My wonderful husband was so heartbroken and blamed himself for our toddler's death, he took his own life five days later

THE sudden loss of a child and the devastating effect it has on parents is something Rhian Mannings knows only too well.

Just five days after the death of their one-year-old son, George, Rhian’s ‘wonderful’ husband Paul Burke took his own life, unable to cope with the grief.

This week, an inquest into the death of former glamour model Sam Ramplin was told she hanged herself 18 months after her son Denny, 17, died in a motorbike accident.

The 47-year-old, who also had a 27-year-old daughter, was found dead at her Malaga home in January.

Rhian, from Miskin, South Wales, says her heart goes out to Sam’s family.

“I know the heartache this leaves behind and there's very little anyone can say that will make them feel better,” Rhian tells The Sun. 

“I was a mum of three with a wonderful husband and that was smashed into millions of pieces."

Tragedy after baby's first birthday

George, the youngest of Rhian and Paul’s three children, had just celebrated his first birthday in February 2012 when he suddenly fell ill at home.

The toddler, who had never been sick, was happily playing with his toys when he fell over and started fitting. 

“We had a wonderful life, and I had everything I wanted” she says. “My husband and I were so happy.

“Then suddenly George was rushed to the hospital and died within a couple of hours of being admitted. 

“There was no sign of illness and we didn't know why he died. They let us spend a bit of time with him but then we had to go home and leave him."

Dazed and traumatised, the couple returned to their home where George’s birthday cards still sat on the mantelpiece.

“We just muddled through the next few days,” says Rhian. “Nobody contacted us to check we were okay. No one was there to answer any questions or tell us how we should talk to our other children about what happened to George. 

“We needed someone there to tell us ‘you're going to blame yourself but it’s not your fault’, but we were left deal with it by ourselves.”

The only official contact came the day after George’s death, when police knocked on the door as part of an investigation into the tragedy.

“When someone dies suddenly, you get police officers knocking on your door and that’s all part of the process," says Rhian. "But I think that contributed to Paul thinking he was somehow to blame.”

Second tragedy devastates family

Five days later, after Paul went for a drive to “clear his head”, the police knocked on the door again.

This time it was to tell Rhian that Paul had been found dead, after falling from a bridge on the M4. 

Left in devastating grief, and having to plan the funeral of both her son and husband, Rhian says she felt “numb”.

“I was a mum of three with a wonderful husband and that was smashed into millions of pieces,”

“Shock is an incredible emotion,” she says. “I didn't cry for months, my body shut down. 

“But even after losing Paul, and still having a two and three year old to look after, nobody reached out to us.

“My parents were my heroes. Without my family and friends who knows where I'd be today? Maybe I would have followed Paul.”

George's post-mortem examination, four months after his death, ruled he had contracted pneumonia and a form of swine flu.

Later, a coroner recorded a verdict of accidental death – not suicide – for Paul, because he was suffering Post Traumatic Stress Disorder over George's death.

Emotional burn out

In the wake of the tragedy, Rhian quit her job as a PE teacher and devoted herself to helping other grieving parents through her charity, 2 Wish Upon a Star. 

But every day was a struggle.

“It took me a long time to accept it and there was always an element of denial,” she says. 

“I threw myself into setting up a charity, which I don't regret because it's amazing now, but it was a distraction. 

“If you speak to any bereaved parent, they wear a mask, because they don't want to upset anybody else. They don't want to be all doom and gloom. 

“That mask becomes such a fixture you struggle to let it down. You don’t want to start crying in case you can't stop.

“It took five years for me to even acknowledge I was struggling and I suffered a burnout. I hit a wall, emotionally.”

Rhian finally went to her GP and was referred to the mental health team for intensive psychotherapy and she also takes medication for anxiety.

She has also found love again, with charity volunteer Craig Mannings, who she married in 2018 – but she still struggles with grief and the crippling effects of PTSD.

“It’s ten years in February and, if there’s a knock on the door, I still can't answer it,” she says.

“An ambulance with flashing lights is also a trigger and I'm always searching for trauma and danger which causes problems with anxiety.”

Even though he was traumatised by George’s death, Rhian says there was no signs Paul was going to take his own life, but she believes the lack of support contributed to his death.

“Paul had no mental health issues but he took his own life because he felt that it was his fault, that he should have done more to save his son,” she says.

“I truly believe that immediate support would have saved Paul. We needed somebody professional to say we hadn't done anything wrong.

“In Sam’s case her son went out on his motorbike and never came home, which is devastating. She deserved support and I hope she got that, but it wouldn't surprise me if it was just family and friends that were there for her.

