Warning: This article is about suicide and may be distressing for some readers.

Where to get help:

LIFELINE: 0800 543 354
NEED TO TALK? Call or text 1737
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YOUTHLINE: 0800 376 633 or text 234

A year ago last week, Emma Harford arrived home to find police and paramedics outside her house.


The youngest of her two sons, Cole Henry Isaac Harford, 15, had left the warmth of the weatherboard bungalow and taken his own life.

The outwardly happy, popular and talented boy - loved by all who knew him - left without explanation.

His mother, older brother Kobi, family and friends were left with unanswered questions and a painful void in their lives.

Harford had taken Cole to the doctor for cold feet in the month before he died. He had lost interest in food and had moments of anger. All are symptoms of depression.

Since his death, Harford has learned her son was suffering from insomnia, another symptom. No one recognised them.

Now she is urging health leaders to introduce health screening surveys for teens - similar to a Plunket check.

Heartbroken, Harford started writing diary entries about her loss in the hope of breaking down misconceptions of suicide.

The Herald is publishing 12 of those entries, two a day. Harford hopes sharing her words will provide insight into the pain caused by suicide and change attitudes around it. Here are her words to her son, and to the wider world:


Thursday, January 26, 2017 - Six months: A reflection

We moved house. We had Christmas Day. We went overseas. I missed my son the whole time.

This was my first experience grieving at Christmas. I came to understand why special holidays can be a source of so much pain for people, for my boyfriend who has had 30 Christmases without his beloved Dad.

I imagined it as merely Sunday dinner, and it helped us to get through it. Presents were inconsequential, and this was my first Christmas where I didn't wrap anything of what little I purchased.

I bought Cole a candle and set his ashes on the dinner table, probably not very Tikanga Maori to mix food (noa) and remains (tapu), so for this section of events, I will just be English.


Part one of Emma Harford's diary entries

Part two of Emma Harford's diary entries

Part three of Emma Harford's diary entries

Part four of Emma Harford's diary entries

Part six of Emma Harford's diary entries

See more from the Break The Silence series

On New Year's Eve I stood watching the best fireworks show on the planet and cried, uncontrollably. I made my sister cry. My niece attentively patted my arm to comfort me.

As the seconds counted down I became fear-stricken I was leaving my son in a place of time, a year, a year that by the seconds was shortly going to disappear.

I imagined him behind a big door that was closing and I was without choice, standing on the other side of it.

At the conclusion my other sister hugged me and told me it was another first we had got through, and indeed it was, every horrible second.

As much as my son was dead, at least we had remained together in the same year. Now I was in 2017, and he was back there in a year that had ended.

I felt a new type of devastation I didn't think was possible.

I cried and couldn't stop. It's ridiculous really as time doesn't have any edges, or doors, but it's symbolic of a wave that never stops moving, a tide you get stuck riding, until it's your turn to die too.

Before Christmas we moved because of my son's death at our other home.

This new house has been a great source of comfort and respite, and I have no regrets about the speed and urgency with which I acted, but I'm still left with the sadness of knowing we live here because of what we lost.

Six months since my son died. Even sitting here thinking about it, I can't believe its real. I replay moments with him because I'm afraid I will forget.

I am always 0.1 second away from tears. I still get flashbacks on a regular basis although they are accompanied now by the numbing of time and distance.

The horrors aren't as clear, but my anxiety and my body remind me constantly. Every vague wandering thought, no matter how unrelated or arbitrary, can lead me to his death, his tangi, his funeral, other people crying, any tiny associated memory.

One of my staff accidentally included a song from his funeral on her playlist and I had to go out the back and weep. My feelings are like a scab that bleeds from the slightest knock.

I don't write regularly because things tend to happen so quickly I can't rightly reflect on this experience without space and more distance.

I have surrounded myself with things that keep him as alive as possible, but it doesn't fill the hole in my heart.

When I see other people on the news whose children have died, I feel ill that they too have come through this one-way door to this pain and this grief. I've never wanted to renounce my membership to any club as much I do to this one.

I have stopped crying every day but still cry more than my fair quota.

Six months tomorrow morning since my darling left us, not one part of it has grown even fractionally easier.

As a mother, this is what I want you to know.

Emma Harford says her first experience grieving at Christmas helped her understand why special holidays can be painful for people. Photo / Mike Scott
Emma Harford says her first experience grieving at Christmas helped her understand why special holidays can be painful for people. Photo / Mike Scott

Saturday, February 25, 2017 - Seven months: Six months: A reflection

It has been difficult to stand still long enough since my son died, to do absolutely nothing without feeling a sense of lost time, guilt, or the inability to remember how to stand still in the first place.

Nothing is the same. Somewhere else in my life it is Sunday and I feel very unwell and elect for the first time in months to simply lie in bed.

My son's ashes sit atop my dresser in the same room. I fantasise he is here with me on the empty side, perhaps just playing on his iPad which sits unused on my side table.

I imagine we are spending the afternoon together as my time in the real world is so limited.

Every morning I get up and gently fondle the box on the dresser and whisper "Good morning" into its contents as I would no differently enter his room and softly whisper these words when he was alive.

"I love you," I say, and tell the box how wonderful the boy inside it is, how much I miss him. When I come home at night I caress the lid top to let him know I remember him, and that he is always close to me.

Everywhere in the real world there are triggers to bring me back to the minute he died. A scene I am not expecting to see in a movie reduces me to throwing my hands over my ears and squeezing my eyes shut. I cry.

I go to a concert and feel somewhat repelled to take pictures in a world where my son will not get to see them. The singer recalls loss and my eyes fill with tears without hesitation.

"How do you catch a break?" muses a good friend. I'm not really sure.

• Support Youthline by donating via youthline.co.nz/breakthesilence

If you are worried about your or someone else's mental health, the best place to get help is your GP or local mental health provider. However, if you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call 111.

If you need to talk to someone, the following free helplines operate 24/7:

LIFELINE: 0800 543 354
NEED TO TALK? Call or text 1737
SAMARITANS: 0800 726 666
YOUTHLINE: 0800 376 633 or text 234

There are lots of places to get support. For others, click here.