Compassion Summer 2021

Summer 2021 - Compassion | 12 I’m the youngest of three children. I lost both my siblings. My sister died when we were teenagers. My brother died just after I turned 30. From being the youngest, I have become the oldest. It’s not a position I ever wanted. Grief is very different for children. Because it has happened to me twice, I understand that now. I didn’t when it happened the first time. When you’re a child you don’t have tools to process what’s happening to you. The key thing to say about grief and children, from my experience, is that it’s very frightening. Everything you think is certain, disappears. Your parents change overnight. Your family changes shape. Your position and your role in the family change. You don’t quite know who you are or who you’re supposed to be. It’s a new landscape. You’re still going to school, and you still look like a child. And that’s the second big aspect, which I think is loneliness. You’re not like your peers any more. They don’t understand. And you can’t be carefree – which they can see, but they probably don’t understand, or don’t know how to help. I actually have my diary from that time. I was 14. Before Nikki died, the voice of the person writing is a fairly cheery kid. And that’s true even though I knew she was very ill, that she had tried suicide, and I was very afraid she would die. There’s a break of three months after Nikki died and the diary starts again. And it’s the voice of an adult. Quite simply. It’s a sudden leaving behind of childhood. It’s hard to understand all this when it’s happening - I certainly didn’t as a child at the time. I think this is why people bereaved in childhood circle back to grief - something I have done. Sometimes because understanding drops into place later as you go along. Sometimes because something that wasn’t resolved or understood at the time is triggered, and you have to use your new adult brain to understand it now. And sometimes because you meet a milestone in your life, like having children, that brings a new aspect of the loss that you hadn’t known would exist. When my brother Robin died, he was 32 and I was 30. We’d lost Nikki, and so we knew how important we were to each other. And when I realised Rob was going to die, I thought, it was unbelievable, but I also thought I knew about grief, and what was coming towards me. With some dread. To some extent I did. I’m not fazed by how difficult Christmas and birthdays and Mothering Sundays are. I have the T-shirt. I already knew how hard it is to watch your parents grieve, how overwhelming that can be, and how hard it is to disentangle your self and find space to feel and recognise your own loss. I was able to protect myself better when Rob died, just because I understood what was happening better - what my parents needed and what I needed. Second time round I also understood that sibling grief is a different thing. It’s a different bond. We grow up round each other, we shape each other. I think when you lose your Being Understood is Powerful Medicine (from the TCF Talk, Upright with Knickers On)