A letter to… my little brother who passed away

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‘You just had to take that first step. Tell me you were struggling.’

‘I would have dropped everything, done anything for you’: the letter you always wanted to write

When anyone asks whether I have any siblings, I say I have a younger brother. Some people ask more questions about you. How old is he? What does he do? I answer: “Oh, he passed away.”

Recently, someone asked why I say “have” and not “had”. It’s deliberate, I explained. I am a sister. A bossy, risk-averse, boundary-abiding, 31-year-old big sister. To be a big sister, you have to have a younger sibling, so…

I went through all the stages of grief after you died. Anger, searing anger. Hysterical crying. Utter loneliness. It’s been seven years since you died, and even now, occasionally, I have moments when I can’t breathe, knowing you’re gone.

Each year, something new brings this grief to the surface. In 2013 it was moving into my first house, without you. In 2014, it was getting a new job, without you. In 2017, it was getting married, without you (that was particularly hard). This year, 2019 – I’m thinking about having children, without you.

I’m scared. What if my children don’t have the relationship we had? The thought terrifies me, even more so after I learned that a lot of sibling relationships are fractious. It felt normal that ours was unconditional, fun and loving.

I know you would have been a great uncle, too. You would have been the entertaining to my serious; the naughty to my sensible. Even at 20, you were so good with children. Most guys your age wouldn’t give a second thought to a five-year-old. But you were patient and funny.

You never forgot my birthday. In fact, you gave the best birthday presents of anyone I know. I still have that black designer dress you asked my friends about. And the empty bottle of Versace perfume you knew I really wanted (sorry, hubby, but your presents don’t even compare).

And it could have all been different. I would have dropped everything, done anything for you. You just had to say. You just had to take that first step and tell me. Tell me you were struggling. That you weren’t happy. That something wasn’t right. Instead, you took your own life away from yourself. You took your life away from me.

Love you always and for ever.