AS TOLD TO DANIELLE POPE
When I first met my husband, I knew instantly he was the man I would marry. I’d been working as a stylist for food and interiors for nearly 20 years. I worked in London initially before returning to Sydney, where I started freelancing.
Then in 2006, I was working at the Royal Easter Show in Sydney and when I opened the door, there was this man standing right there. I thought, “Who are you?” and even though I didn’t know him, I just had a feeling I was going to marry him. Even though he was a complete stranger, it felt as if we had been together before. We began dating not long after that meeting, and were married within the year.
Nick was the warmest, most generous and down-to-earth person I’d ever met. He was funny too. People still tell me how much he made them laugh. He was the best dad. He had two daughters from a previous relationship, then we had our daughter, Ruby.
Our life together was full of love and a lot of joy, but it was not without its stressors too. However, we had a strong connection and would usually know when one of us was feeling off. Leading up to Nick’s disappearance, I had a gut feeling that something was not right. We were both working and, like a lot of people, were caught up in the rut of everyday living. When I asked Nick what was wrong, he started to get cranky and shut me down, which he normally would not do. He just kept saying, “If there was something wrong, I would tell you.” So I just trusted him that everything was okay.
A DAY LIKE ANY OTHER
Then on November 26, 2013, Nick went missing. The day started out like a normal day. He left early for work, and I can’t remember if he kissed us goodbye. He texted me around midday to say he had one of the best meetings he had ever had with his boss, and was really happy. He said he was busy but would be home around 7pm.
I planned a special dinner to celebrate his day but he never showed. I tried texting and calling him but there was no answer. It made no sense to me why he would not come home. I knew something was not right. After 24 hours, I went to the police.
I could not understand where Nick was or why he was not coming home. He was so happy that day and everything seemed fine. He had gone off and done something similar a long time ago, before Ruby was born. He got down, and started drinking for comfort and was experiencing suicidal thoughts. However, I managed to get the police on board and we tracked him down and got him home safely. He had since been to counselling and seemed to have overcome those issues, so we did not approach the subject again as we were in a really good place.
Even on this night, I didn’t consider that past experience because I knew everything was fine with us. I could not make sense of any of it. I was just desperate to find him. After I contacted the police, I approached the media in the hope of getting in contact with Nick. I was still hoping he was out there somewhere. I was clearly upset, although I still did not know why. But I thought if he saw me or heard me saying, “Whatever you are going through, whatever is happening, know we love you and want you to come home”, we would be okay. At that stage, I didn’t know what else to do.
Obviously I did not find out until the end that he never heard that message because he had already gone.
THE WORST NEWS
After Nick went missing, I was numb. I was trying to be a solid mum for Ruby while hoping to hear something. It was horrific. We had a social media campaign where people were helping us find him. A lot of people were saying they thought they had seen him, but it turned out not to be the case. I was on an emotional rollercoaster.
On top of everything else, it was Christmas. Nick loved Christmas and he loved his girls. Christmas was always really important to us as a family, so I could not understand why he would not be with us for that.
Then on December 30, 2013, I had several missed calls from the police. At this stage, I was emotionally exhausted and could not return their calls. Later that night, I got a knock on the door after Ruby had gone to bed. There were two police standing there, and I could tell from their response that the news was not good. They confirmed they had found his body.
It was such a surreal time. It still is for me, looking back on it. I was a wreck. My family do not live here so it was pretty much Ruby and myself. I remember sometimes being on my hands and knees screaming and crying, while at the same time trying to keep things as normal as possible for Ruby.
I have tried to be really honest and open with my daughter but it was really hard as she was nearly two years old when he died. I have always just tried to explain to her that Daddy is in heaven. It’s harder now as she is five and is now going to school. How do you tell a child about suicide? I still don’t really know.
I threw myself into work as a coping mechanism but also with the added pressure of being the sole provider. I realise now I was wearing a lot of masks – I was wearing a ‘work mask’, and then I would put on my ‘mummy mask’ and that would let me function well enough during the day but I would still cry at night.
Then gradually, life got a bit quieter and I slowly came out of this bubble of grief I had been in. I realised I wanted to help others, and I didn’t want anyone to go through a similar experience.
FINDING NEW MEANING
I started to do research and learnt about the charity, LIVIN, a non-profit organisation that was created to help break the stigma about mental health and raise awareness about suicide. I was drawn to its message and have become involved in raising funds for them.
I still have my good days and bad days. It has been a lot of work for me to get to where I am. Ultimately, losing Nick has opened so much to me. I have turned his loss into being so grateful that he has allowed me to see the bigger picture.
There is so much hurt and pain going on for so many people but, for some, they’re not sharing it. I have been there myself – I know how bad it felt for a long time – but I want people to know that things can turn around over time.
- Suicide is the leading cause of premature mortality in Australia. Meanwhile every year in New Zealand, approximately 500 people take their own lives.
- Despite these statistics, there still remains a stigma around mental health and suicide, particularly as it affects men.
- Experts in mental health have called for a strong public campaign and services targeting vulnerable men, in an effort to reduce these figures and save lives.
WHO TO TURN TO
For help or further information, please call:
- Suicide Prevention Australia: (02) 9262 1130
- beyondblue: 1300 224 636
- MensLine Australia: 1300 78 99 78
- Lifeline: 13 11 14
- New Zealand Lifeline: 0900 543 354 or (09) 5222 999 within Auckland
- Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865
- Healthline: 0800 611 116
- Mensline: 0800 636 754