real life

'My son was about to turn 30 when a police officer turned up at my house.'

This story discusses suicide.

It was a typical hot dry Mallee summer’s day in 2018.

My husband, Mick, had done his usual check of the sheep and water in the morning and then called it a day early in the afternoon.

Moments after we finished our dinner, we heard the dogs barking and realised a vehicle was approaching the farmhouse. 

I went and looked out and saw a police car pulling into the driveway. I was confused.

I thought they must have been coming to do a random farm gun check as we had heard news of these happening on other farms in the area at the time. 

I was in my nightie, so I stayed in the house while Mick went out to speak to the policeman. They spoke for a while, and I began to get curious. I threw some clothes on and went out to see what was happening.

The policeman was in the patrol car and Mick was standing back, looking not quite himself.

The policeman got out of the vehicle slowly. He didn’t go to the shed to check the guns like I expected, but instead, he started to walk towards me. 

I didn’t understand what was happening.  

"Suzi?" the policeman enquired. 

I responded with, "Yes".

"Your son is Murray James Chesser?"

"Yes." I swallowed. 


I started to get a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach. I felt like the policeman was talking around me. Like I wasn’t there. I was lost in my thoughts, not knowing if what was happening was real or not.

"Have you been contacted by someone else?" he asked.


He told me there had been an incident and Murray had passed away—that he allegedly had taken his own life.

In that moment, I froze. My feet felt like concrete, I didn’t know what to say or do. A sensation of numbness spread through my body.

I swallowed and said, "Okay" as I tried to process.

I really can’t remember much of what happened next—all the things you hear and read are true. It was like an out-of-body experience or a movie playing in very slow motion.

Watch: What you need to know about Grief. Post continues after video.

Video via YouTube/Psych2Go.

The policeman and Mick spoke about who Mick had to contact and what to do from there, then the policeman left, and Mick and I went inside and sat at the kitchen table. 


The moment the policeman left; Mick poured us both a scotch. I’ve never been much of a scotch drinker, but we managed to drink more than half a bottle. I felt stone-cold sober. I was numb. I sat silently at the kitchen table while Mick stayed strong and phoned our friends and family to share the devastating news.

For most of us, grief catches us by surprise. For me, it absolutely did.

One minute, you are relaxing at home, then a policeman comes to your door to tell you your son is dead. Then you are travelling to Queensland to pick up his belongings and make arrangements for his funeral and to say goodbye.

The shock, the disbelief, the overwhelming sorrow—they all mix together, leaving you feeling confused and broken.

This led to five of the most tumultuous and heart-wrenching years of my life.

They say everyone has a book in them and five years after losing Muzz, I realised mine was waiting to be written. I'd learned so much about grief and resilience, so I started writing.

Grief, published earlier this year, is the book I wish I'd had when I first faced the overwhelming darkness of loss. Here are a few lessons I share in the book:

Grief never ends.

Sometimes, I feel it gets worse with time, not better. You just learn to function more effectively alongside it.


It’s a deeply personal journey that must be travelled individually.

Grief is a very private thing to experience, and I believe a lot of people don’t understand that because they genuinely want to help. This is something that no one can fix. This process is about pulling the cord and letting go.

Grief is such a small word, yet it holds so much behind it—so many layers. It’s a deeply personal journey that each person experiences differently. Despite the love and support of others, the journey through grief is one that must be travelled individually.

People don’t need to toughen up; they need to learn how the brain works.

Following Muzz's passing, I found myself grappling with a paradox. Logically, I understood that I was grieving, but emotionally, I couldn’t identify myself from what I was going through.

I constantly asked myself what I had done to deserve such a devastating fate.

Everything I thought I had believed in, I questioned. I didn’t want to move on because I didn’t want to forget Muzz and all that he was. It was just so unfair and so f**ked up. Every bit of anger about everyone and every situation in my life came to the surface. The haunting question of "Why me?" echoed endlessly in my mind.

Suzi's son, Muzz. Image: Supplied.


Then, one day, a friend suggested I study a Diploma of Positive Psychology and Wellbeing, and thankfully, I listened. By discovering these tools and understanding the links between the brain, body, and emotions, I learned how to manage my behaviour and reactions. I started to become aware of my triggers and how the brain and emotions are interconnected. This journey has led to tremendous personal growth.

