Recently, teen animal activist Bindi Irwin, daughter of the late Australian wildlife expert Steve Irwin, made our hearts burst when she celebrated her 17th birthday in the most beautiful way possible: by remembering her father.

Now, in a deeply personal interview with Sunday Style, she’s opened up about her new relationship, her childhood, teenage pressures, and the grief she endured after the loss of her father. As always, Bindi’s words have made it evident that she is unbelievably wise beyond her years, and that she’s a force to be reckoned with. And, as always, she’s made us misty-eyed.

Bindi has had to overcome many more obstacles than any 17-year-old ever should since her father passed away suddenly in 2006, when Bindi was just eight. “You never actually move on from it,” she told Sunday Style. “As a little kid, I remember people coming up to me and saying, ‘I’m so sorry [for your loss], sweetheart, but time heals all wounds. . . There really isn’t a greater lie. It’s just not true. It’s like losing a part of your heart. And when you’ve lost that, you never get it back. Part of you will always be missing. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to deal with.”

For the service, Bindi was determined to speak in front of the 5500 attendees and 300 million people watching on their television screens. “I remember going to Mum and saying, ‘I really want to say something at Dad’s [service],'” she explained to Sunday Style. “I knew exactly what I wanted to say, so she helped me type it up. I was only so little and I was so nervous. I had to have my finger [on the paper] to follow the words because I wanted to read it well.”

But despite her nerves and her intense grief, she knew she had to do it. “It was really important in my heart,” she said. The sudden death of her father has made her want to live every single day to the fullest. “After losing Dad, there was the idea that none of us have forever,” she told the magazine. “It really affects you. It makes you want to live each day as if it’s your last.”

However, it wasn’t not only her father’s death that inspired Bindi to live boldly, but his life. “My dad is probably the best example of the opposite of a procrastinator,” she told Sunday Style through a smile. “He would say, ‘Right, I have this idea. We’re leaving in 20 minutes, are you coming?’ He was like that every day. . . I’m not a patient person. I try to take my time with things, but I like to say, ‘Yes, let’s go and do this.’ I think maybe it’s genetic.”

Bindi and the rest of her family, Terri and younger brother Bob, are unbelievably close. “We’re a little family, but we love each other more than anything else on earth,” she explained to Sunday Style. “After Dad passed away it was really, really tough. Some days you’d have really hard days and it was kind of tough to get out of bed in the morning.”

So they decided to start a new routine to help them get through it, step by step. “. . . we started this tradition where we talked about our favourite part of the day,” she told the magazine. “It might be a lovely warm shower, or having dinner together, but it was to focus on something good. It started as a game but it turned into a life lesson. Now it’s easier to find the happiness in every day.”

Bindi is going to be super busy over the next few months. After all, she has a month-long trip to Queensland, where she’ll be going to the Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve to track crocodiles with her family. But no matter how jam-packed her schedule is, she always thinks of her father. “You have good days and bad days,” she explained to the magazine. “With the huge milestones in life, I think, ‘I wish he was here for this,’ but when you lose someone so close to you they never really leave. I’m very lucky and very happy. I look back over the past 17 years and think I’ve been privileged to have done so much. But my life journey is only just starting.”

We totally agree. It’s obvious that Bindi has so, so much ahead of her in her very bright future. Read the full interview with Sunday Style here, and be prepared to get a little teary yourself.

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