Earlier this year, Sarah Roberts sat on her balcony and penned a letter. But it wasn't easy.
It was a beautiful sunny day and for a while, she stared at two hanging trees swaying in the breeze, wondering quite what to write.
It wasn't because she had nothing to say – quite the opposite – but the past 18 months had tested her like never before.
In July 2019, Sarah felt the highest of highs when she married her Home And Away co-star James Stewart at Luttrellstown Castle in Ireland and became a stepmum to his eight-year-old daughter, Scout (whom he co-parents with former Packed To The Rafters actress Jessica Marais).
But three months later, Sarah tragically lost her brother Karl to brain cancer, and in early 2020, her grandmother also passed away.
Sarah is a strong woman and resolved to "get through" as best she could.
But grief came knocking twice more when she and James suffered two miscarriages.
She felt everything a woman could – anger, disbelief, sadness, guilt and pain – and months later, when she finally put pen to paper, her feelings flowed freely. It brought some small sense of relief.
"I set out to write a letter to myself, because my therapist had suggested it," Sarah, 35, tells TV WEEK. "Then, once it was written, it felt quite cathartic and I wondered if I should share it with people going through the same thing.
"It wasn't a conscious decision. I'm learning what works in terms of healing, and my approach came organically.
I hadn't planned it, but I've always been honest and I want to be upfront."
When the actress released the letter to the media, the response was overwhelming. Strangers reached out on social media to share their stories and thank her for her heartfelt honesty.
Sarah now hopes it will help people share their stories and erase the stigma that surrounds miscarriage.
"Both men and women reached out," the actress, who's also a DJ and dancer, says.
"I felt I was helping others by sharing my story and not making it [miscarriage] a taboo subject. Statistically, it's very common. But everyone feels differently too, and a lot of people prefer to keep that private, which is fine as well."
As time goes by, Sarah acknowledges her wounds won't heal completely.
But she won't let grief consume her.
"You never 'move on' from a loss like that," she says. "You move forward and you always carry it in your heart, but I can now reflect on myself.
"I've been through a lot this past year; I need to take a minute. I really miss my mum and my sister – and my brother, of course – but I just want to be with my family. I want to find myself again."
James has been by her side the entire time. Amid the heartache, the pair celebrated their first anniversary and are looking at 2021 with a fresh perspective.
"I'm so grateful to have him; I couldn't ask for a better husband," she says with a smile. "Jimmy and I have been through a lot in our first year of marriage. We've grown together and learned things from each other. He's my rock."
They met at a Home And Away "chemistry test", where cast mates act out a scene for producers to see if they might be a good match on screen. Sarah, who plays Willow Harris, says she could not have predicted what was to come.
"Jimmy took me under his wing when I first began on the show," she recalls. "It's nice to have someone who can protect me on a fast-paced series like this. I never imagined I would walk into that casting office opposite him and he would become my husband!" [Laughs]
Their spark was undeniable, and the pair eventually wound up together in real life, but perhaps the producers helped along their romance with one certain storyline…
"Our characters got locked in a car boot together during one episode, and they decided to actually film it in a real boot – but I'm claustrophobic," Sarah explains. "Jimmy and I weren't together yet, but there was some chemistry there, so we had a lot of fun filming it."
At the height of COVID, Home And Away halted production for nine weeks. Until then, Sarah had used work as a distraction from her external life.
"I kept working throughout everything that was going on, so it was quite a whirlwind," she says. "But now we're able to look ahead, extending our family is still on the cards and we're ready to slow down. We want happiness."
With the state borders reopened, Sarah longs for nothing more than a "hug from Mum" and the chance to reconnect with loved ones. She may not be herself right now, but she also knows she's not alone.
"At the moment, the whole world is grieving for a place they once knew," Sarah says. "Will they go back to the way things were?
Who knows? I've learnt that we have to appreciate each other and the life we have. I will never again take anything for granted."