I have an enormous amount of respect for fundraisers, those who climb great heights, swim miles, run vast distances, hurl themselves out of planes, all to raise money for wonderful causes. I wish I was one of those…but I’m not. Basically, for me it’s all a bit scary doing that kind of thing. What I can do is read, and think, and write about what I’ve read and thought and, importantly, learned. I recognised this about two years after my brother took his own life. I looked everywhere for books that could tell me about losing a sibling to suicide, more specifically the adult-sibling experience (I was thirty years old when my brother died). I wanted other people’s experiences as resources, encouragement, ideas for managing the grief, but I couldn’t find what I wanted and very much needed to read. Memoirs that were interesting, but which had purely American references that felt detached from my British experience; grief advice texts directed at counsellors of the bereaved (not the bereaved themselves); information leaflets that primarily targeted parents who had lost sons and daughters, and academic texts that covered the subject broadly, but which gave very little attention to the adult-sibling experience – all useful in their own right but none relating to what I was experiencing. I had already completed one PhD and published a few bits, so I kind of knew a little bit about research, and I could definitely see that the knowledge about the suicide bereavement experiences of adult-siblings, and the effects that such a loss can have for them, was simply not there. So I basically thought, ‘if the book’s not there, write it yourself.’

The decision to do PhD Number Two was not taken lightly – I’m at a different stage of life with a family and a mortgage to consider, (and to be fair the first experience was pretty stressful to say the least), but by chance the opportunity to apply for a scholarship in my living location came up – I applied and was granted it. In October 2016 I began what is to be a 7-year-long, qualitative-interview-based project, currently labelled under the working title of “Brothers and Sisters: Exploring the Self-Reported Experiences and Effects of Losing a Sibing to Suicide in Adult Life.”

I had thought about blogging principally about the project content, but it’s turned out that actually there are a number of facets to this research process that I’d not really thought about or anticipated; for example, being a part-time student, being a researcher with lived-experience of suicide bereavement, the change in the UK PhD research and university environment since completion of my first doctorate etc. In sum, what will appear here will pretty much be anything that comes up, anything I feel like expressing in relation to the project overall. Expect variety 🙂