Blog 2 - What have we been up to.....

February 5, 2018

What have we been up to?

It’s been roughly 9 months I think since my first blog post for which the response was overwhelming…
Thank you to everyone who either liked, shared or commented. The feedback was much appreciated
and the last time I checked it had reached over 90,000 people. WOW! Every single message received was positive and it certainly restores your faith in people. There is a lot of kindness out there and that’s something I’m working on giving back through various channels.

I had envisaged doing a new blog post every month to begin with but decided against it at that time.
As I mentioned in my original instalment, there was an awful lot I could discuss around a whole range of issues but at the time I didn’t feel a blog was the right forum for what I wanted to talk about and at I still don’t…….. Maybe I’ll write a book?

So what have I been up to personally and with Nikki’s Wishes in the past year? Short answer A LOT!

It was last May that we held the 2nd annual “Nikki’s Wishes Charity Fun Day” at Hemel Hempstead FC and it proved yet again to be a massive success!! People travelled from far and wide to attend and have fun, or take part in the day as a volunteer, vendor or to play in the football match between the Queens Park Rangers Legends and my old Sunday league team.

The event was attended by over 3000 people yet again and we raised just a touch over £24,500 for the two causes with 50% split between Child Bereavement UK and Nikki’s Wishes. It’s probably at this point it would be best to give some history on Nikki’s Wishes, who we are and what are aims are for the future.

Nikki’s wishes was formed by 3 of mine and Nikki’s friends, Mathew Griffin, Kati Jackson & Louise Barnes. They set up the fund as a means to support myself and the children should we need it. The fund was set up by these 3 people, but it also needs to be clear that it was dozens of people who contributed and helped. Unfortunately far too many to name but we are eternally grateful to every single person who helped out initially.

In the first year of its conception, the Nikki’s Wishes fund commissioned a memorial bench in Veralanium Park in St Albans, donated to Child Bereavement UK and some local causes to the Dacorum area such as a children’s hospice.

Over the 2nd year Nikki’s Wishes developed much more into a charitable organisation and we formed a close relationship with CBUK which proved a huge success with celebrities promoting our main charity event such as Rio Ferdinand, James Cordon and Niall Horan to name but a few. Not only did we donate to Child Bereavement UK, but we also donated to the Homicide Victim Support Service.

Following this success in our 2nd year we decided that we now had the foundations in place to go one step further and become a fully registered charity. This would enable us to grow. While fund raising it became clear that most organisations will only donate to a registered charity and you can understand why. We want people to take us seriously so we needed to ensure we are accountable and regulated.

On Tuesday 16th January we formally submitted our documents to the charity commission and we are now simply waiting for the application to be approved. In order to be approved, we had to have a number of trustee’s and an accountant. A big thank you to Steve Crowther for agreeing to be our accountant. Top Man!!

Our aim, as a charity, initially, will be to support children 0-16 years of age in Dacorum and the surrounding area who have suffered the bereavement of a parent or sibling.
This will be via hosting free & fun days for the children and their families to attend and offer other support where possible. It’s a starting point that we can build from.

While we are waiting for this to happen, we aren’t sitting on our hands. We are trying to come up with different ways to grow the number of followers we have on social media and organising 2 new events for the coming months.

In April, we will host the 1st “Keep Aiming” event. This will be a fun afternoon at the Hemel Hempstead Snow Centre for children who have suffered a bereavement. The children can choose between a ski or snowboard lesson or just some sledging fun, followed by food and a mindfulness session from an NHS mental health clinician. This will also bring together many parents and carers who are in similar positions. From experience I can tell you that being around other people in similar circumstances to your own is very helpful. There is an instant connection that is shared among you and you can talk about your experiences in a far more open way, knowing that the person you are talking to understands, unequivocally and without judgement. Hopefully the children will feel the same way, putting them together in a fun situation you never know what good things can happen. Feeling normal cannot be underestimated. This event is still open for applications and registrations via our Nikki’s Wishes page on Facebook for children in the Dacorum and surrounding areas.

In May, we will be hosting the 3rd annual “Nikki’s Wishes Charity Fun Day” incorporating the “Nikki Cross Cup”. This year we are grateful again to Lee and Marc Bircham for putting together
A team of QPR legends to play in the match. We are hoping, that we can put together a team of celebrity’s to play against them. That would be a fantastic achievement for Nikki’s Wishes.
The football match is just one part of event which will see the return of the fun fair for children, face painting, Competitions, memorabilia auction and much more. This year we will 
Add live music to the day and evening from a host of bands. Watch this space!!!

That’s Nikki’s Wishes in a nutshell, 4 Trustees and an accountant make up the Nikki’s Wishes core team, but it’s the support and effort from every volunteer, contributor, follower and supporter that makes Nikki’s Wishes possible. Without support and people sharing our name and page, we would not be anywhere near as successful as we are to date.

We will soon be in a position to have our official launch as a registered charity and in turn our new website that will run alongside the Nikki’s Wishes Facebook page. For that, we have to thank “Sundeep Chohan”, otherwise known as “The Doc” from SAS who dares wins. He’s an amazing man who has lent his support to our cause and commissioned the new website for us.

Stay tuned for our official launch date and please like and share this blog to try and reach more people.

From myself, Mat, Kati and Louise, we thank absolutely everyone who has helped Nikki’s Wishes from day 1 until now, to get to this stage and we rely on your continued support to grow and in turn help more children suffering from bereavement and its associated issues.

Thanks All,


Blog 1 - The first 18 months

January 16, 2018

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 counseling 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 counseling 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.