FAMILY and Christmas go together like pap ‘n vleis.

But when a family member is absent because of a terrible tragedy, it can make it really hard to feel the joy.

Samantha Bernice (40) from Fareham in the south of England spoke to the Sun as part of its “You're Not Alone” Suicide Prevention Campaign.

Sam and her three kids’ Christmas have been haunted by a suicide, ever since the kids’ dad Collin Bernice killed himself on 10 December 2014.

He had been suffering from bouts of extreme depression since 2010.

He was 44 when he died.

Sam remembers how Collin went from a light hearted, life-loving person when they first met in 2001 to an angry loner who could not see a future for himself.

“When he was normal, calm Collin he was wonderful to be around. But the darker side of him became harder and harder to handle.

“I stayed with him because I loved him. Plus, I was convinced he would eventually get over it," said Sam.

But his dark side started taking over completely.

He tried to kill himself three times before he finally succeeded. Sam couldn’t handle the stress and trauma anymore and they split in 2013.

They had three kids Finlay (now 11), Amelie (now 10) and Jacob (7).

On December 10 2014, Collin came to see Amelie in her school Christmas play.

“He seemed okay as he sat behind me and my mum. I turned around and he gave me one of his funny cute smiles,” said Sam.

But it was the last time they were to see Collin. He hung himself that afternoon.

“To this day part of me still can’t believe he did it,” says Sam. “Mum and Dad stayed with me for a few weeks afterwards and I’d just sit in Dad’s arms night after night sobbing.

"The worst thing of all was that this time I knew Collin had meant to do it because he’d hung himself. He was found by his flat mate.”

Sam and her three kids now have an annual tradition where they all gather around the Christmas tree and tell their daddy they love him, before tucking into Christmas lunch.

“It’s something we’ve done every year since Collin killed himself. We want him to know he won’t be forgotten," Sam said.

Got Christmas blues?

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