Bindi Irwin on losing her dad Steve Irwin: ‘That kind of sadness never goes away’


Bindi Irwin turns 16 years old today. And so People Magazine gave her this week’s cover. I’m fine with that. I’m actually really pleased that People didn’t go with Adam Levine’s wedding or another Prince George-turning-one cover. I appreciate it when People does these more human-interest stories, although I know this isn’t going to be the most commented-on post of the day or anything. There’s no scandal. It’s just a teenage girl talking about grief and how she misses her dad. This is the second major interview Bindi has given in a month’s time – I guess someone (her mom?) is really pushing her to be a vocal animal-rights advocate.

After her father, Crocodile Hunter star Steve Irwin, died following a freak attack by a stingray in 2006, Bindi Irwin says well-meaning strangers kept offering the same reassurance.

“I remember after we lost Dad, so many adults came up to me and said, ‘Honey, time heals all wounds,’ ” Bindi, who turns 16 on July 24, tells PEOPLE in this week’s cover story. “That is the biggest lie you will ever hear. It doesn’t.”

She continues, “That kind of sadness never goes away. It’s like losing a piece of your heart that you never get back.”

Speaking in-depth for the first time about her grief, Bindi also shares how she and her mom, Terri, and 10-year-old brother, Robert, have found ways to move forward.

“When you lose a loved one, you come to these crossroads,” says the young conservationist, who lives with her family in their home within the gates of Australia Zoo in Queensland. “You can take the path that leads you down the aisle of sadness, or you can say, ‘I’m never going to let this person’s memory die. I’m going to make sure everything they worked for continues.’ ”

For Bindi, that has meant carrying on her father’s animal-focused legacy, from planning the family’s annual crocodile research trip to working with SeaWorld as a youth ambassador.

“Every day is a new journey for me,” she says, “and I feel like in my lifetime, I’ve been blessed to experience such a lot.”

[From People]

Wow, there have been some good celebrity quotes about grief lately. Billy Bob Thornton made me tear up when he was talking about his late brother, and now Bindi is showing a remarkable resiliency and maturity when discussing her dad’s death. I always forget that there’s a little Irwin boy too – Bindi is a big sister!

Also – I guess I forgot that Bindi was named a Youth Ambassador for SeaWorld. That was announced several months ago, and it was a widely criticized decision. Even Steve Irwin’s father thought so – he publicly criticized Bindi for signing on to an organization that keeps captive animals for tricks and profit. Yikes. This family has more drama than you’d expect.

Photos courtesy of Getty, cover courtesy of People.

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61 Responses to “Bindi Irwin on losing her dad Steve Irwin: ‘That kind of sadness never goes away’”

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  1. MrsBPitt says:

    Steve’s gene’s are strong in those kids! They look so much like him. She seems like a pretty well adjusted, mature young lady! My Dad passed away at age 82, I was 50 years old and it still hurt like hell. I miss him everyday! I can’t imagine how it must feel to lose your Dad at such a young age and not have him there when you are growing up.

    • doofus says:

      yeah, I hadn’t seen “little” Bob since he was on Irwin’s show as an infant.

      those kids are cute, and my heart goes out to them. Especially Bob, who hardly had a chance to get to know him.

      • Persephone69 says:

        I was “little” Bob’s age when my dad died so yeah it’s sad I don’t have any memory of him… pictures but no memories of my own. My Grandfather raised me LIKE a father though and when he passed a few years ago, just like MrsBPit, I’m a grown woman and I still miss him all the time too. BIndi seems to have grown into a lovely young lady.

    • Rice says:

      I was closer to my granny than my own mom, so when she passed away in 2011, it wrecked me to the core. I still dream about her but I’m happy that I had her from childhood to adulthood. Even though she was beginning to get sick, she was at my wedding and it made the event even more memorable.

      • Persephone69 says:

        Oh me too Rice me too! I was just writing above that my grandfather raised me when my dad died… well my mom was alive but a complete jerk so my Nana was my heart and soul and a “true” mama to me. It killed me when she died when I was pregnant with my second baby in 2006. She was so excited to snuggle another little great grandbaby, gosh she loved snuggling babies. At least she got to snuggle my oldest to pieces for 2 years before she went. Hugs my friend, big big hugs!

