‘Life after my four kids were murdered’
AARON Cockman's four children were killed by their grandfather near Margaret River, Western Australia, in May.
Taye, 13, Rylan, 12, Arye, 10 and Kadyn, 8, were shot in their beds as they slept. Peter Myles also shot and killed the children's mother Katrina and his wife Cynda before taking his own life. Here, Aaron reveals how he has managed to keep going, maintain his mental health, lobby politicians for change and set up his own foundation to protect children from harm associated with family breakdown.
I've always been a positive person, but when I was first told the news that my four beautiful children were dead, I fell into a state of shock.
For a couple of months I didn't go to work.
Mentally I went downhill very fast. People suggested I go to seek help from the doctor, but I knew what an impact not taking care of myself was having on my state of mind.
I knew I wasn't depressed. I was incredibly, overwhelmingly, sad.
It was a heavy weight that was constantly with me but letting it suffocate me wasn't helping.
I didn't make a decision to push the sadness away, but I started looking after myself.
Like everyone else, what I eat affects my whole life. It changes my energy levels, my outlook and my positivity.
I lost around 10kg in those first couple of months after my kids died. I wasn't eating or sleeping.
I WANTED TO BE DEAD WITH THEM
I knew antidepressants weren't the answer for me. I started with my diet, and I went back to work.
The first thing I'd say to anyone in an early state of grief is keep it really simple - ask yourself when you last ate, remind yourself to eat well and choose your foods carefully.
This is the foundation for your mental health and wellbeing; it's vitally important.
A LOVE STORY
My late wife Katrina and I were together for a year before we got married. We said our vows on the beach, she got pregnant on the honeymoon and we started our family.
I'd travelled a fair bit competing in kite surfing; I knew I was ready to settle down.
When my first child was born, I cried tears of happiness. When you have your first baby you realise, wow, this is what life is all about.
I was at all four of the births, one was a home birth and I was hands-on even then.
I was a hands-on father; my life revolved around my kids. I have loads of video footage of us running around, having fun and playing together.
Even after my marriage broke down and Kat and I split up, we still spent time together as a family. We went to the cinema or all went shopping.
People were surprised we'd split.
It was when lawyers got involved in our separation that everything snowballed out of control.
I look back at those times and think we wasted so much time having to answer devastating emails; what a waste it all was.
Those were dark times.
My mental health was pretty bad.
I WAS ALIENATED FROM MY KIDS
I will never forget how hard being separated from my children felt. One week was agony, let alone six months. There were days when I had panic attacks and went home from work.
So, when I hear stories now of parents who are alienated from their kids - losing a loving relationship with their own children because the kids are being turned against them - my heart hurts for them. I know how that feels.
People said, "Leave it, the kids will come and find you when they're older."
How could I? Those were my kids.
But the more I pushed to see them, the worse it got.
It's a different kind of pain when you're separated from your children. In some ways, I felt just as bad then as I do now.
I HAVE ACCEPTED MY CHILDREN ARE DEAD
They are gone.
I don't feel anger, I felt extremely, cripplingly sad.
I'm not sure where I found inner strength from, maybe in hoping that I could make a difference.
On tough days at the beginning, when I thought, "Why me? Why me?" I'd tell myself, "Why not me?"
Now, I'm determined to try to inspire change in this awful family law system that's affecting children's health.
Sometimes when I'm driving my mind ticks along and I suddenly jolt, thinking, "Is this a dream? Is this a nightmare?"
Then I realise it's reality all over again.
My children are dead.
THIS IS MY REALITY NOW
Launching the aaron4kids foundation was almost a relief. It's a funnel for my thoughts, energy and desire to make a difference.
To parents separated from their kids I say: Don't go into attack mode, it will only make things worse.
To parents who are keeping kids from their other parent: Think long-term. You're not going to have a happy life if you do this to your kids. One day they will find out what you did.
A happy child means a happy life for you too. Do the right thing by your children.
My aaron4kids foundation has given me a focus. I've found a way to see a flicker of hope in my future. The more people get behind this foundation, the better - the more impact we can create.
I can't change my reality, but maybe I can change others. That is the hope that keeps me going each and every day.
- To support aaron4kids, help him change the system and save kids' lives, donate here.
- Corrine Barraclough is a freelance journalist. Follow her on Twitter: @TweetCorrineB