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Healing dad ready to help others
Chris Nicholls and his partner Kate. Picture: Ian Munro/The West Australian

Bereaved father Chris Nicholls should be watching his son Frederick start his first day at school next month.

Instead, the 47-year-old sees other four-year-olds with their families and wonders what his little boy would have been like.

Frederick died in June 2008, aged just four weeks. He was killed by his mother, who was suffering a mental illness, while Mr Nicholls slept in the next room at their Leederville home. She smothered the baby with a pillow before telling her husband what she had done.

Despite the devastating loss and later going through a divorce, Mr Nicholls believes he can rebuild his life.

"The paradox is, as bad as it was, I actually feel like a better person, a kinder person, a nicer person," he said. "I think I've got so much to offer people in any post-traumatic stress scenario."

Mr Nicholls has trained as a counsellor and hopes to use his experience of the tragedy to help others.

"I think my gut feeling is to make Freddy's life and death not be meaningless," he said.

Rebecca Doreen Morley pleaded guilty to infanticide - killing her baby when the balance of her mind was disturbed from the effects of childbirth - in May 2009 and was given a two-year intensive super- vision order with conditions that she continue with psychiatric and psychological counselling.

Mr Nicholls, a Yorkshire-born former hairdresser, has found love again with aerobics instructor Kate Noble.

"It took 10 months for me to pluck up the courage to ask her out because I was in such a bad way," he said. "She was a big part of my recovery."

A volunteer counsellor for the Samaritans and SIDS and Kids, Mr Nicholls also works for a Perth counselling centre.

"It's something that you don't recover from," he said. "You live with it. You absorb it and you carry on functioning. But it's always there in the back of your mind."

SIDS and Kids WA's 24-hour child loss support line is 1800 686 780. The Samaritans' 24-hour crisis line is (08) 9381 5555.