Saturday, November 12, 2011

Everybody Hurts

It's been a rough few weeks and finding alone time has been difficult. I took some comfort in physics, immersing myself in my job. Since Dylan died, my physics career has given me a wonderful way to fill the time, explore the world and enjoy my own company again. But then I heard Everybody Hurts by REM, and it brought back a lot of painful memories. It's a song I've known for about as long as I can remember, and I loved it long before Dylan's death (everyone loves it, of course.) We played it at his funeral, and that made it doubly painful and doubly healing to listen to. He must have felt so alone and so helpless if he couldn't see a reason to go on living. And after he killed himself, we were all left alone together.

We all lost Dylan, but we had to deal with that loss alone, because we can't grieve for each other. Hearing this song brought back the memories of when Dylan was still alive, shortly after he died, and the years since. It's not a coincidence that I've become more insular, more guarded and more transient since losing Dylan. I don't think anyone can fill the void that Dylan's absence has left. Nothing can undo the years of hurt and the slow process of putting my life back together. I had a lot of help from a lot of people and I found many of my best friendships while I was grieving, often keep hold of them because of the grief. (When you find someone who's willing to hear you talk about bereavement one day and go for a picnic with you the next, or even from one hour to the next, you don't let go of them easily.) But even so, there has been nobody who has been at my side the whole time. I've had to find my own path, and I picked a particularly tough one. It gave me strength, hope and confidence to keep going. Having lived through all that I doubt I'll be able to ever fully commit to a relationship or be fully open with another person. I'll always find it easier to withdraw into myself, and find it harder to think that anything else has any permanence. It's as if all the things that have shaped me have already come and gone, and I was the only one to see them happen. It's almost pointless to get an impression of someone's grief and its aftermath. It's not enough to be able to fully understand what someone has been through and why they are who they are.

Anyway, here's the song, for all its power and its many interpretations. It's been there for me many times and this won't be the last time it's helped me sum up the sense of loss and then find strength.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Some good advice

I think the best advice I ever got was from Dylan. We were both teenagers and I was frustrated with how boring I found my hometown. (The feeling didn't go away until I started university.) It was simple and to the point and since long before his death it's changed my life for the better:

If you're bored then don't sit around feeling sorry for yourself.

In the months and years that followed Dylan's death it was easy to get bored and to slip into depression. So on the anniversary of his death I've tried to do something different, to get away from work and spend a weekend with friends. Most of the people I spent time with didn't know it was a special day, since Dylan died on July 4th.

Here are some photos from previous years:

A weekend in London with family and friends (2011)

A road trip to Yosemite with Eugy and Manuel (2009)

A trip to see family in friends in Crewe and Birmingham (2007)

Thursday, July 14, 2011


I kept a journal about my life and when Dylan died I used it to record what had happened. Here is the first entry after his death:

My brother committed suicide on Friday. It hasn't sunk in yet, and all family and friends are being really good about it. I've never lost anyone close before and I don't know how bad things will get or how long it will take to get through it, but the next couple of months are going to be difficult. It seems very odd that a week ago there were four or us and now there are only three of us.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Music to grieve to

One of the most powerful ways to express grief is through music. I haven't found a lot of music that helped me to grieve, but here is one song that made me feel a little better, a little less alone.

The image is from Christ Church Meadow in Oxford, where I'd often take long walks when I needed to think.

Saturday, July 9, 2011


I'm the third of four children.  For the first fifteen years of my life I shared a bedroom with my older brother, Dylan, while my two sisters shared a bedroom together.  When I was fifteen Dylan joined the army.  He travelled the world, he made great friends and he loved to be outdoors, keeping fit and exploring wherever he was.  After leaving the army he moved to Australia and took holidays in Oceania.  He had fond memories and described it as "paradise".

He moved back to the UK in early 2005.  Six months later he killed himself.  I'd been busy with exams and setting up my life after university, so I didn't see Dylan in person between his return and his death.  I still remember my last conversation with him, on the phone.  I was trying to reach my dad and Dylan answered the phone.  I invited them both to see me in Oxford a month later when I'd no longer be busy.  Within two weeks of the call he was dead.

Dylan loved being active, he loved Australia, he loved his friends and family and he loved life.  His death came as a surprise to everyone.  At his funeral the church was at full capacity, and afterwards his voicemail was full of messages from grievers.  There are dozens of photographs of Dylan in Australia, and that's how I choose to picture him, so full of energy and joy.  Whatever his reasons for his death, at least he had some glorious years in the sun, enjoying the beaches.

Beautiful grief

Grieving can certainly be an ugly process, full of confusion, bitterness and pain.  We shouldn't ignore this.  At the same time we should recognise that grief can be dignified, elegant, poignant and beautiful.  There comes a stage of grief when it very quickly moves from an seemingly unending ordeal to an uncertain, but workable and optimistic process, something which allows you to rebuild your life again.

After this stage it becomes easier to see the beauty in the breakdown and to accept it.  The closest friends I have I met while I was grieving and some of them moved away, some of them stayed in touch.  Every one of them saw me as person in need, gave some of their time and helped me along the way.  That's the kind of beauty I want to show here.  It's wistful, poignant and requires some reflection to appreciate fully.

Another blog

This blog is going to be about my grief and how it has changed my life, both for the worse, and for the better.  The concept and name were inspired by Cathy, one of the most warm and wonderful people I've ever come across.

We met one evening in Oxford, just over a year since my brother, Dylan died, and we sat up all night talking about our grief.  She had lost her father a few years before and by accident, we found ourselves together, with the privacy and freedom to talk about what was on our minds.  I still get an overpowering sense of warmth and optimism whenever I think of Cathy.

Talking to someone else who had been bereaved changed my life and filled a void that nothing else could.  For the first time I realised that I was not alone and that the feelings that I was going through were natural.  There are all kinds of thoughts and emotions that race through your head, including fear, selfishness, helplessness, pride, nostalgia and anything else you care to consider.  These feelings can come all at the same time and they need to be addressed somehow.  Years of experience (before and after Dylan's death) have shown me that the only way to deal with intense feelings is to talk about them and think about them.  Anything which makes this easier will be a great help.

I think I'm now at the stage where I can talk about Dylan and his death and its effect on me safely.  This blog isn't so much about my needs, but about other people's.  If one person reads this blog and finds their own grief just a little bit easier to handle then this blog will have served its purpose.