The 20th of this month marks 8 years since my youngest brother passed away. How he died is not important to this post but it was sudden, unexpected and accidental. He was 3 and a half years old and I was 20, Miss only 3 weeks.
Even though 8 years has passed the pain is still the same. The loss fresh and the grief raw. People tell you the pain never goes away and they are right. It becomes a part of you. It’s a dull ache in your heart that you wake up every morning with, you learn to live with it. It is a constant weight on your shoulders and an eerie silence at every family event since. It is the words unspoken and the empty space at the Christmas table.
I was 16 when Jake was born. I am the oldest sibling of the 8 of us and have felt the responsibility and protectiveness that comes with that territory my whole life. The grief a sibling suffers is normally overlooked, even by ourselves. We worry about our parents, we want to hold it together and be strong for them. I remember waiting for one of my sisters to crack, hoping she’d finally cry and allow herself to start grieving. You google grief and you find many articles dedicated to the loss of a parent, the loss of a child, the loss of a spouse but few cover the grief involved when you lose a sibling. I once read the following quote “When a parent dies, you lose the past. When a child dies, you lose the future. When a sibling dies, you lose the past and the future.”
There is so many more feelings that are involved when you lose a sibling. Few that people admit to and many that I know people feel. There is the guilt. There is guilt that you couldn’t stop it, that you didn’t do more to stop it, that you can’t take the pain away. There is so much regret. You think over every second of that fateful day trying to figure out how things ended up as they did. The anger is horrible. I was so mad at myself for so long, so mad at others, determined that things could have been prevented. As an older sibling there are moments where I wonder why Jake and not me? There is the realisation that no matter what you do there is now a hole in your family that will always be there. There is that empty seat at the table.
My brother’s death inevitably changed our whole family. Every aspect of it affected. We have finally reached a point where we can speak about him freely, the pain is still there but the reminiscing now provides a level of comfort. We remember him with fondness and recall the way his cheeky smile brought so much light into our lives. I won’t lie there are still days I break down in the shower. There are still days I am overwhelmed by grief and feel completely ripped off by his loss. He made a big impact in such a small amount of years. My girls know he is their Uncle and their own special guardian angel. He is a part of their lives in conversation, he is the brightest star they see in the sky at night. It is tricky to explain death to a child but we found a way. It is important to me that they understand he is a part of our family and that he is no longer here.
The past 8 years has taught me that you can not rush the healing. There is not a day that I do not think of Jake. His picture on my walls and the memories in my heart, the legacy he has left in my life. People assume you should be ‘over it’ by now but you aren’t, and you can’t be. Grief is a life long process, it is the dull ache I wake up with every morning.