The moment my life changed forever

I lost my brother to suicide nearly 11 years ago. He was 34 and I worked with him in a fireplace business. When a job opportunity came along for me to work in America for 5 months, he told me to go and pursue my dreams. On coming home I found his business had gone bankrupt, he had lost his home, and his marriage had broken up. He had disappeared, and although a friend of his told me he had gone on holiday, five weeks had gone by and I was quite worried about him. I broke into his flat and found he hadn’t gone away at all. He had hung himself and he had been there for 5 weeks. There I was, with my brother hanging in front of me – and he was totally unrecognisable.  I was frozen to the spot.  It was a moment which changed my life forever. Police came and took me home. My wife Joy, to whom I am eternally grateful for sticking by me through my darkest days, took me to my Doctor and explained to him what I’d found. He recommended a long walk. If I’d started walking as he suggested, I might never have stopped (and yes, I changed my GP). Years of private counselling sessions which cost a fortune never satisfied my troubled mind. After 8 years I found SOBS completely by accident on the internet. I rang the helpline and I spoke to a woman called Jennie – another person to whom I’m eternally thankful. After speaking to Jennie, it felt like I’d been let out of prison – my own prison. I had found someone who truly understood my feelings and helped me feel normal again. I realised I wasn’t going mad after all. I was grieving for a brother who died tragically. I phoned Jennie on many occasions and travelled to her support group an hour and a half drive from my home. I am truly thankful to her and to SOBS and what they did for me. Looking back, I realise just how far I’ve come without truly knowing it. I know there are people like me out there who need help to cope with the awful feeling of isolation that suicide brings. I shout about SOBS to all who will listen.  John, another survivor, said, “It’s a long and winding road”. Never have truer words been spoken. Seeing the people who get involved with SOBS who are themselves on that road, and who want to give something back, gives me a good feeling.

“Have I ever got over my brother’s death?” The answer is no, I don’t think we ever do get over something like that, but we do move on – sometimes without even knowing it. I even feel we get life in a better perspective.


Thoughts about my sister

I never expected my sister to kill herself. Yet I suppose I should have. Why does someone kill themselves? What takes them to the point of no return? Who knows? I didn’t understand then and I don’t fully now. But I am learning to accept what happened without it dictating my life. I have my opinions but that is all they are…never let the guilt or the questions rule your life, they can eat away at you and it stops you moving forward.

The pain is always there; a constant reminder of my regrets, a symbol of despair, a sign of weakness, a tale of hopelessness, missed opportunities and broken promises. My life has been filled with all of these things; the most amazing highs and the unimaginable lows. And ultimately it led to the breakdown of a family and the destruction of life.

When Hanna died my life fell apart, I had been struggling before but that was nothing compared to the unimaginable pain I felt after she died. Someone told me she thought it might help to write to Hanna and put a letter in her coffin telling her everything I wanted, everything I needed to say but didn’t get the chance. I did it then and have continued to do it at other difficult times…some people are talkers, like me, but even I could not say some things and writing letters to her helped.

To my baby girl,

I write this as a year from your death is upon me. In just a few hours it’ll be a whole year since you died and each day of that year has taken its toll on me. I feel so much older than I should. The year has etched scars into me; my mind, my heart, my spirit and my face. It has got easier, but it’s also got harder. I still think about you all the time. But if I don’t, I feel guilty, like you’ll think I’ve forgotten you or that  I don’t care, And believe me when I say I do care. I care about you so so much and I miss you. I hope you have found peace. I think about that a lot. I think about the fact that you didn’t have peace whilst alive and I pray to God that you have found it now. I have your pictures all around me, I worry that if I don’t I’ll forget what you look like. I feel so guilty when I get angry with you. And I do get angry with you. Angry for the way you make me feel. Angry for the way my life has changed since you died. Angry with you for leaving. Angry with you for so many things and none of which are truly your fault.


I miss you. A year has gone by and it’s been the longest year of my life yet I can’t believe it’s already February again. I know that’s a contradiction but that’s how my life is now. For the first few months after you left, I dreaded that certain day of each month. Now I dread Christmas, birthdays and days like today. They are constant reminders that you are not here anymore and it’s not enough just to look at your pictures or remember memories I have of you. None of that is enough yet it’s all I’m left with. I think about you all the time, in everything I’m doing. I have pictures of you everywhere as I have a constant fear that I’ll forget what you look like. I know in my head that I won’t, but my heart rules over my head most of the time. I think about all the things that happened before you died. You didn’t have peace whilst you lived and I just hope that you have now. I loved you so much and I still do now. I miss you every day and I always will. X x x x x

 It’s strange how things change without people noticing. One morning a person can wake up and know the relationship that they are in is, or might as well be, over. Some people have an epiphany, a moment of clarity that changes there life. None of that happened to me. Yet gradually I started to realise that I was living my life again; in fact I was living and enjoying life again. Things started to change for me in the weeks after the anniversary of Hanna’s death. After having to deal with Christmas, her birthday and then the realisation of a year passing, something in me changed. Those few months before, felt like I was right back where I had been after she had died. Emotions that were still so strong were starting to take over again. The main difference this time was that, after having the therapy and counselling, I had better ways of dealing with it. That is not to say that I wasn’t an emotional wreck, because at times I was. On the day of Hanna’s birthday I had a friend stay with me for hours because they didn’t want to leave me alone. And in all honesty, in those darker days, I thought of ending my life. Through my own choice I didn’t speak to my parents but Hanna’s death had left a huge barrier between me and my brother and sister. That was the hardest thing to take and I found it hard to get by at times.  Many clichés were spoken to me that year but most have a segment of truth to them. I really did learn who my friends were and my friends were what kept me going in those difficult times. This account is a testament to the strength and support they offered me, as without them, I’m not sure I would be here.

This part of a letter I wrote to Hanna was written just a few weeks later, a signal of how things can change:

My Han,

The day you died, I lost a big part of myself and I’ve only managed to get a small amount of that back. I’ll never get that back fully because it went with you, but I haven’t lost everything. It has taken me such a long time but I definitely know now that I didn’t lose everything. I lost you, and I lost myself for a while but I have the most amazing friends, a great job where I can, and hope I do, make a difference, and I’ve got a life to lead, and I’m going to lead it and try to do the best I can and make you proud of me, Your life was so short, and could have been so much more, but your death has taught me that life is fragile and a precious thing. Someone once said to me that we are here on borrowed time. Maybe they’re true, and if they are, I need to get on with living.

Forever in my heart and always on my mind. X x x x x x