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Darryn Ward: 'Step back, take stock of your life'

Darryn Ward with mum and dad Coryl and David_small
Darryn Ward (left) is making the most of spending more time with his parents, Coryl and David Ward.

Darryn Ward lost his factory and manufacturing business to the Canterbury earthquakes. His income was cut by 80 per cent and he could no longer contribute financially to his family as he once had.

Like many, he is mired in bureaucracy over his broken house: insurance payouts, EQC, waiting times, contracts, paper work.

But his story is not about any of that. His story is about courage — having the courage to talk.

After the earthquakes, he was plagued with waves of unanswerable questions.  He felt helpless and was inundated with misplaced guilt.   How could he protect his family? How should he deal with his family’s trauma? Where would he go from here?  How would his family survive?

When the February earthquake struck, Darryn had no idea what had happened in the city centre until later, when he watched the tragedy on television. That brought further questions: would he have done things differently if he had known the extent of the disaster?

He describes “dark days” through the last few years, when he bottled his emotions until they weighed too heavily on him.

Luckily, he stopped trying to be emotionally contained – as is expected of Kiwi men – and reached out and got help. No longer afraid to talk or ask for help, he shares his experience in the hope that other men will open up and share.

He doesn’t want to hear of another man taking his broken life out on his partner or kids, or see men questioning what they have to live for.


The conservative Cantabrian tradition is for men to keep their emotions in check.

“It’s about being the provider and the protector. We have got this mentality of ‘Suck it up — men don’t cry’.”

But it’s a tradition that doesn’t serve men well; not now, not post-quake.

“I am not saying all men should become burbling pots of emotion. It’s finding the balance between being a Kiwi bloke and an emotional being. We can be both.”

“I think a lot of this depression from the quakes can be avoided by talking about it and by going to seek people that have been through it and help guide you through it,” Darryn says.

The earthquakes forced him to re-evaluate what mattered most.  It wasn’t easy, but he advises others to do the same.

“Step back, take stock of your life and figure out what is really important. Is it competing in the high-pressure rat race at the cost of your loved ones?”

He calls on men to rebalance their lives and connect with family in a way that might have been missing before the quakes.

“We don’t want to go to the grave with regrets of ‘I wish I had spent more time with my family’.”


Stepping back has brought him rich reward. He struggled initially with the loss of his identity, but the upheaval of the quakes has given him a chance to build stronger relationships with his family and find a well-balanced lifestyle.

“I think the darkness that is behind us will never be forgotten, but there’s plenty of lightness now,” he says.

“I am living a more balanced life health-wise, sport-wise, family-wise. When my wife says ‘I am taking a few days off, can you as well?’ I say, ‘Of course we can. Let’s go and see the grandkids. Let’s take them somewhere’.”

He couldn’t do those things before. The drive to be successful and the pressure that came with running a business didn’t allow it.

Now working from his parents’ home running a smaller printing business, he has more time to spend with his family.

“My brother is far more involved in my life now. My parents are too. It’s just wonderful to share the later years of their lives.”

It’s not all perfect, he says. He still cries at times. His family still struggles with the trauma of their quake experiences. His feelings can come out unexpectedly and in torrents, and he expects they will for years, but each time a cloud lifts. Each day, he can move forward.

He is redefining what it is to be a Canterbury man  more in touch with his emotions.

_As told to Kate Davidson

This story is part of a UC Journalism project to trial a new form of community journalism by recording and sharing people’s everyday stories about the Canterbury earthquakes and recovery. You can read more about the Connecting our Stories project here.