Ipswich: Sister’s emotive blog tells of heartache over unanswered questions about brother’s death

I NEVER thought I would be writing about the death of my brother, much less about his suicide. Most people assume nothing like that will ever happen to them.

But, here I am, one year later, trying my best to explain what the past 12 months have been like and the impact my brother’s death has had, writes Emma Davis.

To say Nathan’s death was a shock is a massive understatement. When I was told the police had found his body, it took me quite a while to realise what they were suggesting; they thought he had taken his own life.

Even now, it still seems shocking to me. When I think back to July 12 last year it still makes my stomach clench and my heart feel like it’s turned to stone.

In hindsight, you remember lots of tiny incidents you think may have been a clue; gestures, phrases, actions all seem more significant when you picture that he may have been thinking of suicide at the time.

But rationally I know there was nothing that could have alerted us to what was going to happen.

As far as we all knew he was happy. He had just finished his first year studying pharmaceuticals at Nottingham University and had done really well in his exams. He had made new friends, had a girlfriend, and still kept in touch with his schoolmates here.

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If anything it seemed to us that he had really grown in confidence since starting his course.

On the night he went up to the Orwell Bridge, he had been out drinking in town with friends, who all described him as being on ‘top form’.

Even the inquest found no evidence that showed that Nathan had intended to take his own life and the coroner’s judgement was an open verdict.

One of the most surprising things we have found is just how common our experience is. Once you start looking at suicide prevention sites and support groups you realise just how many people are affected by it.

The gender difference in the suicide rates is even more surprising. Seventy-five per cent of those who die by suicide are male. It is the single biggest cause of death in men under the age of 35 – more young men die this way than in car accidents.

I attend a support group in Bury St Edmunds – Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide (SoBS) – as it’s the only group in all of Suffolk and Essex and almost every person who attends has lost a male relative.

Suicide is obviously a complex issue and the reasons why people choose to do it are often very personal and rarely shared with those around them before it’s too late.

It’s difficult to see why there is such a big difference between the sexes. One theory is that men are less likely to share their emotions when feeling vulnerable and depressed as this is seen as more of a weakness for men than it is for women.

Gender aside, the most up to date figures from the UK show that somebody dies by suicide every 90 minutes. Yet it’s something that people rarely talk about openly.

There is no quick-fix answer to preventing suicide. But I think discussing it is a good place to start. From my own personal experience, many people are unaware of just how big of an issue suicide is until it is too late.

This is part of the reason I have started a blog. The hope is that it will make others more aware of how common suicide is and get people talking about the issues.

But I also wanted to do something positive, focus on life’s enjoyable aspects and the variety of experiences that you can have. That is why I decided to do 52 ‘firsts’ this year; one new experience every week until the second anniversary of Nathan’s death.

The plan is to do a whole range of different things in the next 12 months, from a being on a TV show to baking a souffl�. I wanted to push myself to try things I wouldn’t normally try.

The reaction to the blog has been so encouraging and it has really helped me open up to people.

In fact, the support from my friends and my boyfriend after Nathan’s death has been incredible. We had people helping us with the funeral arrangements, people bringing us dinner, and others just happy to go out on quiet walks at any time of the day.

I felt lucky to be surrounded by such people. It is amazing just how much a small gesture can mean at a time like that – I was so grateful even to those who just sent short messages of sympathy.

But it’s not just the reactions of friends who were around when it happened that staggered me. In the past year I’ve met a lot of new people. I moved to London for six months this year to complete a journalism course, which meant trying to make friends somewhere new.

I’m sure it is hard for anybody who has suffered a recent bereavement to discuss it with people they’ve only just met. But with suicide you worry that the people you are telling will be less sympathetic because of the element of choice involved.

You also worry about making others feel uncomfortable because often they do not know what to say. But it is surprising that I have suffered very few ‘bad’ reactions. Most people seem genuinely concerned and interested in what you have to say.

The only bad reactions I have experienced are when people are judgemental. I have had people tell me how selfish it was of my brother to do what he did. Of course this is a point of view I have considered myself but it makes me upset and angry if somebody who never knew Nathan judges him purely on his last act. I feel they have no right to tell me how I should feel about my brother and his death.

Even we have no real idea what was going through his head on that night. It would be far too simplistic to say he was being selfish when we just do not know the state of mind he was in.

I guess one of the hardest things to deal with is not knowing what he was thinking and why he did it. You just have to learn to live with the fact that you will never really know and there’s probably no one ‘cause’ behind what happened anyway.

As one woman at our support group put it, you have to get off the ‘what if’ carousel at some point because it leads you nowhere.

To read Emma’s blog visit www.emmas52firsts.blogspot.co.uk