Being 46

Today I am 46 years old.

I never want to wish time away, however I found the last few months of being 45 difficult and I could not be happier to be 46.

My brother Andrew died when he was 45. My 45th birthday felt important and I celebrated it well.

All the literature tells us that grieving is an individual process - that it is not an A to B. My experience of grieving for Andrew has taught me first hand that is true which is annoying because I quite like to be in control.

He died of bi-ventricular cardiomyopathy (heart failure) in 2015, and the grieving process has been - and is - a ride.

It has shown me the full power of my sub-conscious: horrible recurring nightmares, survivor guilt (he has children and grandchildren, I don't), a dramatically altered perception of risk, a huge sense of responsibility for my parents happiness and much more. I can often get overwhelmed by panic - which creates breathlessness and worries about my heart health - when I run which is really bloody annoying given it is one of my favourite things.

The last four and a half years or so has also taught me that sometimes you just have to concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other; it has helped me get my priorities a bit straighter and to make some important life choices.

Over the past year I became conscious of a creeping sub conscious niggle that I wouldn't make it to 46. First I had some pretty odd dreams, then it started creeping into my thoughts when I was awake. Rationally it doesn't make sense. I know that. But when it comes to grief and pain our brains are, of course, much bigger and more complex than that which we can have easy control of.

I had some great adventures and a heap of learning whilst I was 45. I am grateful for all of it, but really I am just pleased to have made it through.

Being 46 will not, of course, be a panacea to the sadness which sits deep in my heart. However it does feel like an important milestone. It may not be a traditional big birthday, but I have learned that  each birthday is a big one, and I fully intend to enjoy it and I am grateful for the privilege of being alive.

I am sharing this because I haven't found much written about the experiences of a adults who have a sibling who dies. When I talk to friends and colleagues who have the impact on them has been enormous and we need to talk about it more.

Andrew's birthday is the 28th February. When we were kids he used to tease me with different versions of 'Happy birthday pipsqueak (insert other ruder words as we became teenagers). Yes it is your birthday today, but who cares mine is in a month.' I would punch him and depending on what happened next it would end in screams of laughter or buckets of tears. Annoying little shit. What I would give to hear that taunt and get the chance to punch him again. 


Comments

  1. Thank you for sharing your experience of grieving for your brother. I have lost siblings and miss them, and, like you, I am also grateful for the good things they brought to my life.

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  2. Hi Simon. Thank you so much for this. Today happens to be my late brother's birthday, so it is poignant indeed. Matthew died seven years ago at age 53 following a brain tumour. His death changed my life in so many drastic ways that I can't begin to describe. There is plenty of guilt too - I was able to do so much in my life whilst he was shy and reserved, but a genuinely kind and down-to-earth person. He must have suffered so much anguish and despair in his final months. It is only through witnessing death that one begins to understand life. I never knew what grief was, now it won't leave me alone. I love the work that you do, Simon. Long may it continue. Best wishes. Jeremy

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  3. Hi Simon. Lost my father at 33 and like Jeremy it impacted my life in so many ways. I look back and I am grateful for the insights and life value changes it presented me. Look after yourself, and and as my dad always signed off letters to me....

    Keep Smiling kido.

    Happy Birthday.

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