Louise Axbi-Hirst moved to the Island in 2013 with her husband, Pete, and their three children, Pyper, Mia, and Karmen.

“We came here on holiday and fell in love with the place,” said Louise from Carisbrooke.

“Pyper suffers from severe anaphylaxis, and after she nearly died during an episode of anaphylactic shock at her school, they said she couldn’t stay there and would have to go to a special school, which was ridiculous.

“It was a real low point in our lives, and after our holiday to the Island, Pete said we should move here, so I called Christ the King College, who said they would welcome Pyper regardless of her condition. And that was that, within three weeks, we had moved.”

As well as relocating their family, Pete and Louise moved their successful business, making bespoke laser-engraved wooden products, to the Island. Louise designed the products, and Pete made them in his workshop.

Island life was good for the Axbi-Hirst family. Until one day, in April 2021, Pete died by suicide.

“There were no clues, no signs to look for. It was a complete shock. He left the house singing that day and never came back.”

On the morning of his death, Pete drove to his workshop and hung himself. The impact on Louise and her girls was unimaginable.

“My life froze. I think we felt suspended in nothing and overwhelmed with grief.

“I lost my connection to everything and felt disconnected from the world and my family. I couldn’t understand how to process anything. I felt like it was my fault, and I blamed myself.

“All I wanted to do was kill myself. All I knew was that I needed to be with Pete.”

Deeply concerned for her mum, Mia contacted her GP surgery with an urgent request for help. Louise received a text from the surgery the next morning.

“It didn’t help me in the slightest.”

Louise contacted the GP surgery again and was told she would be referred to a mental health practitioner in the next few days.

“But no one rang; no one came to see me. I was suicidal and just left.”

Desperate to get help, Mia rang the police.

“The police were fantastic. Two officers came out immediately and talked to me about Pete and how I was feeling.

“They spoke to the girls too and told them if they were ever worried about mum at any point to ring them.”

Following the visit, the police referred Louise to Two Saints, a charity supporting vulnerable people in their local communities, who passed the referral on to Mountbatten.

“A lady called Becky called me, and even from just talking to her on the phone, I felt calmer. When I came in for my first few sessions, I just cried and wailed the whole time.”

“What I learned with Becky was acceptance and techniques to help me live with my grief and process my feelings.

“I learned to understand that it wasn’t my fault. What Pete did was his responsibility. My responsibility is to live and to go on living. Mountbatten helped me face life again.”

Over a year on from Pete’s suicide, Louise is slowly rebuilding her life with a new focus on helping people with their mental health.

“I learned such a lot about mental health and how some of the things I went through could be avoided or dealt with better by external services,” Louise said.

“I became passionate about changing that so others don’t go through what I went through.”

Louise has recently started a new job as a mental health peer support worker with the NHS and created a support group on Facebook for people who have been bereaved by suicide.

Pete and Louise’s youngest daughter, Carmen, who was 14 when her dad died, also received bereavement support from Mountbatten and, along with Mia, gets involved with the Facebook group discussions to help people their own age adjust to their grief.

“I wouldn’t be here for my girls if it wasn’t for Mountbatten,” says Louise. “They were a lifeline and have helped me to heal. I will be forever grateful.”

All of Mountbatten’s services are free because of the generosity of people like you. Thanks to your support, Louise and her family had the help they needed to survive their darkest days.

If you or anyone you know needs our help, please get in touch.

To join Louise’s support group, search ‘Survivors of Suicide IOW’ on Facebook.

Mountbatten is here to help you through bereavement and grief. Click here to find out how.

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