Friends who had come to support me at the funeral didn’t have a clue what to say as none of us had ever lost anyone younger than a grandparent before. I had never felt so alone. Where was my brother? Where was my best friend? I wanted to talk to Kevin – he would understand how I was feeling. I didn’t want to be at my brother’s funeral. I wanted to go back home where we could pretend this wasn’t happening.
At the Inquest we sat together and learnt my 23 year old brother had died of ‘natural causes’. Not having a reason for Kevin’s death made it hard to accept. How can someone so seemingly fit and healthy just die sitting down? This thought haunted me. I was so afraid that Mum and Dad would die without notice. What would I do? What if I died? What would happen to Mum and Dad? They wouldn’t be able to cope. What would happen to me? What if there isn’t an afterlife? I was absolutely terrified.
Two and a half years after Kevin had died I became totally consumed by these fears and every single night for about seven months, lay awake petrified that if I closed my eyes I wouldn’t wake up.
I felt I had no control over my life – It didn’t matter how healthy my lifestyle was, or how cautious I was when driving my car, because at any moment, without feeling the slightest bit unwell, I could just be sitting in a chair and my heart would decide to stop beating. It wasn’t irrational, because it had happened to Kevin! We are no longer a family whose bubble has been untouched: and suddenly the incredibly unlikely, is frighteningly possible.
Mum and Dad dedicated their lives to making their children’s lives the best they could be. Just as they were about to see their son prosper, he died, and a part of my parents died with him. The awful sound of their crying would wake me each morning and there was nothing I could do to take their pain away. It would have been so easy for them to give up on life, but they didn’t and I am so grateful for that.
I quickly learnt that the one thing that gave my parents happiness in this new version of life, was me. My happiness and plans for the future gave them hope. How can I be happy when Kevin has lost his life? He can’t go on the amazing holidays I have enjoyed and learn to ski or swim with dolphins. Kevin can’t meet the love of his life and get excited about their future together. Kevin has no future! I place an awful lot of guilt on myself for being the sibling who didn’t die! I feel an immense pressure to live my life for two people and to give my parents enough love for two children.
Relationships with friends changed after Kevin died… I changed when Kevin died. My friends were a fantastic support initially, but after about two years, stopped asking me how I was feeling. Those with boyfriend problems seemed to get more sympathy than I did; but then my friends could relate to that: they knew what that type of pain felt like. I couldn’t talk about it with Mum and Dad because they got upset and I couldn’t bear seeing my parents cry anymore… Maybe my friends couldn’t bear to see me cry anymore?
I’m not angry with them. I’m not sure I would have realised the intensity of bereavement before losing Kevin. Someone new in my life did understand the grief I was feeling; my now fiancé Andrew. Unfortunately he never met Kevin, but somehow, he just ‘got it’. He has never complained and is unbelievably patient and understanding… He has been there for me every step of the way, in every way possible and I wouldn’t be where I am today without him. He is my happiness and my hope for the future.
I wouldn’t change my life or the 21 years I had with my big brother Kevin for 80 years with someone else’s brother. The details of our childhood together and the memories we created are so precious. I love my brother so much, and miss him more than words can express.
I will continue to do as much as I can in life, because he can’t; and know one day we will meet again… but not yet, not yet.