Alex Williams, the founding Young Ambassador for Meningitis Now and the inspiration behind our Believe & Achieve Programme, was passionate about raising awareness of the disease despite being left with numerous and severe after-effects. In 2012, 11 years after he first become ill, he sadly passed away
To mark the anniversary of his passing, his sister Abbie has shared her deeply personal experience of acknowledging and coping with grief and bereavement, in her own words.
“The 1st August is the day for me. The day I wake up and want to throw the bed sheets over my head and forget the day, but unfortunately that’s not how things work. There is usually a build-up to my “Alex Day”, Alex being my 18-year-old brother who passed away. Usually, I find myself scared in the lead up to this horrible day. How do I act? What do I do? What do I say to people? If you ask yourself those sorts of questions then let me tell you you’re not the only one, and it’s okay to ask yourself that.
“Normally, on my Alex Day I tend to do something Alex would love doing with my mum and dad. I’ve spent the days shopping, sightseeing and going to attractions just to keep us busy, because we all know our minds race. Your emotions run high. They twist and turn like a rollercoaster, and I blow hot and cold. One minute I’m smiling and the next, bang! It hits me. I know everyone is different in these situations. It’s okay to smile, laugh, cry, get angry or enraged. It’s your way of dealing with things and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
You are still important
“So, it’s the Alex Day. The day I’ve been dreading for weeks. I open my phone, and I don’t get a single message. Instantly, my heart sinks. Have people forgotten what day it is? Have they remembered me? Often, I find the parents are the ones flooded with kind words and messages, and the siblings are forgotten. I’m not after sympathy, and I’m also not the one to post the day on social media for everyone to see. There is nothing wrong with doing that, but it isn’t my strategy. You may be asking yourself, “Why are you bothered about getting a text?” Well, let me tell you. It means a lot to me. It shows me that people care, and that they understand it’s a day where I struggle more than most. Just because you’re a sibling of someone passing doesn’t make anything different. Nothing changes. You are still important.
“If you have experienced this yourself then it does make you feel a bit lost. But you can talk to people. Talking is the best mechanism. I always say a problem shared is a problem halved. It doesn’t matter who you talk to. It could be a friend, a parent, your aunty, uncle, or a teacher at school or college. I think as long as you have trust in someone, you can tell them anything. In the past, I’ve found it’s hard to talk and speak out about your feelings, and that’s okay. But think about all the support around you in your little world and you will go far.
It's okay to feel angry
“Anger is a different kind of emotion. I hate it. If I’m angry then that’s it for me! I said before it’s okay to feel angry towards your feelings on the person you have lost, I’ve felt that too. Some people say to me, “Abbie, do you still feel sad about your brother?” I pause. Of course I do! I get questions like that a lot and it does start a fire inside and I rage. In my head I’m saying, “Did you really just ask me that?” I know some people say things like that to be kind or help. But they don’t help! If that’s a conversation that you’ve encountered just take it with a pinch of salt. Of course you feel sad about your loved one; that is okay. You’re the person in control of your own feelings.
“Think of your feelings as bags in a jar. I do. Not all of your bags will fit, so it’s your responsibility to not let them overflow. When you have your angry bag at the bottom, topped with the emotional bag, then the sad bag, then an angry bag, the jar will smash. We don’t want a smashed jar do we?!
“If you feel like your emotions are piling up in your jar, it’s your choice to change your sad to happy! Some of you may be thinking it’s easier said than done. But trust me, it works. Take a breather whenever you need and do something to chill you out. That could be reading a book, listening to music, taking a walk or doing some exercise (that’s what I do) or just sit alone in your own little bubble. I sometimes do that while eating cinnamon rolls and that’s okay too! Remember, you are the one in control.
You are okay
“So, if you have read this and thought it was a complete waste of time, don’t worry - I won’t go mad about it because I’m not the best author. But I want you to take away an important message that will hopefully stick in your brain: ‘’It’s okay!’’ You are okay, and however you feel is okay. If your jar fills up with bags it’s okay but it’s your choice to change it! Your journey of loss isn’t easy and it can’t be travelled on your own. Look around you and see the support and people to talk to - it will make your journey less stressful. Your journey might never end, that is okay, but stay in control and speak out about how you feel and your jar of bags might stay at a sensible weight. You know what to do if it fills up!
“Two phrases you need to remember…
“”Speak out” and “It’s okay!”
Read more about Alex and his incredible legacy at Meningitis Now.