Gemma's Story

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This website has been created by young people whose brothers or sisters have died. There are multiple stories from young people about their experiences. This is the story of Gemma who was 11 when her younger brother Ryan died from acute myeloid leukemia.

My name is Gemma and I am 21 years old. In 2009, when I was 11 years old, my younger brother Ryan passed away from acute myeloid leukemia. Ryan was only 7 years old when he died and had been ill for a couple of years.

Ryan spent most of the two years in hospital, coming out for a few days at a time. I still had a lot of fun with Ryan, playing computer games like club penguin with him both in the hospital, and whilst we were separate, and then playing pretend games at home, and reading him bedtime stories at night. One of the hardest parts of his treatment was when he spent 6 weeks in the bone marrow transplant unit, and I was too young to be allowed to visit him. We had to keep in touch via Skype and email, and it was difficult to be apart from him for so long – all I wanted to do as a big sister was hug my younger brother and make it better for him. I felt very protective of Ryan, and when we got to spend the afternoon out of the hospital together, I’d glare at anyone who stared at his bald head and nose tube.

Ryan had entered remission a couple of times. I remember being told that his cancer had come back, but this time treatment wouldn’t work. That was the second to worst day of my life. I felt completely destroyed and helpless, and I couldn’t imagine not having Ryan there. I remember sitting up for the entire night. I’ll never forget that feeling being told your little brother was going to die.

Ryan passed away on the 24th August 2009 at a children’s hospice. I didn’t know how to feel when he died. I was lucky to have the support of the sibling’s team at the hospice to help get by but the grief never really hit me. I often felt forgotten, being told to be good for my parents as it was a hard time, but it was a hard time for me too. Ryan’s funeral was the same day as my first day at high school. I had to go in to collect my timetable, then go to his funeral. I found the funeral very hard, and that’s when the grief first hit me. I wanted to jump into the ground after his casket, but I was held back by family members. I don’t remember much else from the funeral.

It will be 10 years this year since I lost Ryan. I still experience waves of grief. I still dread being asked if I have siblings, I still feel guilty about times when I wouldn’t play with him. But as time goes on, you learn how to cope. I miss Ryan terribly, but there’s not a day that goes by where I don’t think of him. I get prouder of him each day, and I try to tell stories about him as often as I can. Keeping his memory alive is so important to me, and I’m now at a place when I smile and laugh at our memories more than I cry. It’s so important to remember you are allowed to be happy, and not being sad all the time doesn’t make you a bad sibling at all!

If these stories remind you of moments you have experienced, or you would like to discuss how you feel, please check out our 'Get Support' section where you can find information about registered organisations who can help you.

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