I’m not sure where to begin. I was present when my brother Martyn died in hospital on 11th July 2005. He was only 19 and it was the worst day of my life.
Everything changed from that moment forward, including relationships with my family and especially my friends. I became a new person.
I carry a lot of guilt.
Could I have done more; did I do the right things at the time; should I have known what was going on? These questions will live with me for the rest of my life and I will never know the answers.
Martyn was living with me in Swindon and the family was down in North Devon, a three hour drive away.
It was awful when the nurse phoned my parents from the Swindon hospital where the ambulance crew had taken him. All I could hear was Mum crying uncontrollably in the background. I think that sound will stay with me forever.
Because I had already ‘identified’ Martyn, Dad was not permitted to see him when he and my other brother, Nick, eventually arrived at the hospital.
Afterwards I was unable to go back into my flat because the death was sudden and therefore it had become ‘a crime scene’ and the police had to search it. Also, the ambulance staff had not cleaned up before they took Martyn to hospital. I was very thankful to my neighbour who did this for me before I went in.
Everything was surreal.
The lead up to the funeral was horrible. We had to decide whether to delay it to wait for Martyn’s heart to be returned by the pathologist. We decided to go ahead and donate his heart to research which would hopefully help someone else in the future.
I am not sure now how Nick and I spoke in front of the 400 people who came. I think we were on another planet and just going through the motions. I don’t think I could do it now.
We hosted a massive tea party at the wake and were comforting everyone else, which people must have thought was weird. I guess you put on a show to make people feel better as they can feel awkward dealing with grief.
Two weeks after Martyn died I had my first panic attack – flashbacks of the moment it happened, which was terrifying. I just had this horrible feeling that I was going to die. I thought if I fell asleep I would never wake again.
Over the next few weeks I had them frequently and couldn’t sleep on my own. I lost loads of weight. Sometimes my arm went numb. Physically and mentally I was a wreck.
I frequently ended up in Casualty because I thought I was dying. Reading books on anxiety and panic attacks helped greatly.
I moved back home but felt lost and disappointed with myself that I was not coping as I
thought anxiety and panic attacks were for wimps!
But grief has to come out somewhere and mine was certainly physical.
My chest pains were down to hyperventilating which also brought on the panic attacks. Lack of sleep didn’t help, but being screened helped tremendously. Nick and I were clear (as far as the doctors could tell) but then the depression kicked in and it was about three years before I could sleep on my own in a house.
I love my parents to bits and have no idea of how it feels to lose a child but sometimes
I want to scream. Occasionally I think twice about calling them because I’m not having a great day and I don’t want to upset them and can’t always cope with their grief as well as mine. Or sometimes I am having a good day and I’ll call my Mum and she’s having a a bad day, so I end up having a bad day.
You don’t want to upset your parents because they’re trying to cope too and trying to be strong. It’s like you are all trying to outdo each other on how strong you can be for each other whilst, inside, you are really not coping very well. It’s like grief is ‘the elephant in the room’.
Christmas and birthdays are never the same. A dark cloud hangs over the build-up and the actual day. Sometimes I would just like a ‘normal’ Christmas or birthday, but then I remember why we don’t and shout at myself for being so selfish. Grief is weird.
The best advice I can offer other siblings who have suffered a loss and feel like I did is to get screened, talk to your cardiologist and, if you need more answers, talk to CRY.
Also, go to the CRY support days which I found invaluable. They’re emotional but talking and listening really helps.
I have now taken up long distance running and have run 10 half-marathons and the London Marathon in memory of Martyn. It’s a positive way to remember.
My relationship with Martyn was a typical sibling relationship. Ups and downs. Times when I wanted to strangle him because he irritated me so much.
I would literally give anything if he could only be here irritating the hell out of me now. Recently we had formed a friendship rather than just having a brother/sister relationship. So, I not only lost a brother but I also lost a friend.
I will never forget Martyn and I will always talk about him, especially when I have children
because he was, and will always be a big part of my life. I will tell my children how Mummy and Uncle Martyn used to fight like cat and dog, but we always loved each other.
I feel I am a better person now. I don’t let the small things bother me anymore and I don’t waste time with people who are not worth wasting time on. You can’t buy time and it’s such a precious thing.
You do learn to cope; it takes time, but you do.