Feelings, Grief and Siblings

Precious Memories Jake and Miss, our only picture.
Precious Memories
Jake and Miss, our only picture.

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.

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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.

Mel x

5 thoughts on “Feelings, Grief and Siblings”

  1. That is just beautiful and says it so well, very thoughtful and from the heart. I appreciate you sharing something very personal story. Memories oh the memories

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  2. I pretty much know “exactly how you feel”. My brother was 23 when he was killed in a tragic accident. It fractured our family of five .. our lives changed forever on that horrible day.
    My mother said she thinks it would have been easier to lose him as a baby because “we had 23 years of loving him” to get over.
    Every 18 March reduces me to tears .. every 3 December (his birthday) does the same.
    My oldest child was just 5 mths old when his Uncle (and Godfather) died .. but all 4 of my children know all about that bright star called Uncle Troy.
    Am thinking of you .. I know how hard it is. xxx

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  3. Jake is just gorgeous. Thank you for sharing. Grief is a long and complicated journey and not one you ‘get over’… you learn to go on and live with the loss, but you will never get over losing him. He will forever be your little brother and your girls uncle x

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  4. Mel
    This is so beautiful and thank you for sharing.
    As Jakes mum I always wonder how my other children are coping with this sad loss of there little brother.
    Love Mum xx

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  5. Nicely said. The empty seat never goes away. I lost my 16year old younger brother when I was 18 in a horrific car accident. Nothing ever fills the void. We were best mates and very close. It’s coming up to 16 years since he died. He will be gone the same amount of time he was with us. This astounds me but on the other hand it still feels like yesterday, I can see his face and mannerisms and his dorky laugh. I now have 3 children who each have different traits and looks of him, especially my son.
    Every birthday. Every Christmas. Every anniversary. Every family dinner. He is not there. I truly believe what we got told many years ago when he died…. that the grief and pain never goes away. But you learn to live with it. Life carries on. My kids know their Uncle Michael. We talk about him, his life and his death and the things he did, showing them photos, some of his possessions and gifts he got me. He was real and loved. And part of our family that will not be forgotten.

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