CELEBRITY

Neighbours star Melissa Bell’s wedding joy: ‘How I found happiness again’

The actress talks wedding plans and moving on after heartbreak
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Neighbours star Melissa Bell announced her engagement to Grant Thompson in 2020, just four years after the devastating death of her husband, Gary Dickinson. But no-one was more surprised by the relationship than Melissa herself.

Watch: Neighbours rings in its 36th birthday

“I wasn’t looking for love,” she says. “So to meet Grant, that was really nice and it just felt right. We have a lot of things in common and we are similar in many ways. I wasn’t looking for it, but it’s a gift.”

Inviting New Idea to join her as she tried on wedding gowns at Rosa & Mary’s Bridal Shop in Queensland, Melissa was every inch the blushing bride-to-be. But, the former E Street star admits planning her big day hasn’t been smooth sailing, with the global pandemic forcing her and Grant to postpone their ceremony.

“We were going to do it last year, but a lot of Grant’s family are in New Zealand and mine are in Sydney, and with borders closing, it just got too hard,” she says.

With a new date optimistically set for November, Melissa, 48, reveals that the wedding will be a “small and intimate” affair with just their close family present. And they will be sticking to tradition.

Melissa Bell
Inviting New Idea to join her as she tried on wedding gowns at Rosa & Mary’s Bridal Shop in Queensland, Melissa was every inch the blushing bride-to-be. (Credit: New Idea)

“I am a traditionalist and I have been married half my life – I know nothing different,” she explains. “I believe in tradition and marriage, and what it stands for. So, it will be a traditional wedding with a sit-down dinner and speeches.”

Melissa was previously married to Jason Redlich, who she shares one son with, before she wed Gary. He suffered a heart attack in 2015 before sadly passing away in February 2016. The pair shared three children together.

If it wasn’t for Gary’s tragic death, Melissa says that she would still be married to him. However, she believes that he would be happy to know that she’s found love again.

Melissa Bell
If it wasn’t for Gary’s tragic death, Melissa says that she would still be married to him. However, she believes that he would be happy to know that she’s found love again. (Credit: New Idea)

“I think he would be happy for me because Gary was that sort of person and, if the roles were reversed, I would want him to find love again,” she says.

“No-one is here to replace Gary in any way, but at the end of the day we are all human beings, and we need someone to love and be there for us – and I think Gary would be really proud of me.”

Melissa adds that not a day goes by where she doesn’t think about her late husband.

“I do miss him every day and there are still times I am triggered, but that’s OK, and you have to be positive and think: ‘He wants me to keep going,’” she says.

“Grant is also very good. I’ll say: ‘That reminds me of Gary and I’m missing him today,’ and he will support me through that.”

Melissa Bell
Her soon to be husband Grant (pictured) is supportive. (Credit: Instagram)

Melissa’s journey with grief has come a long way since Gary’s death and, as a result, she is working on starting up her own sanctuary for women who are suffering.

The retreat will be a weekend workshop away where women can share their own stories and learn coping techniques for dealing with their grief.

“I felt there was nothing available when I was going through all that,” she adds.

Now, looking to the future, Melissa can’t wait to share the next stage of her life with Grant and welcome grandchildren in the future.

Melissa Bell
Now, looking to the future, Melissa can’t wait to share the next stage of her life with Grant and welcome grandchildren in the future. (Credit: New Idea)

“As the children grow they will have children of their own, so we have that to look forward to,” she says.

Plus, she isn’t ruling out a reality TV gig in the future.

“I would love to be on I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! because I think it would be good for me to be challenged, and I know over the years Gary always wanted me to be on it,” she reveals.

“But, I’m not sure I could do the eating challenges!”

Read more in this week’s New Idea, on sale now. 

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