Sirens and helicopters



I took the call on that sunny Tuesday morning in July and as I’ve mentioned before, I knew he had gone. The responsibility was passed on to me to call his family, to ask if they’d seen him lately and to tell them that nobody else had. I didn’t want to make that call. I rang Martin’s sister. I asked her to call the police whilst I arranged a way to get back to the house, the house I’d walked away from only days before.  I passed on the responsibility to her, to call the rest of his family, to chase up any leads they might have. And I sorted out a lift, sorted out the children and made my way over to the house. My dog we heart-breakingly left behind had been outside in the heat for what looked like days. I was so angry when I got to my dog. So angry that he hadn’t made provisions for her. When I opened the front door I was shaking. Possibly from anger, definitely from fear. What was I going to find? His sandals were on the floor, untidily kicked off and left. I took a deep breath. I called his name, panic rising as I did. He wasn’t downstairs. I climbed the stairs with heavy legs, slowly, reminding myself to keep breathing, deep breaths, I continued to call his name. I went to the room that for years had been our bedroom. A place I had always considered to be safe, a room that for many dark days in our relationship I had kept myself in, safe. The bed wasn’t made, there were a few bits of ours I’d left, discarded, waiting for him to throw them away. He wasn’t in our bedroom. He wasn’t in the house. The larger of the children’s bedrooms had the signs of redecorating, white ‘cutting in’ lines covering the bright lime green walls. Furniture dismantled and moved. It felt abandoned.

So he wasn’t in the house. Where was he? I stayed in the house, frightened, alone and angry. I waited for the police to arrive. When they arrived I tried to stay calm, I told the police officer the whole story: the affair, the separation and the lack of contact he’d made with anybody since the weekend. Nobody had seen him since he drove away from the house in the early hours of that Sunday morning.   The house was searched for a second time that morning. More thoroughly this time, the outbuildings checked, the loft searched. 

I don’t know why I opened the drawer as I stood in our little kitchen talking to the policeman. Something made me, but I can’t remember what it was. Sometimes I wonder if I was making a cup of tea and so had opened the drawer to reach a teaspoon, but I doubt there would have been fresh milk in the fridge so I don’t think it was for that. I don’t know why I opened it, but when I did  it was like confirmation to me that Martin was dead. I picked up his bank card with shaking hands. I swallowed, a big audible swallow. ‘He’s dead.’ I said out loud to myself. ‘I know that he’s dead.’ The policeman looked at me, concern in his eyes, slightly taken aback by my sudden statement. I explained that under no circumstances would he have left his bank card behind if he’d just ‘gone off’ for a while. He’d never have been without that. Like I say, it was confirmation for me, but it was hard to explain to that policeman why it was. He didn’t know Martin. But I did. I did know Martin and I knew he was gone for good because his bank card lay in the drawer of the kitchen and he wasn’t in the house.

It was a long horrible day. A day full of phone calls, dead ends and a lot of pacing. Pacing around a familiar house that was no longer my home. I had a doctors appointment to attend that afternoon. The memory of which is incredibly blurry. I think that I was sat in that little room but was actually a million miles away. I cried, I was shaking I struggled to form any words. Just before I had gone to the doctors I’d received a call to tell me that Martin’s car had been found. It was parked up next to the river. I knew what that meant. I felt sick. So I had to sit in the doctors with a head full of absolute devastation and fear. 

When I left the doctors I insisted that I went to where his car was. There were police cars surrounding it, the scene was incredibly surreal. I felt like I was on autopilot, taking steps towards the policeman who stood by Martin’s car. He asked me to leave, told me that they had a job to do, that they were going to search for Martin and they didn’t want me to be around, didn’t want me in the way. The dogs arrived in a police van accompanied by more officers and I felt like I was going to be sick. I couldn’t go back to the house. I didn’t want to leave, but compromised by going to a pub, a pub located on the river side further up from where Martin’s car was, further up from the area that was about to be intensively searched. I paced on the balcony of that pub. I cried panicky tears. My whole body shook and I lost all sense of normality. There were sirens, so many sirens. The sound filled my ears. I watched the fire service whizz by, watched the search and rescue team board their boat and set off towards the scene. I watched more and more police cars drive by, all heading to that same place. All on a mission to find Martin whilst I could only observe from a distance. I didn’t just hear the helicopter, I felt the helicopter. That day to me now is all sirens and helicopters. I couldn’t cope. I felt useless and completely lost. I went back to the house.

At the house I sat on the front lawn, in the sunshine, watching the helicopter in the distance continuously circling around, swooping lower and then higher, backwards and forwards, searching. Searching for the father of my children. And then after what felt like a life time, the helicopter flew away. Right there, that moment, the noise of the helicopter, the sight of the helicopter leaving. That moment, it was the worst moment of my life. It was the moment when my life completely changed forever.

I wanted to run. Just to get up and run and never stop. I did not want to hear anything anybody said, I wanted to completely shut down. I wanted to wake up. I wanted to wake up from this horrendous cruel nightmare. I wanted my mum. I wanted to be little and cuddled and protected. I wanted anything but this.

The police car pulled up outside and my legs buckled. I started rolling a cigarette but couldn’t do it, tobacco falling over the floor as my hands shook uncontrollably. Get me away from here. Don’t let this be real. Don’t let this happen. Don’t open the door. I don’t want to know.

‘Come and sit down Stacey.’ Said that poor policeman who had searched the house hours earlier. It must be a part of his job that he hates. I refused, I stood there, like a disobedient child. No. I could stand. I didn’t want to go into the other room. I was making a cigarette, trying to make a cigarette. I didn’t want him to speak. I did not want to sit by him. I wanted him to leave. For a split second I hated him, hated him for being the one bringing the news. The news I most definitely did not want. Somehow they got me to abandon the failed attempt of a cigarette. They managed to persuade me to sit down on the sofa where only a month before I had sat down next to Martin, when he was daddy to my girls and my fiancé. He told me that Martin’s body had been recovered from the bottom of the river and formally identified by a member of the fire service who knew him. He was dead. I cried out, I cried a cry that I have never cried before. 

My life has forever been changed by Martin’s suicide and the trauma of that fatal day 4 years ago in July. I am left with flashbacks, nightmares, never ending questions and a horrible anxiousness when I hear a helicopter flying overhead. 


I have wounds that are still healing, scars that cannot fade. I am sitting here typing these words with the most painful feeling in the pit of my stomach, my eyes filling with tears and a stabbing pain in my heart. A heart that is damaged - broken and bruised forever. And although this particular blog is incredibly painful, it was always going to be the most traumatic to write, I know that in some way, even if it’s a tiny small way, I have helped myself by just putting down the words. I have read what I’ve written out to Jon, who sits patiently and accepts this as my therapy, and I have cried, I have struggled to read it out loud to him and I have seen the pain reflected back in his own eyes. I wish this wasn’t my story and I know that he wishes that it wasn’t my story too. But it is my story, it’s part of my honest truthful story about surviving suicide bereavement. It’s an ongoing story, an ongoing survival. And I can do it.

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