The first year without him

It has been nearly a year since my brother died. I think I’m doing much better but every so often it hits me like an explosion again. I’ve cried and cried today.

I just knew the anniversary of his death was around about now but I’d blocked out the actual day. It was December 11.

I remember different things about that day but I don’t remember all of it. I don’t think he was supposed to die so quickly or I wouldn’t have left the hospital. I think I was having a day off from doing the sleeping over night shift because I was worn out.

The nurses noticed a change in him and told my SIL that she could call family. While she was talking to me her friend came out of the room and I heard her say, “You’d better come now.”

I knew. I told my husband that he had just died but we shouldn’t tell my mother, who we were driving down (her husband being away for the day). As soon as we drove into the hospital car park I saw the priest there in his long black garb and I wasn’t surprised. My husband dropped us off and went to park and we went straight up to the ward. I can’t remember what my mother did but I remember my SIL grabbing my hand and pulling it under the covers, onto his stomach, saying “he’s still warm, feel!’

I didn’t want to but I let her do it because she obviously needed to. His lips were starting to go white as the blood left them.

I don’t know where my husband was at that time. I walked out into the hallway because they wanted to do a bedside blessing/moving on thing and I didn’t want to be part of it. I remember calling my stepfather and telling him because I knew he’d want to come home and support my mother.

I remember my mother yelling at me because I’d done that: she didn’t want to interrupt his day sailing and she would tell him later. I tried to say to her that he would be unbelievably hurt if he wasn’t involved and I knew this because of how I felt when nobody told me he was even diagnosed with a brain tumour. She screamed at me anyway.

I was so embarrassed that this was going on in the public hallway. I just wanted to hug her and grieve with her but she wouldn’t even touch me. I always knew he was her favourite child but that really rammed it home.

I don’t remember funeral plans as such. I recall I had a reading and that my husband would do it if I couldn’t.

I only remember flashes of the funeral. I know that so many people came up to me and I was so touched that they did but I couldn’t process anything.

I know that I am doing better. I particularly know because I had an appointment with my psychiatrist yesterday; followup from treatment.

He’d asked me check in during the year about how well I was doing and to look at starting some sort of medication maintenance. I was definitely open to the idea but it wouldn’t work with my lifestyle. I have the best intentions in the world when it comes to regularly taking medication but it doesn’t survive on the road – there have been days when I’ve noticed an untied shoelace at 7 am and not had a moment I recall it needs attention until 1 pm.

The medication he wants me on has some nasty side effects and needs to be monitored, in order to avoid them. That’s a little bit scary when you can be 12 hours driving time from the nearest town and the ultimate side effect is death.


I asked about maintenence ECT and that, again, needs to be done on a regular basis, which my job would never allow.

We settled on rescue ECT because it is so effective for me. That means outpatient treatment as soon as life crises start to overwhelm me – I need to monitor myself and my husband needs to also. The doctor was inclined to support my view that I was doing okay and that means a lot.

I am honestly just being family aware and bracing myself for the next bad time but currently I do generally like life, apart from these horrible waves of grief.

Next person will be my mother, I think. She has various anomalies that medical people are constantly checking out and I think I already know that the answer is cancer; they just have to pin it down to where. Note, she doesn’t have this point of view and I respect that but I can hear that damn deathclock clicking again.

It’s been a pretty good year, all told. I’m so grateful for a break from heartache but I don’t think I can expect it to last.

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