    • JennySerenity says:

      Awww, Bindi…

      Boo-hoo, girl. And I don’t mean that in a flippant way at all. I lost my mom when I was young, and it just AMAZED me at the platitudes people felt they had to throw my way. I know, I know…a funeral or wake is an awkward, sad time for everyone. People feel they need to say something comforting to the family, but it always comes out wrong somehow. I got a lot of, “Jesus needed her more than you do” (puke, please don’t throw your religion my way), and the ever popular “Time heals all wounds (no, it doesn’t), just like Bindi. Unlike this adorable Irwin girl, I actually kept believing that, for around three years. When I still cried in my sleep, what little I could ever get, according to my then fiance’…I had a total meltdown. I mean, PTSD-like behavior, just all that backed-up grief coming out. Only when I sought counseling did the grief begin to crack wide open and heal. You can’t go over or around mourning, at some point it catches up w/ you and you have to go *through* it.

      I still miss my mom after 20+ yrs, but it isn’t chronic grieving. Its the small things that catch me off guard now, like a small remembrance or a movie about a dying mom/ child. I still can’t watch Terms of Endearment, even though that’s a reversed parent/ child death, without the water works turning on. Then last March, after a protracted illness, I lost my 78 yr old dad. THAT was the killer, and still is.

      This girl seems to have it together as far as channeling her grief goes. That’s what I finally learned to do, too. Volunteering for Assisted Living visits, animal rescue and a bunch of other things that made me feel like I was honoring my mom, now my dad. I just hope that this really is Bindi’s passion from the heart- it really seems to be- instead of a stage mom who wants to stay in the spotlight (ok, didn’t mean to sound snarky or judgey there). REALLY like this kid and wish her the best. Losing your dad so young, especially one as larger than life as Steve Irwin, is a lot of time to go before those scars start to heal. :-x

  2. It is what it is says:

    I’m glad she’s walking in her fathers footsteps! Animal activists are awesome. And yea, SeaWorld sucks big time.

  3. Lil says:

    Bindi is a lovely girl, but I wish they would have given the full cover to James Garner. He was such a wonderful example of a decent humble REAL man.

    • Brin says:

      True. He was a legend, I’m surprised there wasn’t more coverage of his passing.

    • RobN says:

      Yeah, what a crappy decision. Garner was a television and movie stalwart for 50+ years and they stick him below how to lose a 100 pounds and give the cover to a young girl whose story would have been just as interesting, or not, next week or the week after.

      • Kori says:

        Yes, my thoughts too. He had a fascinating life. He had an absolutely brutal childhood. He married his wife 2 weeks after meeting her and they were married for almost 60 years. He raised her polio-stricken daughter by her first marriage as his own. He was wounded in the Korean War and earned 2 Purple Hearts. He was with Martin Luther King Jr during the famous March on Washington. He came in at the end of the studio system, made some great movies and then created an enduring character on TV (Jim Rockford in the Rockford Files). He stepped in when John Ritter died on 8 Simple Rules. Modern audiences, if People Magazine was worried about sales, would know him from The Notebook if nothing else. Used to be a celebrity who died got the cover–now they relegated to the side unless it’s shocking.

    • holly hobby says:

      Yes to this. James Garner was great! I read his bio a few years ago and he sounds like someone I would hang out in a bar with.

  4. Lizzie says:

    I think there is def something shady with this family. (They also look like they’re stuck in the 80′s with their hair!)
    Bindi just seems SO managed. Everything just feels off.

    • GoodNamesAllTaken says:

      I agree. There’s a fine line between honoring and exploiting someone’s memory. It was weird to me how she jumped into public life the minute he died. I felt like she was either very ambitious or being pushed to strike while the iron was hot. I have no doubt that she loved her father very much and mourned him sincerely, but I agree with you. There has always been something “off” about the whole situation.

      • Kiyoshigirl says:

        Bingo! We’ve got a winner. That family didn’t let a minute pass before they let it be known they weren’t going anywhere. What I’d like to know is how they arranged to continue living within the Zoo grounds? Does the mother work there? Did the Zoo allow it to support the family? What are the terms? I admittedly don’t know a lot about this family so I’m prepared for some comment backlash, but I am curious as to how they pulled off that living arrangement.

    • holly hobby says:

      I may be wrong but wasn’t the mother on the outs with Irwin’s family? I remember there was something about it on the news that the family didn’t agree with her on Irwin’s legacy or something?

      Don’t get me started on the haircuts. Poor Bob should be allowed to get a hair cut in this century.

    • metallicwow says:

      Oh I agree 100% – the kids are so stage-managed at this point, it’s creepy. Did you see them interviewed on GMA when Bindi announced her Sea World gig? It was frightening.

  5. Ivy says:

    I don’t know who she is, but agreeing to be an ambassador for SeaWorld? Really?
    Making money by endorsing an industry abusing animals… You’re 16, there are better summer jobs than that, “animal lover”.

