked if he thinks it’s important to express your love every day, just in case tragedy happens, he added: “I don’t think you should speak it falsely when things are going badly. Otherwise it becomes a sad ritual, in my mind.
“I just think we should find a moment… it’s not so much telling someone you love them every day for me, it’s about making sure they know how you feel about them as a person overall.
“And tell them why you love them, not that you love them, because people like being loved but if they don’t know why, the compliment isn’t as rich as it could be.”
Meanwhile, Samuel has spent the last few years sacrificing his own career in TV to fight for his late sister Connie’s cause – raising both awareness and money for cancer research.
Connie was diagnosed with terminal cancer for a third time in 2012, before passing away from terminal breast cancer in September, 2017, when she was 40.
In her final years, she joined her brother in launching charity Love Your Sister, with them setting a goal of raising $10 million for the cause through a series of fundraising efforts – something Samuel has continued following her death.
Now, as the proceeds of his new book all go towards cancer research, Samuel has admitted while he feels the cause ‘found him’, he would likely have been just as passionate about raising mental health awareness following Lainie’s death if his sister hadn’t passed away too.
“If my sister never got cancer, no doubt I’d be an advocate in the mental health space, but they say the cause chooses you,” he explained. “And I kind of believe that cancer came and got me. It came and got my sister and it got me as part of that package deal.
“Look I’m very passionate about lifting the stigma around mental health, I think it’s really critical that we talk about our pain otherwise it grows and we lose.”
Like Lainie, Samuel managed to say everything he needed to to his sister before she passed away – helped by their close relationship in her final months.
“We agreed before we went public that we had nothing more to say to each other,” he said.
“We shared such an intimate knowledge of each other and we were so open about our feelings towards one another that we were able to just focus on other families and workers at Love Your Sister, it very much stopped becoming about me and her, and started becoming about other mums that perhaps could be saved like she couldn’t.”
Samuel now hopes his book helps encourage other people to be open and vocal about their feelings, not just to their fathers but to other family members too.
“It’s startling to think that despite the hectic nature of the modern world, we’re still not taking the time to tell our loved ones exactly how we feel. I hope this inspires people to tell their loved ones exactly how they feel, because we never know when that proverbial bus might come,” he said.
“It’s better out than in and regret can be a painful thing to hold.”
Dear Dad features letters from Aussie greats including Kathy Lette, John Williamson, John Paul Young, Shannon Noll, Normie Rowe, Kurt Fearnley and more, with all contributing towards cancer research. The book, published by Hachette Australia, is available now.