The Webster Family

“I’m going to the doctor, to go back on medication”.

It was a normal Saturday morning in September, 2012. I knew what Paul meant, despite not requiring or using medication for the last 19 years.  A year after we met, Paul suffered a depressive episode and attempted to take his life.  He was hospitalised and put on anti-depressants.  It took nearly a year but he recovered.  Or so I thought.  You see, I knew nothing about depression or how it worked.  In reality Paul just swallowed down his problems and emotions and attempted to move on.

Back to that Saturday morning.  The decision that started the change of our lives forever.  Paul had lived with his pain since he was a teenager and the time came when he finally thought he couldn’t do it for one more day.  Everybody around him fought so hard …. But sadly we all wanted it more than him. In his own words, he just needed the pain to end. It’s impossible to know the suffering that somebody else experiences and I can’t fathom how much it hurt him every day. Knowing how much he had in his life but still not being able to enjoy it for what it was, because he felt he didn’t deserve it.

We were together for nearly 20 years and married for 12. We had built a house together and had two beautiful boys – Rian & Jordyn. Our relationship and marriage was all I could wish for, for the most part. We had some difficult periods which I now understand were created from his undiagnosed depression.

For the next nine months I lived in a state of constant “on”. There were multiple suicide attempts followed each time by another hospitalisation. It’s impossible to describe just what it was like.  Fearing phone calls from private numbers, and panicking every time I heard a siren. We tried everything but nothing was helping in any way.

On 2nd May 2013 I came home to find Pauls body. And then our “new” life started. I was left without my life partner, and my kids without their dad. Paul had minimal superannuation and we had no life insurance. Because of a technical error, we received no payout from any policies we may have had access to in other circumstances. A few months later we were asked to leave our rental property as the owners wanted to move back in. More upheaval for us all. After about five months the reality finally hit me. I couldn’t possibly hope to nurse us all back to a positive place and still work, so I resigned my job. We have been living so very carefully and largely on savings ever since but I don’t regret the decision for a second. Our own emotional recovery is so much more important.

I now know more about mental illness and related statistics than I ever wanted to know. Including the awareness of the increased risk my kids now have of suicide and that this is something that will never leave us. I will live for the rest of my life needing to be much more aware of my kids emotions whenever they go through anything as they grow, just because they were put in this situation.

We began general counselling immediately and a few months later I told the kids the full story behind Pauls death. We had talked to them a couple of times about depression and related topics, but didn’t dwell on it in the early days of his illness. Once they knew the full story we also began specific suicide grief workshops and therapy. Very little helped for so long.

My boys changed so completely from who they were (as did I) and we all really struggled with it.

They were angry, aggressive, cold and scared little people. They couldn’t be away from me except for school. They wouldn’t have play days or sleep overs and wouldn’t even stay with family without me.  When we were together they had to be physically touching me as if they thought I would disappear from them too. We had very small glimpses as time went on of their personalities but they were so brief.

One day I happened to glance in our local paper and saw an advertisement for “Feel The Magic”.

I saw the words “grieving kids” and immediately researched them. I sent them our story, hoping to be considered for Disneyland, but was more interested in their camps and applied immediately.  Somebody who would be there for each of them with no distractions? Yes please. All of a sudden I had the opportunity to give my beautiful boys something they had lost …. A positive role model who is invested in each of them personally and is available when needed.  I now have little or no opportunity to have quality time with each of them separately so this was such a gift.

We drove from Melbourne, and from the first minute Jordyn jumped straight in. Rian was more apprehensive but during the drive on the way home I knew that it was the best decision ever. They both already showed so much change. The mentors kept in touch, checking up on all of us every so often to make sure we were ok. We jumped at the chance of attending the second camp and the changes were even more positive.

During the first camp Jordyn shared his story not just with his talk time group, but during a meal break where all campers, mentors and volunteers were present. He is naturally a pretty open boy so that didn’t surprise me as much as it did others. However, Rian on the other hand is a very private boy, keeping his emotions and personal thoughts much closer to his chest. I was so proud to hear that he had also chosen to open up and share his story … and going even further on camp two to share details that up until now he had kept to himself.

Jordyn and I were asked to be part of a segment for The Feed …. Well, Jordyn just refused to move out of the way of the camera all camp I think.  I was more than happy to help get the word out about what Feel the Magic have done for us.

Not long after that, I received a phone call from James asking whether I would be able to bring the boys back up to Sydney so Jordyn could share his story with people at their main annual fundraiser the “Night of Magic”.  The boys were so excited (Rian because he got to wear one of his new bow ties and Jordyn because it finally meant I had to buy him a suit), but they embraced it immediately.

I have heard from a number of people how proud and amazed they were at my boys willingness to give in to the process at camp, sharing their life and helping others who may have needed a hug or a pat on the back. These are the beautiful boys I love, and they make me proud every day – often thinking about others emotions when their own are so fragile.  They are very thoughtful and we have made some big changes to our lives trying to help others whenever we can.

At the end of our time sharing James & Kristy joined us back on stage …. And took great delight in telling us we had been the next family chosen to go to Disneyland. The whole thing was mostly a blur, but one thing that will stay in my mind forever was James reaction when he realised Jordyn was crying with excitement about the news.

My brain is still trying to come to terms with something so amazing happening to us after such a difficult time but I love seeing the kids excitement when they suddenly remember that it’s coming up some time soon.

From the time I met Paul he told me that the only place in the world he ever wanted to visit was Disneyland. He told the boys more than once that he would take them one day.  I like to think that he is finally at peace knowing that he lived up to his promise, and hopefully he doesn’t feel like he let us down anymore.

We took to the stage on the gala night as our family of three. But not really – because FTM has become our family, and there were so many of them there on the night, encouraging us and being with us every minute.

I talk a lot about the benefits to the kids that FTM has made … but I can’t mention what it has meant to me as well. It may be a foundation aimed at grieving kids, but it has given me a sense of belonging and comfort. I have met so many wonderful people and I can’t imagine my life without them in it. Some days I thought I’d never fit in ever again.

There’s one comment that sums up so beautifully our journey so far with FTM.  I was showing my sister the video of our speech and announcement about Disneyland. After nodding her head earnestly every time I mentioned on screen about the positive changes to the boys, she turned to me and said: “you could have saved yourself so much time and energy on workshops and counselling sessions if you’d found these people straight away”.

And I totally agree.

Nikki Webster 🙂

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