My brothers death is still on my mind

(8 Posts)
IAmSheWhoMustBeObeyed Tue 30-Oct-12 21:13:09

30 years on. He was 11 and had leukaemia. I was 16.
He developed the illness at 3, had treatment and it went into remission. My other brother and I were told he was ill. We sometimes went to clinic with him while he had lumbar punctures. It was a long boring afternoon for us.
Whilst it was in remission life was pretty normal. We all went to school, played and fought. The two boys were more pally but basically we all got on. We were not a touchy feely family at all.
My mum and dad separated. My mum got a full time job. I don't remember being told but at some point the leukaemia came back. He went for treatment, he was off school sometimes. It seemed like no big deal, nothing was said, it was routine. He and my mum had their clinic treat- going to a nearby cafe and having coffee. She worked hard and cooked and we all watched TV together. I had my friends, my room and music. I was doing ok at school.
My brother would have nosebleeds sometimes. Then he would have a couple of days off school with my mum after a visit to the hospital. One morning he had felt ill overnight, had had a nosebleed and my mum said they were off to the hospital. So when my other brother and I got home to an empty house we weren't surprised. It got later and later. Around eight my mum came in. She stood in the doorway and said "your brother is going to die. I need to go back to the hospital now but I thought I should come and tell you"
My brother swore and after a shocked silence I burst into tears. My mother said "will no one give me a hug?" no one moved. I felt frozen. She left again after some talk of what we should have for dinner.

The funeral happened. Life continued. Some snippets:
I found that my mum had cut out any drawings of my brother from my sketchbooks. She had put them in her scrapbook about him. Over the years she has frequently said I should have realized how ill my brother was. I should have known. My other brother had realized why hadn't I? About two years after the event during a long hot drive when I was a teenager in a black gloom she told me I was not good company like my brother had been. They could chat about anything. Saying "I know you don't like talking about your brother (I didn't) you just don't understand".
I feel guilt for not knowing my brother better, for not liking him much at the time, for not having more sympathy when he was ill and having treatment for resenting my mother's closeness to him.
I am angry with my mother for the way everything was handled.
I can understand that she did what she felt was right at the time.
It feels good to put it all down. We rarely talk about him now. There is too much underneath.

MarshmallowFarm Tue 30-Oct-12 21:22:05

You are still grieving. You need to process it all, sort it all out in your head and come to terms with what happened. You need to reclaim your own version of events and see things as they actually were for you, rather than continuing to let your mum's needs skew your memories and experiences.

What she went through should never happen, and devestated probably doesn't begin to describe it. However, you were a teenager; you thought he would be ok, like he had been before. To your eyes it was a chronic condition rather than a terminal one. How could you possibly have known?

It does sound as if your mum needed you and your brother for emotional support, failing to be a mother to you at that point, as you switched the adult/child roles. Who was there to comfort you in your grief?

I think you need to cut yourself a lot of slack. Would you consider counselling? It would help you to understand how all of this has impacted you, and to untangle what has happened in your relationship with your mum.

Please don't feel guilty or allow yourself to feel like anything you did was wrong. You are looking at things through adult eyes now, but you were a child at the time sad

daytoday Tue 30-Oct-12 21:32:52

Oh my heart goes out to you and your younger self.

I think your mum saying 'you should have known' is unfair and fueled by her own grief, so please don't take it to heart. Although I'm sure it has cut you to the bone. Grief really devastates families and all their relationships.

Do you know any 16 year olds? Watch them and see how young they are - how little they know of the world.

Time robbed you of your relationship, it was nothing you did or nothing that could have been done differently.

I think you should find a bereavement councillor and find a safe place to work through your feelings.

IAmSheWhoMustBeObeyed Tue 30-Oct-12 21:41:42

Thank you for posting. I am crying now.

IAmSheWhoMustBeObeyed Tue 30-Oct-12 21:42:23

And I haven't even had winegrin

MarshmallowFarm Tue 30-Oct-12 21:53:22

crying is good ..... Maybe you are actually starting to feel things that you couldn't feel at the time, as the focus was on your mum's feelings, not yours or your other brother's.

I was really struck by your description of your Mum telling you he would die - how it was all focused on her need for a hug, rather than any acknowledgement of your feelings. Of course she was in terrible emotional pain but you may have needed her to give you permission to feel things too. Instead it sounds like you got the message that life had to go on and only your mum had the right to be upset? Forgive me if I have misinterpreted, it's just the sense I got from reading your story.

You really do need to acknowledge your own feelings and, most importantly, your right to feel them.

Only you know how best to deal with all of this. But the fact that 30 years on you are still mulling over the events suggests that the grief process is stuck and needs to be unlocked.

IAmSheWhoMustBeObeyed Tue 30-Oct-12 22:19:58

One conclusion I have come to is that at the time and indeed until very recently my mum was the only bereaved one. She had lost a child. She felt grief but she didn't show it. She hid it from us. And of course that was an extra complication. It was only in the last year or so during a conversation that she said something about "of course you lost a brother" which was striking because nothing like that had been said before.
I actually do not know how I feel about my brother. I didn't know him well. At 15 and 16 I was very into my own life, myself I suppose and my friends and school. An 11 year old brother wasn't someone I wanted to spend time with. There was the immediate shock of his death. Then the suspended belief - he was gone but he would appear again....soon.....Then some feelings when I thought "now he would have been sitting his exams, now he would have been leaving school, I wonder what he would have been doing"
Am I just crying for myself? Who do I feel for?

Everlong Tue 30-Oct-12 23:48:36

How hard for you. I'm sorry you're struggling. I think you are crying for him, you, your mum. I think as a parent who loses a child it can become easy to become engulfed in your own grief that you lose sight of what other people in your family are actually going through.

You did lose a brother and before this your parents divorced, mum went out to work, so a lot of changes for you.

Just thinking back to when my own mother died when I was 4 nobody told me where she was and that she wasn't coming back. I think in those day people dealt with dying and death totally different to now. They hid it, from everyone including themselves.

I second you talking to a bereavement counsellor. I think it would help you.
I hope so. You don't deserve to feel this sad.

Hugs x

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