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

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LIFELINE: 0800 543 354
NEED TO TALK? Call or text 1737
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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. Today is the final 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:


Monday, March 27, 2017 - Nine months. I did not cry, I just ached

Dear Cole,

You have been gone the same amount of time it took to grow you and bring you into the world.

Winter is coming and I am scared, scared of the cold and the weather emulating the day that I lost you. I understand why people move to warmer climates and never return.

I cleaned out the garage and sorted through the boxes of your clothes. This was only made easier with time and by embracing how unsentimental you were about material things.


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 five of Emma Harford's diary entries

See more from the Break The Silence series

Some things I gave to charity, one bag I put aside to give your same-sized friend. Some things I couldn't let go of because I can remember you wearing them.

I found a handmade card you made me for Valentine's Day. You wrote that you loved me for making you delicious food and for making you do the dishes.

I stood and wept and I trembled in my hands. I kissed the paper before carefully putting it back in the bag it was sitting inside.

I put my face to the box of your ashes this morning, as I do every day, to tell you I love you.

For a time last week I put you in the lounge with us while your brother played the new Zelda game, and I absent-mindedly patted the empty couch seat beside me where I imagined you to be, playing with him, laughing, instructing, critiquing.

Nine months go by without you and time changes the intensity of pain but never the longing for you to come back.

I made an appointment today for your brother Kobi, and the office lady asked me if it was for you. I mastered my emotions enough to say "no, it's for my other son" and not lose my composure.

I did not tell her that I would not be able to bring you again and a feeling of incredible sadness washed across me.

In two weeks, Kobi and I are going to America. I've asked Nana if she will take care of you while I'm gone.

I hope you can keep her company, I know she feels very happy you will be with her.

I wonder if people think I'm odd for continuing our relationship with your ashes, but what am I to do? "It's okay mum," I hear you say, "just do what you want - who cares what they think?"

And there's nothing surprising in that response because I raised you to believe in the strength of your own convictions.

I love you always. I miss you endlessly. I wait for you. please wait for me too. I hope time is short for you.

Emma Harford says that for such a natural occurrence, we're not very good at dealing with dying, and less good at suicide. Photo / Mike Scott
Emma Harford says that for such a natural occurrence, we're not very good at dealing with dying, and less good at suicide. Photo / Mike Scott

Sunday, July 23, 2017 - One rotation

We have nearly made one rotation around the sun without my son.

I still have no established time of death. I am still having flashbacks. I still don't know why, but I'm a lot closer to accepting that I'll never probably know.

I still can't believe there is an end date to his birthdate.

In the year since my son died by suicide we have finally begun a national conversation about people killing themselves and why.

I don't have the answers, and if we did they come too late to help us. In these winter-filled mornings I wake early in a futile attempt to get home before he makes that fateful choice, but I am a year too late.

I think about him everyday. This morning it was the morgue, followed by my sisters singing (again) at his service.

Last week I dreamed he told me he just wanted to be free. I hope you are free my baby. I just wish you would have told me.

I have met other mothers this last year who are grieving for their dead children. There is such an enormous amount of heartbreak and pain attached to this form of death.

One rotation of the sun with no reconciliation to our reality that our beloved Cole is gone, and many more rotations to come.

I iron the sheets next to his ashes this rainy Sunday afternoon because life and wrinkled sheets remain the reality of this continued time of breathing and moving until we are together again.

I started writing this blog to share this burden of grief, because there's so much misconception around how one is supposed to recover from death.

For such a natural occurrence we are not very good at dealing with dying, and less good at suicide.

Twelve months in and my grief remains where it is, it has not developed or lessened, it lingers as a dull pain. I've come to accept this and ask others to accept it too.

I would never have known had I not lost a child, so I can only ask those who are so fortunate not to know to take my word for it.

There are no neat and tidy linear five stages, there is only the hole left and the daily struggle to circle its edges and not fall inside it.

Some call this strength, but it's got nothing to do with that, it's just the reality that you have to learn how to walk with bleeding feet.

I would do anything to have him in my arms again so I could tell him how much he is loved, and to smell his hair and to kiss his face. Instead I will have to nurture my memories.

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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.