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Broadchurch's Sarah Parish talks about tragic death of baby daughter

Gemma Strong

Sarah Parish has spoken about the pain of losing her eight-month-old baby daughter and the impact it had on her marriage. The Broadchurch star and actor husband James Murray were utterly devastated when, in 2008, their little girl Ella-Jayne passed away, having battled a congenital heart defect from birth. "When you lose a child, you are in such a desperate place you cling on to hope, and you cling on to optimism," Sarah, 48, wrote in an article for the Daily Mail. "When my husband and I lost Ella-Jayne, we tried to do both.

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Sarah Parish and James Murray lost daughter Ella-Jayne when she was just eight-months-old

"But such an incredible loss inevitably puts an enormous strain on a relationship because people grieve in different ways. It would take the most emotionally mature people to be able to cope in that situation, and to comfort one another in the correct way." She added: "Statistics show that 75 per cent of couples who lose a child end up separating. I can see why. Because when you lose a child, it's a 50:50 loss. Perhaps that's the wrong way of putting it – what I mean is that you both suffer that loss equally but separately at the same time. It's very difficult to comfort each other because you are both enveloped in your own sadness."

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Ella-Jayne was born five weeks prematurely in 2008 by emergency caesarean section, and was diagnosed with Rubinstein-Tabyi, a rare condition which increases the risk of heart defects. She endured two life-saving heart surgeries before tragically passing away in January 2009. "I now know that losing a child is the hardest thing to happen to anyone; that we had never experienced tragedy before she died," Sarah said.

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The 48-year-old actress is currently starring in series three of Broadchurch

"I had support from my friends. But at home, Jim and I did things that didn't work for each other. The pressure of grief is such that either you end up separating or, miraculously, you don't. Jim and I have remained together despite some terrible, terrible times. We have our problems like any other couple. But we made some decisions which ultimately helped bring us through the other side intact." One such decision was to fly to Vietnam and Cambodia together to do some voluntary work in orphanages. "It was either that or drink ourselves to death in the pub," Sarah admitted. "And – harsh though it might sound – we needed to escape the sympathy that enveloped us in Britain. It's very easy to think you're the only people in the world to lose a child, but the two months we spent in orphanages gave us perspective."

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Sarah and James have been married since 2007 and are parents to six-year-old Nell

The Trollied actress and James are now parents to six-year-old daughter Nell. They set up a charity, The Murray-Paris Trust, in Ella-Jayne's memory which raises funds for paediatric facilities across Hampshire, The Isle of Wight, Dorset, West Sussex, Devon, Surrey, Berkshire, Oxfordshire, Wiltshire and The Channel Islands. Their latest challenge is to raise £4 million for a new Paediatric Emergency and Trauma Department (A&E) in Southampton to cover the entire South of England and The Channel Islands.

"Doing these things has helped bring Jim and I closer together," explained Sarah. "Certainly it has brought a positive out of a negative. We've also come into contact with people we wouldn't normally have met, couples who've also lost children. We've heard about the horrors they've gone through too. I hope that Jim and I have helped people to see that something positive can come out of something tragic. Everybody has their own story and their own journey."

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