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My heart gets twisted in two, says Liam Neeson two years after wife Natasha Richardson's death

Liam Neeson has spoken about the death of his wife, Natasha Richardson, saying that he can be "blindsided by grief".

The actress, who had been married to the Irish actor for 15 years, died almost two years ago following a freak skiing accident in Canada.

Speaking in depth for the first time about her death, Neeson said grief hits him "in the middle of the night" like a physical pain.

The actor was filming in Montreal when he heard of his wife's accident at the Mont Tremblant resort outside the city.

He recalled the desperate situation when he arrived at the Montreal hospital where she had been taken, only to be turned away by staff who did not recognise him.

"I walked into the emergency – it's like 70, 80 people, broken arms, black eyes, all that – and for the first time in years nobody recognises me. Not the nurses. The patients. No one. And I've come all this way, and they won't let me see her," he said.

"And I'm looking past them, starting to push – I'm like, ----, I know my wife's back there someplace."

The actor said that he reached for his mobile phone but was approached by a security guard who told him he could not make any calls. "I pull out a cell phone, and a security guard comes up, starts saying, 'Sorry, sir, you can't use that in here,' and I'm about to ask him if he knew me, when he disappears to answer a phone call or something.

"So I went outside. It's freezing cold, and I thought: 'What am I gonna do? How am I going to get past the security?"

Finally, Neeson was recognised by two nurses who were smoking cigarettes. "I'll tell you, I was so ------- grateful, for the first time in I don't know how long, to be recognised," he told Esquire magazine.

Back inside, Neeson was told that his wife had no chance of survival.

"I get there just in time. And all these young doctors, who look all of 18 years of age, they tell me the worst. The worst."

He described the Sacre-Coeur hospital in Montreal as "a Dickensian place". Richardson was flown to a hospital in New York with Neeson by her side. She was pronounced dead the following day, March 18, 2009.

The 45-year-old actress, with whom Neeson had two teenage sons, had a seemingly minor fall during a skiing lesson on nursery slopes. She hit her head but declined medical attention. However, once she returned to her hotel she complained of headaches and her condition deteriorated rapidly.

Neeson, 58, returned to work shortly after her death. "I just think I was still in a bit of shock," he said.

"But it's kind of a no-brainer to go back to that work. It's a wee bit of a blur, but I know the tragedy hadn't just really smacked me yet. I think I survived by running away to work."

Neeson said he still found it difficult to cope with the loss.

"That's the weird thing about grief. You can't prepare for it.

"You think you're going to cry and get it over with . . . It hits me in the middle of the night. I'm out walking. I'm feeling quite content and it's like suddenly, boom."

He likened the pain to his heart being twisted in two.

Richardson, the daughter of Vanessa Redgrave and Tony Richardson, was an award-winning stage actress. Broadway theatres dimmed their lights in her honour when she died.

© Telegraph.co.uk