It’s been more than three years since my little brother’s death. Dayne died at the age of just 19 after taking a drugs overdose. Since then, my life has been an emotional rollercoaster.
After we lost him, the hurt was so bad I couldn’t imagine ever getting to a point where I’d want to smile again – I mean really smile, genuinely, not just putting on a show for people. My family was in pieces. You’d think something like this would bring you together, that you’d help each other through the grief. Instead, we were all consumed by our own guilt, our own pain, our own endless ‘what ifs’.
It’s one of those situations you really can’t imagine until it happens. There’s no predicting just how a sudden and tragic death will affect everyone else in the family or how you’ll all react to it and each other.
I never forgot that he was my little brother and I was always there when he really needed me
I was thrilled when Dayne was born. I’d been an only child until I was eight years old so finding out I was getting a little brother was so exciting. Once I hit the teenage years, though, the age gap meant I wasn’t as interested in him. Most of the time I’d be ‘too busy’ to play or even give him that much attention.
That said, I never forgot that he was my little brother and I was always there when he really needed me. I had my own problems to deal with in high school, but if he came knocking at my door in the night and asked if he could sleep in my bed with me, I always said yes. He hated to sleep alone. It was irritating sometimes because it interfered with my love life – I couldn’t spend all night on the phone to my latest crush with him there. But I was his big sister, and if he felt safer sleeping in my room, that was ok really. I never turned him away.
I was struggling with my own demons in Los Angeles, so when I was 19 I moved to Boston for a fresh start. It still haunts me that I was 3000 miles away making a new life for myself while my brother was going through his own teenage traumas.
When he started doing drugs and getting into trouble, it wasn’t that much of a surprise
If I’m honest, the signs were there from an early age that he was having his own issues. When he started doing drugs and getting into trouble, it wasn’t that much of a surprise to our family. I’d do what I could, offering Dayne my support, but I guess phone calls and texts only go so far. I wasn’t right there with him, able to sit down and make him listen to his big sister.
I hoped that I was at least setting him a good example. I was showing him it was possible to move away from the past and leave your problems behind. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t enough to save him.
Dayne had been in and out of rehab and treatment for his drug habit for years. He’d already overdosed twice, so the third time wasn’t a huge shock. That said, I’ll never forget that morning as long as I live.
I knew what she was going to say. I just knew Dayne was dead before I even picked up the phone
Saturday, July 25, 2015. It was 5.30am on the west coast of America, and my mom was calling me from the east coast. Somehow, something in me knew what was coming. I felt like God was mentally preparing me for what I was going to hear.
As soon as I saw what time it was and that it was my mom calling, I knew what she was going to say. I just knew Dayne was dead before I even picked up the phone.
I’ve heard my mother cry before, but the sound I heard on the other end of the line was something different. In my whole life, I’ve never heard her cry in that way. I couldn’t stop myself breaking down; my throat was sore for weeks after my own screaming and crying.
I became convinced my mom had loved my brother more than me because she compared us constantly
All I could think about afterward was to wonder how I was supposed to carry on with my life now Dayne was gone. He’d never attend my wedding; never meet any children I had; he wouldn’t be there with me so we could keep each other strong when our parents died. There was so much he would miss, so much that would happen he should be there to see and share.
For the whole of the next year, I was a wreck. I was angry, sad and depressed. I became convinced that my mom had loved my brother more than me because she compared us constantly. “Dayne used to do this…but you never did. Dayne used to say that…but you didn’t.” It was her way of coping with the pain and grief, and she probably didn’t even realize she was doing it, but it really hurt me.
I felt I was competing with my precious little brother. And it was a competition I could never win because he was in heaven. All the bad things were brushed away and his memory was bright and untarnished. How could I measure up to that?
Mom wasn’t grieving in the way I thought she should be, and it bothered me. If she lashed out or wanted to be on her own, I’d take it personally. I resented that she wasn’t the mother she used to be, that she always sounded so depressed. She didn’t want to talk about anything except my brother and the memories she had of him. She wouldn’t ask what was going on in my life or how I was doing.
I wanted my mom back – the way she’d been before Dayne died. And then I had my own baby boy, on February 18 2018, and Mom was right by my side.
I finally got it. I could understand what it meant to have a child, to love it more than life
That first night, in hospital, I looked at my baby boy as he slept peacefully. And the thought suddenly hit me – how in the hell did my mom get through each day? I finally got it. I could understand what it meant to have a child, to love it more than life. That’s how I felt, even though my own baby was just a few hours old. The thought of him being taken away from me forever sent a real, physical, gut-churning pain throughout my whole body. I couldn’t survive. I’d want to die.
And yet my mom had been through this. She’d had her baby boy, raised and nurtured him, worried about him for 19 years. Now he was gone. I suddenly felt overwhelmed by compassion for her and what she was going through.
I started to see how strong she was being, rather than thinking she was weak
Each day, I loved my baby more and I understood better. It was as though a light switch had been turned on, and I could see everything. My mother had lost her baby; how dare I judge her on how she coped, how she dealt with that incomparable grief? I started to see how strong she was being, rather than thinking she was weak. I could understand the love she had for my brother and how constantly talking about him was her way of keeping him with her.
Every time I looked at my own child, I felt the fear of losing him. He’d grown inside me for nine months, he was a proper little person who was changing every day. I couldn’t imagine how devastating it would be if he were no longer there.
Mom stayed with me and my boyfriend for three months after our baby was born. We laughed together and shared some genuinely good times. Mom is a trouper and she’s really trying to heal and find new meaning in her life. I admire her for her strength, her drive and her determination to find peace.
It’s not for us to say how someone else should feel, react or cope with their own situation.
It’s been a lesson to me that in any situation, we often have no idea what someone else is going through. We judge them on our own terms, according to our own feelings and values, and that’s wrong. It’s not for us to say how someone else should feel, react or cope with their own situation.
It took the birth of my beautiful son for me to truly understand the love a mother has for her child. And it’s changed the relationship I have with my mother for the better. We will never get over losing Dayne; that will affect our family forever. But we will remember him, and we will start to heal – together.