I started seeing a Cruse counsellor in 2010 – and this was probably the best thing I could have done.
Sally (no other details were revealed) came to my house each week. I made a big pot of coffee and we talked – of course I had done much talking before but this was different. Gradually we explored my feelings about my brother Richard’s death – stuff I’d never really tackled before.
Richard,known to me as Pugsley – (from The Addams Family) died aged ten after being diagnosed with a kidney cancer. My mum claims not to remember exact details of the tumour but my bits of research have made me believe it to be a Wilm’s Tumour. He had been ill while staying with my grandparents and had to come home. I hadn’t been with him- we usually went to stay together as I got terribly homesick. By the time he was operated on it was clearly terminal. He had chemotherapy and radiotherapy and lost his beautiful dark hair. He lived for a little beyond the six months,dying one night at home where he’d been nursed. I went to school the next day as I wasn’t told about his death. In fact I hadn’t been told anything about his cancer or that he would die,though I can remember fearing he might die one evening when he was very ill. Dad came to meet me from the bus after school that afternoon, which was unusual, and told me as we walked home. I couldn’t bear to go into his bedroom because the bed had been completely stripped as if he hadn’t been there at all. The funeral happened quickly,I didn’t go – I wasn’t given the option to go, and maybe I wouldn’t have wanted to if asked. The house was full of flowers,particularly freesias,the scent which I associate with him. I had a day or two off school, sensing weakness I made mum buy me some new shoes and then carried on as normal.
The Cruse counselling went on for about 12 sessions and during that time I discovered a wonderful book called Sibling Grief by P.Gill White – so much in it could have been written about my situation. Sibling grief is often misunderstood or overlooked,with the focus on the bereaved parents. People kept inviting my parents to leave us, the children, with them so they could get away for a break – how could they think we would want to be left by our parents at such an awful time ? They never did take up the offers,but we didn’t grieve or talk about Richard as far as I can remember, at least not in the usual ways.