  6. Barrett says:

    Steve Irwin used to upset me. He took too many risks. Didn’t he hold one if his babies (kids) super close to a wild animal? I am sorry for her loss, but I hope she takes less risks.

    • Jess says:

      Oh god I forgot about that! Yes he held his infant son over an alligator if I remember correctly, that was idiotic for sure.

    • ScienceGal says:

      To be fair, risk is in the eye of the beholder. One of my hobbies for the last ten years has been to catch and photograph wild snakes, including venomous ones. (I release them after photographing them.) It looks very risky to outside viewers, but I know snakes. I know their behavior. I know how to handle them. Yes, I occasionally get bitten by nonvenomous snakes, but it amounts to barely a superficial scratch in most cases. I am of course much more careful in handling venomous species and have never come remotely close to being envenomated.

      So yes, he did take risks, but we all do every day. Getting behind the wheel of a car is incredibly risky, but we tend to accept that risk as necessary. Playing with a snake might seem an unnecessary risk, but then so is rock climbing, parachuting, hang gliding, practicing martial arts, etc. Steve Irwin knew what he was doing, and his livelihood depended on taking those risks.

      What’s so ridiculous about his death is that he died doing something that was actually not that risky at all — diving in the ocean. People do that every day and the incidence of fatal encounters with wildlife is pretty minimal. He took risks but in the end it was a stupid accident that cost him his life.

      (I don’t have any comment on holding the infant son while feeding the crocodile, though. I’m certain he felt that his son was perfectly safe, but geez. Small child + saltwater crocodile = bad news.)

      • Ivy says:

        Snakes are beautiful, I like your hobby! ^.^

      • Sample says:

        “What’s so ridiculous about his death is that he died doing something that was actually not that risky at all — diving in the ocean. People do that every day and the incidence of fatal encounters with wildlife is pretty minimal. He took risks but in the end it was a stupid accident that cost him his life.”

        Well, it wasn’t an accident and he wasn’t just diving in the ocean. As the camera man (who came out with a detailed interview earlier this year) described, they’d been deliberately filming Irwin and the stingray. They were taking one last shot, and the ray was supposed to swim away. Instead it attacked Irwin. No one “just diving in the ocean” would have gone up to the stingray like that.

        He held his son when he was feeding the croc. You can google the photos. They were max two meters from the croc. I’ll say nothing about irresponsible behaviour. Steve Irwin was undoubtedly a “nice bloke,” but his career was basically about playing up the spectacle and danger to titillate the audience. On a practical level, you’d learn much more intellectually from a bland nature documentary if you were really just interested in understanding nature.

  7. Jen34 says:

    Steve Irwin’s death was such a shock, but as a previous poster mentioned, he took ridiculous risks. I feel bad for her and her brother, and I hope her mom doesn’t have an unhealthy agenda for those kids.

  8. Jess says:

    She sounds so mature! I’m glad she’s trying to carry on his legacy, and maybe find her own way as well since she signed on with sea world. I hate sea world and everything they stand for, and if her father did too then maybe she’s not being pressured too much by her mother because I doubt she’d want her to do that. I also really like what she said awhile back about girls dressing their age and not showing so much skin, it’s so true in my opinion.

    • Erinn says:

      Plus, I thought she made the not showing too much skin quote pretty diplomatically. She didn’t out and out shame those who do – but she basically said it was a shame that so many girls are dressing so much older instead of enjoying their childhood.

      Maybe she thinks she can have some sort of small influence on SeaWorld. Who knows.

      • Sample says:

        There was controversy about that, because an Aussie actress who thinks the opposite called her out on that. Basically the actress said we shouldn’t be telling young girls what to do with their bodies, whether it’s covering up or showing some skin. Not too sure I agree with Bindi’s view at all. Personally yes, but not on how she implicitly thought it was all right to judge and comment on how OTHER girls dress or don’t dress.

      • Lou says:

        agree, Sample. Bindi seems nice, but it’s none of her business how other girls dress.

  9. Britt says:

    I lost my dad when I was a child too and although its been over 10 years, it still hurts. Their mom did a wonderful job shielding them from the public when that happened (from what I can remember) even though they were still doing their shows.

  10. Harri says:

    Sorry but you can’t be an animal rights activist AND be an ambassador for SeaWorld…no way.

  11. Adrien says:

    Wow, she’s all grown up and she’s pretty. She’s been through a lot, so it’s nice to see she’s levelheaded.

  12. Dancinnancy says:

    I’m not ok with taking whales and dohins out of the sea to fill the population, but SeaWorld does a lot to help injured animals and scientific research. I’m sure Bindi has been behind the scenes and certainly sees more than I have.