I can’t believe it took until my late 50s to learn these transformative tools, but here we are. Now, I am so much more aware of my self-talk and, while I still have bad days, I can pull myself out of low moods or triggers much more easily. I understand I have a choice to stay in a 'fixed' mindset or to grow and move forward. Looking back, I can see how much better I am at working through my emotions instead of spiralling compared to when I first started the diploma. Now, I am a Mental Health First Aid trainer and travel around Australia as a certified positive psychology practitioner, sharing this message: being tough is overrated. Instead, understanding how our brains work and caring for ourselves is the true strength.


The pain is still there, of course—it always will be.

Your priorities change.

Certain things don’t matter to me anymore. This has certainly changed some of my relationships with both family and friends, some for the better and some for the worse. Yet, good or bad, it puts things into perspective and highlights that I am learning and growing. So, if the people in my life aren’t learning and growing, then I feel I must move forward from what or who no longer serves me.

Stop, focus, notice.

I started working with Bridget Johns, an organisation expert and life organiser, in 2021 and have been working with her since—she has been an important part of my support team. I love her STOP! FOCUS! NOTICE! theory and have found that implementing it has helped me break my cycles and refocus. When something annoys or frustrates me, I 'stop' doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different outcome, I 'focus' on the problem and list all the details about it, and I 'notice' what options I have for solving the problem and trial one.  


Treat your mind like a 'workbench'.

Muzza’s favourite place was his workbench. He was always tinkering with something. His workbench was a space where he could focus, think, and bring his ideas to life.

Recognising the importance of this space, I realised our minds deserve the same care. Just as a carpenter equips their workbench with the right tools for the job, we can equip our minds with strategies for resilience and growth.

Inspired by this analogy, I created 'Workbench for the Mind', an accredited program by Suicide Prevention Australia. The program is a step-by-step guide designed to help individuals build resilience and well-being. It starts with laying everything out on your workbench and identifying the tools you already have. Then, it teaches you to understand how the brain works and how you can mould it through plasticity to change, compartmentalise, organise, and adopt positive habits and thought patterns. 

So, next time you're going through something tough, ask yourself: What tools do I have available? What extra tools might I need?

When life gives you lemons, try to make some lemonade. 

Losing Muzz has taught me to say yes to opportunities for growth. Instead of succumbing to despair, which I could have so easily done one thousand times over, I say yes and put myself out there. From travelling to Canberra with the National Rural Women's Coalition to appearing on podcasts, working with major companies to provide mental health first aid training, to becoming a finalist for the 2024 South Australian AgriFutures Rural Women's Award, it has been incredibly rewarding. Embracing these opportunities has not only allowed me to honour Muzz’s memory but also allowed me to make a positive impact.


My son might be gone but I’m still here. Choose yourself. 

Our sense of meaning is so important to human flourishing. I know that when Muzz passed away; I had no idea who I was. What was the point of me being here? I had long defined myself as Muzza’s mum (and I still am). Then, when he died, it was just all gone. That identity crumbled to dust. What remained was a hollow shell, haunted by the question: "What now?" I felt so raw and emotionally naked.

Suzi and Muzz. Image: Supplied.


In the depths of my despair, a voice of reason pierced the darkness. "Suzi," my nutritionist said, "your son may be gone, but you are still here. You need to look after YOU!" Her words ignited a flicker of hope within me, a reminder that I had to look after myself. 

As David Sheff wrote in Beautiful Boy, "Our children live or die with or without us. No matter what we do, no matter how we agonise or obsess, we cannot choose for our children whether they live or die. It is a devastating realization, but also liberating. I finally chose life for myself."

Today, I continue to choose life for myself. I hope you decide to choose life for yourself too.

Suzi Evans is the author of Grief, a Mental Health First Aid trainer, and a certified Positive Psychology Practitioner. You can buy her book here and get in touch here.

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If you think you may be experiencing depression or another mental health problem, please contact your general practitioner. If you're based in Australia, 24-hour support is available through Lifeline on 13 11 14 or beyondblue on 1300 22 4636.

Feature image: Supplied.