“Now, after Sam’s death, they are the ones who need support because of the guilt and sadness they're going through. I just really hope that they are getting it.

“They will be probably thinking that maybe they missed something or that they could have prevented it.

"Even now, a handful of times a day, I think the same and I will live with that forever. But over the last nine years, I've come to terms with the fact that maybe I couldn't have stopped him. If Paul hadn't taken his life that day, it would have been another day.

“I want to send them lots of love and I hope they can try not to be angry or to blame themselves – it’s not their fault.

“If they need support, I would urge them to reach out to organisations that are there to help.”

Staff 'wandered corridors with son's body'

Rhian’s charity – which has earned her an MBE and a Pride of Britain award – aims to support families in Wales affected by the sudden death of anyone under 25.

“We make sure that if someone dies in the hospital, their parents are offered a memory box, with handprints, curls and cherished objects from the child or young adult,” she says. 

“We also phone the family within 48 hours of the loss, to let them know that they're not alone, and that we are there to support them because when you're bereaved, you're in no state to go on Google or to ring up charities who can help.

“We are also working with hospitals in Wales to make sure there is a room in every A&E department for families to sit with a loved one and say goodbye properly. 

“When my son died, they carried his dead body through the hospital corridors, looking for somewhere we could be alone and that contributed to my husband's death as well. 

“The staff that dealt with our family at the time were amazing, but there was no one to deal with us emotionally, to help with our trauma and grief. 

“That's what I fight for every day, to make sure that mums like Sam Ramplin have someone there to help, to make them feel their child mattered so that they don't feel as worthless as I felt and still do 10 years on.”

Dealing with a grieving parent

By Lianna Champ, grief counsellor and author of practical guide, How to Grieve Like A Champ

Some bereaved parents feel guilty because they were unable to protect or save their child and keep them safe. The pain of loss is shattering and all-consuming. 

Many bereaved parents struggle to cope, terrified that if they do find their way through they will forget their child’s existence. This could never happen.

Minute by minute you will survive. The landscape you are wandering through will gradually change from unutterable hell to being endurable and, eventually your grief will become your comfort, the link that keeps you connected to your child.

How can friends and family help?

Don’t avoid bereaved parents because you don’t know what to say or do. Most want to talk about their child and hear others mention their name and share their memories. Grief is so very heavy. You don’t need to have any answers, just listen. 

Be patient. Accept whatever reaction they show. Grief has many expressions. Please do not judge. Just be there with open, loving acceptance.

Never start a sentence with, “At least …”.

Be practical. Don’t ask if they need something doing. Just do it and make a commitment to see it through. Don’t just be there in the early days and disappear when it looks as if life has returned to normal. Keep in touch, keep talking and keep sharing. Be aware of the difficulty of approaching birthdays and the anniversary of death.

What are the signs that family and friends should look out for, in terms of suicide risk?

A suicide leaves behind a particularly devastating kaleidoscope of pain.

Not seeing or preventing the suicide can bring terrible guilt and feelings of failure for the surviving parents, family and friends but the truth is that often there are no signs. 

It can feel awkward to start conversations about suicide but if you have any inkling, please don’t be afraid to be mention your concern, even if they are not asking for help. Be honest and direct with your words.

If someone has a history of depression, self-harm or trauma, try and watch for any changes in their behaviour. If they mention suicide always take this seriously. Don’t be afraid to show your concern. 

Parents just want to be with their children and the pull can be so strong as to block out all else. Therefore it is vital that they don’t spend too much time alone, even though they may push people away. 

Offer to find professional help and offer to go with them so they are not on their own.


EVERY 90 minutes in the UK a life is lost to suicide.

It doesn't discriminate, touching the lives of people in every corner of society – from the homeless and unemployed to builders and doctors, reality stars and footballers.

It's the biggest killer of people under the age of 35, more deadly than cancer and car crashes.

Yet it's rarely spoken of, a taboo that threatens to continue its deadly rampage unless we all stop and take notice, now.

That is why The Sun launched the You're Not Alone campaign.

The aim is that by sharing practical advice, raising awareness and breaking down the barriers people face when talking about their mental health, we can all do our bit to help save lives.

Let's all vow to ask for help when we need it, and listen out for others… You're Not Alone.

If you, or anyone you know, needs help dealing with mental health problems, the following organisations provide support:

  • CALM,, 0800 585 858
  • Heads Together,
  • Mind,, 0300 123 3393
  • Papyrus,, 0800 068 41 41
  • Samaritans,, 116 123

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