On 26 October, 2003 I was cross, really cross. Mark's Head Chef had calledto say that, unusually, he hadn't turned into work. He had eventually, later in the day, called in sick, which was a surprise because when I'd left the house at 10am that morning Mark had been fine, waving me off as usual. By the time I called our house at 6pm and Mark answered the phone, my confusion and worry had definitely turned to irritation.
The call was brief. That type of terse, clipped conversation that ends with 'put the kettle on, we'll talk about this when I get home.' He said sorry and that he loved me and ended the call. That was the last time I heard his voice.
I collected the children, bundled them into the car with their bags, PE kits and drawings and we drove home; a journey that was to prove to be the start of a series of events that changed our lives forever. Just 15 minutes after I'd placed the receiver down from our phone call, I walked up our path, placed my key in the door and discovered that the man I'd spoken to, the father of my children, had taken his life.
Nobody saw it coming. Nobody knew that a day that had started just as any other was going to end so tragically. Like many of us bereaved by suicide, I asked myself many, many questions over and over again. Why didn't I see how Mark was feeling? Why didn't I pick up on the signs? Why didn't I realise that our call was to be our final call?
In the years that have followed that tragic evening, I've learned to talk about what happened, and by talking about it I have laid some of those questions to rest, but one question kept slipping back into my mind: could I have saved him if I'd have driven faster?
In the early days I'd find myself lying in bed at 4am imagining scenarios where the traffic lights weren't on red or I hadn't been stuck behind a learner driver, or where I'd put my foot down just a little bit more. I'd arrive home to find Mark standing in our hallway and we'd bring the children in from the car and talk about school and he'd explain to me how he was feeling and it would all turn out differently.
One day I told a stranger about my fantasy. I told him about my dream scenario where I get home quicker and the ending is so different, like those books we had when we were little that gave us a choice of happy endings at the end of each page, 'if you get home by 6:10pm turn to page 42 and read your happy ever after'.
The stranger said something that would change my perspective forever. "How do you know that you hadn't driven faster on a different night?' Bang! It was like a light bulb shattering in my head. Many will know that the questions you ask yourself after someone takes their life can lead you to question everything you ever believed in; anything that ever underpinned your life, but never once had I considered that my actions may have stopped Mark taking his life on a different day. Never once had I ever considered that. I had always thought of that day as the first and only time that Mark had experienced those very dark thoughts that led to him ending his life. But the stranger was right; how did I know that he hadn't felt those feelings and thought those thoughts before and how did I know that any one of us hadn't helped him without ever being aware of it? The simple answer is that we'll never know.
In the years that have passed since then, I've had the privilege of talking to many people bereaved by suicide and I've been helped by so many people like that stranger. It's because of that help that I've tried to give a bit back. I became the Chair of 'Survivors of Bereavement By Suicide', a charity whose help I found invaluable, and also attend a Parliamentary group looking at suicide prevention. I also presented the BBC One documentary Life After Suicide.
My attempt to give a little bit back led, last Thursday, to having the extraordinary privilege of taking a group of people bereaved by suicide to a private meeting with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at Kensington Palace. The feeling that I had in the pit of my stomach was the same as I'd felt at the beginning of every filming day when we made Life After Suicide. It was the feeling that I just wanted to get it right for all the others who have stood in my shoes and to put a voice to our experiences on behalf of those who are yet to find theirs.
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