Most of you reading this page update will know who I am but for those who are new to the page, I’m Dan, Nikki’s Husband, or “Ex-Husband” as the law states which is something any widow struggles with for a long time.
It’s now been 20 month’s since Nik was taken from us and a lot has happened in that time. I’ve been wanting to write a blog about some of the things that has happened to us over that period and how we are moving forward as a family so I hope this reaches many of the Nikki’s Wishes followers and sounds mildly interesting.
There has been a lot of press lately about mental health awareness, especially within men and the armed forces and also thanks to Rio Ferdinand, a fair bit about how widowed men cope when losing your spouse at an early age and with very young children. For us, mental health is at the forefront of pretty much everything surrounding our situation, from the person who murdered Nik who was diagnosed with Paranoid Schizophrenia, to myself and my children who suffered with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxiety and depression both in the immediate aftermath of Nik’s death and how evident it still is today particularly within my son and myself.
Getting professional help for these symptoms is essential and we would not be where we are today without the fantastic counselling we received from Dr Jill Mack from “Assist Trauma Care” who was assigned to us via the Homicide Victim Support service with whom I am now a volunteer(More on that later).
When Nik was taken from us, our world quite literally fell apart. Nik was the glue that made all of the different parts of the family stick together to create a wonderfully loving environment for the children to grow up in. But she was gone. In the blink of an eye, the loving Mummy of our two children had been killed while attempting to stop an intruder armed with 2 knives from taking our children. “Brave” doesn’t even come close to describing her actions in that couple of minutes. I know full well how hard she fought to keep her babies safe, I was listening.
So how do you go about rebuilding the lives of your children and then yourself, while going through such trauma, shock and grief? With what my children heard and saw, how can they ever have a normal life? How can they ever feel safe again in their own beds? How will they cope with not having Mummy around to hug them when they hurt themselves, feel sad and unwell or clap and cheer the first time they ride a bike without stabilizers, or learn to swim without armbands? There are a million questions and thoughts that pass through your mind hourly. Your head is spinning so fast you think you are genuinely going mad.
The overwhelming feeling is that “I’m not good enough for them”, they need their Mummy more far more than their Daddy. Hearing from professionals that your children aren’t “normal” children anymore is hard to hear. To say that I worry about their emotional state all the time is accurate. I do, I worry constantly. I still to this day don’t feel like I’m doing a good enough job for them. So, in order to start rebuilding their lives, for me the key was honesty. Honesty with the children, with myself(The hardest honesty to have) and with the people around us offering support. Being honest with the kids is tough, you have to tell them the truth in order for them to process what has happened, but, do it in a way children will understand. The first time I understood this was Tuesday 15th September at 7am. Nikki had been killed 7 hours ago and I’d spent 3 hours in the back of a police car being brought home from Yorkshire, where I had been away on business for just that one day. I was sat on my brothers sofa and the children came downstairs and sat with me. The first question they asked, “is Mummy coming back?” …. It felt like I thought about the answer for a week but in reality it was milliseconds and I remember exactly what I said to them. “No, Mummy isn’t coming back, she’s gone to heaven, she’s an angel now”. They were expressionless. No real emotion being shown. Except from me.
I realised in that instant that I was not going to make things up and I would be as honest as possible with the children throughout everything that was going to come at us in the coming days, weeks, months and much further down the line. This isn’t a process that ends after 20 months. This is a constantly evolving animal. As they grow and their emotions change and their understanding of the world grows, so will their curiosity about what happened and why? The “WHY?” is something my son contemplates a lot. It’s hard to see him struggle with such difficult thoughts at 7 years old.
Being honest with myself was a bit harder, I’m a man, I don’t need help, I’ll cope somehow. After a few weeks I decided to ask for help with my own trauma. That was probably the single best decision I have ever made. Recognising within myself I needed help and asking for it. My recovery started from the very first trauma counselling session I had. You cannot put a price on getting good help. People tell me I’m strong, but don’t think for one second that means dealing with everything yourself and trying to bury your issues. Being strong for me is about knowing yourself and not being afraid to admit when you need help from others.
Coupled together with honesty was my own personality. I’m not one to back down from a challenge, ever, and this was going to be the biggest challenge anyone could face so I made sure that at every single hurdle, I faced up to it and hit it head on. Organising your wife’s funeral at 38 years old is not something you think will ever happen but there I was, choosing a coffin, a car, flowers and writing a speech. WTF? This was all completely surreal. I felt like I was under water and couldn’t hear properly. But it was my duty as Nik’s husband to be as brave as she was. The only thing I didn’t do, which I regret to this day and feel like I should have done, was to formally identify Nik. That duty fell to my Mum and Sister, who have both been utterly amazing in their support from day one, along with my brother and Dad. My family mean everything to me.
So facing things head on and being honest were my two main things to cling to. Maybe I would have questioned myself more but for the sheer unwavering support from my truly amazing mates who have given me the confidence to be myself, make my decisions and keep plugging away every single day without worrying about what other people might think. That’s a very challenging thing to keep focus on when you feel like you are being watched and judged! My mates are a group of men who I consider my family and I would do anything for. I love them all dearly and their effect cannot be described in words. On top of that, Nikki’s family and closest friends have also been 100% with us from day one and they are part of that loving group that has helped us through every step of the way.
There is lots from then until now that I could go into, and I will in future blogs in the hope some of the things I have done with me, the kids and our family to help us recover and how we make nik a part of our daily lives can help others having problems themselves.
So where are we now?
Let me firstly just say this and it will ring true with anyone reading this who has had someone taken from them in a traumatic way….. you never “get over it”.
What happens, is you learn to live with what’s happened. You learn to cope and you try and build towards having a new life without damaging the old one.
So, now the kids are as happy as they can be in the circumstances I hope. We will always be a work in progress, but I think that’s something everyone should be anyway. You never stop learning. For me, I’m learning to be someone that others in the same situation can lean on for support. This month I am with the Homicide Victim support service training to be a volunteer into their peer support program. This will entail being a point of contact for families who have faced homicide who would like to talk with someone who is in and has been in the same situation. For me, it’s essential that I use what happened to my family in a positive way to help other families going through the toughest of times. If I can help them get to the same point I am at now then I will be happy.
In addition to the peer support program I have been asked to do some media work with the service which will simply be some recorded interviews that can be shown internally or to other charities. I’m not going to Hollywood just yet.
I’m also very proud of the fund raising we have achieved from within the community via the Nikki’s Wishes Group. We recently donated £1000 to Victim Support to help a young Bedfordshire family who’d also lost their Wife and Mum through murder.
I hope I haven’t rambled too much and I hope some of you find it interesting to read just a very small part of how we’ve kept going as a family since September 14th 2015.
There is so much to talk about and explore that I hope to put something together regularly. I’m sure lots of you will want to know more about my personal situation, dealing with PTSD & anxiety, techniques used to reassure the children, how we go about remembering Nik, what its like to have to leave your family home and get rid of your possessions because you can’t bear to be near anything the killer has come into contact with and then the positives, like what it’s like to see your children laugh again and see them grow and conquer their fears and to have someone special in my life again but that can wait for another day ;0)
Please feel free to leave me feedback, questions or private messages that I can address back to you either in private or via a future blog.
Thank you for all your continued support of our family and Nikki’s Wishes.