A woman who said she didn’t want to live after her husband was killed in a horror car crash, has spoken out about her seven-year battle with grief.
Katie Holmes was in bed when two police officers knocked on her door.
She had tucked her one-year-old daughter up for the night and was waiting for her husband, Garry, to come home.
He had popped out for a couple of hours to help a friend and was supposed to be back soon.
But Garry, 36, was involved in a fatal road traffic collision, struck by a van that was driving on the wrong side of the road.
Katie never saw her husband again and, as a result, fell into the bitter depths of grief.
She continued falling until she could no longer see a future for herself and her daughter, Violet.
The widow didn’t want to live and at one stage she felt prepared to leave Violet behind.
She told Herts Live : “Garry wasn’t supposed to go out that evening. He was literally popping out to help friends. They were going to pick up a bouncy castle for a charity event on Saturday.
“His mate picked him up and he just said: ‘I’m popping out for a couple of hours. I’ll see you when I get back. Kiss Violet goodnight.’ And I never saw him again.”
Garry was in the passenger seat of his friend’s van when a transit van was driving on the wrong side of the road.
Garry’s friend did all he could to swerve out of the way of the vehicle, but they were hit head-on and Garry took the full impact of the crash.
Garry’s friend, a fireman, tried to carry out CPR compressions – but he was gone.
Katie added: “I opened the door to two police officers and was delivered that fateful news.
“It was a really tricky time. A real shock. It’s easy to talk about it now, although I do revisit it whenever I talk about it. What happened is any young family’s worst nightmare. My situation is somebody’s worst nightmare.”
She said described Garry as funny, kind and patient. He was a roofer by trade, and he was “an all-round excellent person”.
“He had his demons like most people do. He struggled a bit with depression, and he’d had some counselling when we were expecting our little girl Violet. He wanted to be the best dad he could be.”
It was two years before the case was taken to court, meaning two years for Katie trapped in a harrowing limbo without answers.
The defendant Rhys Hargreaves pleaded guilty and admitted causing Garry’s death by dangerous driving.
He was sentenced to three years in prison, with an additional month to run concurrently for possession of cannabis which police found along with notorious oxide canisters.
Hargreaves was also handed a five-and-a-half-year driving ban.
But Katie’s mental health took a downward spiral.
“You’ve lost the person you love most in the world,” she said, “and I still had to be a parent. I still had to get up and get out of bed. It was just becoming so difficult. I didn’t want to live. I just wanted to be where he was.
“It’s awful to say but I would have absolutely left Violet behind. And I would have joined him if I didn’t have the support that I did. I just didn’t want to be here without him.”
Katie was living in Berkshire at the time of Garry’s death, and later moved to Bedfordshire to be closer to her family.
It was there where she was put in touch with the Road Victims Trust, a charity which provides volunteer counselling to families in Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire.
For two years, Katie received counselling every week for an hour, free of charge. It’s only in this area of England where the services are offered.
“People don’t like talking about the bad stuff about themselves because it’s painful.
“But I was very sure I didn’t want this to define Violet’s life. I didn’t want her to say to her friends: ‘I’ve had a lovely life but my mum was always sad.’”
She didn’t notice the change in herself at first, but one day her counsellor showed up and said: “Wow, look at you!” She had showered, put on some nice clothes and a little bit of makeup.
“You learn to build your life around it. Slowly, week by week, I just came back to life a bit more and was able to function.”
The charity has now received £10,000 of National Lottery Community Fund money to recruit more councillors and help more people like Katie, who is now an ambassador for the Road Victims Trust and is hoping to help other people who are struggling to see a future for themselves after grief.
“Had I not received the support of the trust I’m sure that Violet would have lost both her parents because that was the road I was going down.
“I was visited by a councillor from the Road Victims Trust and he literally saved my life.”
Violet is now seven, and Katie has a new partner who has children of his own.
They are a happy little family and, while she will never let go of Garry, Katie has been able to move on from her grief.
“On the whole, life is good. Garry doesn’t go away. He’s always on my mind. It’s a completely different life. And not what I had, but it’s good nonetheless. We’re really happy.”
Katie is hoping that someone reading about her story might just think and be a little more careful behind the wheel.
“We’re all guilty of getting frustrated because somebody’s driving too slowly,” she said.
“We forget the damage it can cause. The ripples were huge. It wasn’t just me who was affected. It was Garry’s work friends, his family, my family, best friends… It’s also the things that you lose.
“We would have had more children. That was sort of snatched away from me.”
“My counsellor changed my life. He saved my life. Violet’s life would have been very different as well. If I hadn’t been here, where would she be now?
“That’s why I think it’s really important to speak out because you can have a new life. I have a new chapter.
“I’ve still got that old chapter and I go over it all of the time, but I’ve got this new chapter now, which is just wonderful. And I never thought I’d get here.”
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.