    Also, she grew up in a zoo. All she has ever known is animals. How is stepping in to fill the void left by Steve and maybe even feel closer to him make her a manipulative glory seeker?

    How many of us wouldn’t take that opportunity?

  13. aenflex says:

    The world lost someone very special when Steve Irwin died. It still breaks my heart.

  14. TG says:

    This story made me cry, which isn’t hard to do, but still, it is sad when children have to grow up without one of their parents. Also, like others on here, I have a hard time believing Sea World and zoos in general aren’t more harmful then good. After watching Black Fish I will never go to Sea World.

    • Lauraq says:

      I agree for the most part. I will go to the zoo in my town (the Henry Doorly-perhaps you’ve heard of it? My fiancee and I are actually getting married there), because they are BIG on conservation and breeding endangered species. Their ideal is restocking the wild so that zoos are no longer necessary. Can’t argue with that.

  15. MediaMaven says:

    I like that she carries on with the “family business”, but I don’t think her father would be thrilled about the SeaWorld connection. As someone who lost a brother, mother and father while young, I completely understand what she’s saying – there’s a hole in you that you just can’t fill. I’m glad she didn’t try to fill it with drugs and alcohol, and it seems like her Mom keeps her on the straight and narrow.

  16. wow says:

    I just “love” this girl! She literally brings a smile across my face whenever I read anything about her. So mature. Such a contrast to the girls (now women) on shows like 16 & Pregnant/Teen Mom. She’s always such a joy to read about and I miss her Dad (his shows) too.

  17. Dash says:

    I interviewed Bindi once for a radio show and she was like robot. Scripted answers, all relating back to Australia Zoo. Couldn’t even say what music she liked. She’s had a very unusual life.

  18. Mrs.Krabapple says:

    It’s all about money. The animals, public “education” and “awareness” — none of that matters. It’s all about money. Anybody who thinks the Irwins or Seaworld cares about anything EXCEPT money is delusional.

  19. Emily C. says:

    She’s 16. I think that’s old enough to decide what you want to advocate for in life. I’d certainly decided what I cared about most by then, though I didn’t know how to go about doing it. (I still haven’t really figured out that part.) Teenagers are often very passionate about causes that they remain passionate about for the rest of their lives. I don’t think she’s being pushed by anyone. And it makes perfect sense that she’d want to follow in her father’s footsteps.

    The SeaWorld thing is also typical of that. At 16, you want to help but don’t know how because you don’t have the experience and education to do it right. Maybe she thinks the publicity is worth the trade-off; plenty of adults make deals like that all the time. I don’t even know how I feel about it, though I do not like SeaWorld. Maybe she can do more good from inside the system, or maybe not. I’m not qualified to judge, and I don’t feel comfortable judging the well-intentioned choices of a 16-year old trying to work for a good cause.

    • DameEdna says:

      No-one doubts that Bindi Irwin is passionate about animals but, if she can’t see the dichotomy between wildlife conservation and SeaWorld, perhaps she should advised by someone. Paul Watson of Sea Shepherd is an Irwin family friend…..perhaps she could start there.

      My niece, a few years older than Bindi, does a lot of volunteer work with native wildlife……hand raising baby possums and orphaned joeys, often at home when the shelters are packed to the rafters. These rescue centres would think themselves blessed if they had a fraction of the funds that Bindi no doubt receives as an ambassador for SeaWorld. My sister awoke one morning to find a tiny wombat that had mysteriously appeared in her daughter’s bedroom during the night (she laughed, eventually).

      So yeah, Bindi….don’t take money from those who exploit intelligent creatures for profit and entertainment. And stop banging on about Third World overpopulation and implanting contraceptive devices in 11 year-olds……at least until your knowledge of complex issues is fully informed and you realise that First World solutions aren’t always the answer.

  20. Tiffany :) says:

    The family’s house is on the zoo property? How does that work?

  21. vivian says:

    First I would like to say that she turned out quite attractive. I did not think she was going to be attractive a few years ago. Second People magazine is most likely going for the younger demographic which is why they did not put James Garner as their cover story. Sad to say but its about money for them.

  22. Trashaddict says:

    Whatever his strengths or failings, Steve Irwin was a wonderfully enthusiastic guy and great fun to watch. My daughter developed an enduring love of animals and science from watching his show, and I suspect he’s brought a lot of good folks into the field of animal conservation.
    He was a nice guy, Bindi. You’d be crazy not to miss him.

  23. BizziLizzi says:

    Can’t say I am too surprised about SeaWorld, the family owns Australia Zoo which also keeps captive animals for tricks and profit.