I have a guilty, grieving conscience. A part of me which insidiously waits for a trigger. Something to light the spark which sends me back down that same spiral of grief, and once again wraps me in the wires of our complex relationship. Reminding me of everything I have lost, and what little I have gained.
When my brother died six years ago, I went through all of the motions. On the day I found out, I was pinging between denial and depression. A few days later, it was nothing but anger. Every day came a new set of just as indescribable feelings, way beyond the grasp of 13- year-old me, and still just as overwhelming to 19-year-old me today.
My guilty, grieving conscience fixates on the lows and wants me to forget the highs. It replays the worst moments of my life like an iconic movie reel, where I’m the main character and my co-star has just been led to a harrowing, gut-wrenching end.
“My guilty, grieving conscience fixates on the lows and wants me to forget the highs.”
Over and over, I question what makes my life more liveable than my brothers. He didn’t deserve to die at 15, with every hope, dream and prospect ahead of him. With a passion for just being able to live and breathe and be at the precipice of life’s next adventure.
Now I will never know the answers to my trivial questions.
When someone asks if I have any siblings, I wish I didn’t have to slightly pause and decide how vulnerable I’m willing to be that day. How much of myself I’ll put on the line for a complete stranger to judge or sympathise or have an opinion. Am I honest and tell them I had a brother but he passed away? Or do I lie and erase him from my world? Neither feels right or fair.
Withholding the truth feels dirty. Like I can’t wipe off the shame of losing someone I love immensely, although it’s a situation completely out of my control. My guilty, grieving conscience loves this quandary, which lingers in my mind for hours after every encounter.
“When someone asks if I have any siblings, I wish I didn’t have to slightly pause and decide how vulnerable I’m willing to be that day.”
When I try to picture what he would be like now, my guilty, grieving conscience likes to remind me he didn’t even make it to 16, let alone 18 or 21. I contemplate if he would be tall. How much would he have grown over the last six years? And if he did, by how much? And would he be taller than dad? Or his friends? This is the thoroughness that I consider every single detail of who he was. Who he would be. That yearning to know never seems to dissipate.
Like me, my grief has changed. It has become less of an open wound and more of a dull ache. There won’t be a day where I don’t think of him. But now, thinking about him doesn’t make me sob every time. A song can come on the radio and perhaps I’ll smile, because I know he would’ve liked it. Other times I’ll just switch it off. I can look at pictures of our childhood and feel the fondness of that time through it.
And occasionally – when my guilty, grieving conscience is having a day off or not paying attention – I can watch a video and hear his voice. Young, cracking, bright and enthused. At least a small part of me gets to enjoy the simplicity of remembering my brother, without constantly being reminded that he’s not here.
“At least a small part of me gets to enjoy the simplicity of remembering my brother, without constantly being reminded that he’s not here.”
I don’t think I will ever reach a point in my life where these things don’t possess me. I know there will always be questions, which will always go unanswered. I know that I will never be able to know where he’d be or what he’d be doing. I know that I will never be an auntie and have nieces or nephews of my own to spoil. And I know that we will never travel the world and get closer to our West Indian heritage together.
All of these things that I know and can now accept. Because my guilty, grieving conscience may remind me of what I have lost, but I refuse to forget how much I’ve been able to gain.
Kira Mae Richards is a 19-year-old student journalist from London. She specialises in personal essays, opinion pieces, arts and culture writing. @kiramaerichards
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