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Ian - Interview 32

Age at interview: 39
Brief Outline: In 1999 Ian's brother, Dorrie, was shot. He died soon afterwards. Ian was deeply shocked but he supported the rest of the family and kept his faith in God. Dorrie's death made Ian reassess his life, and live not only for himself but also for Dorrie.
Background: Ian is a Parenting Officer. He is married and has 1 child. Ethnic background/nationality: Black British

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One night in 1999 Ian got the news by telephone that his brother, Dorrie, had been shot. At first Ian thought that Dorrie was still alive and he prayed that Dorrie would survive. However, soon Ian received the news that Dorrie had died. It was a terrible shock. Ian went numb and screamed. He then prayed again and asked God why it had happened. He did not feel angry with God but he wanted to understand why Dorrie had died and why a member of the family had been murdered.
 
Ian went to the hospital to meet other members of the family. There they went to see Dorrie’s body. Ian was comforted to see that Dorrie looked at peace. Seeing his body helped Ian to accept that Dorrie was indeed dead.
 
Ian’s faith was shaken by his brother’s death. However, but his faith was also deepened because he realised that God had helped him come through the experience. The morning after Dorrie died Ian helped with a summer school at his church. The words of the song that morning in assembly gave him strength to carry on. Other people who attended the summer school found it hard to know what to say.
 
The police liaison officers were helpful and kept the family informed. They showed Ian where Dorrie had died. Ian felt it was important to see where Dorrie had been shot and where he had fallen minutes later.
 
At first the newspapers referred to Ian’s brother as Donnie rather than Dorrie, which was very upsetting. Many other people sent flowers to the house, which some members of the family appreciated. However others did not like receiving flowers because they were a reminder that Dorrie had died.
 
The coroner released Dorrie’s body for the funeral about six weeks after his death. His body was in a closed casket for the funeral, because of the condition of his body. Usually, during most Black Caribbean funerals the casket is kept open so that others can view the body. About five hundred people came to the funeral, which was wonderful. Ian found it comforting to see so many people offering support. The service was taken by the minister of the Evangelical, Pentecostal church. The family planted a tree near the spot where Dorrie had died.
 
Dorrie’s death made Ian reassess his life. He realised that life is precious and that every day is important. He went back to further education and qualified as a counsellor. Ian feels that he is living, not only for himself but also for Dorrie.
 
Ian did not go to the inquest or the court case. A man was charged with possessing the gun that killed Dorrie, and he was sent to prison, and given the maximum sentence for possessing a gun. No one was charged with Dorrie’s murder because there wasn’t enough evidence.
 
After Dorrie’s death Ian felt that he had to be strong for other people. He had to support his mother, wife and sister. However, before Dorrie died Ian had attended a meeting of a group of other men who wanted to support each other. This was organised by a friend who belonged to the Catholic Church. After Dorrie died Ian attended another meeting of the group. There he was able to express his grief and he felt supported and comforted.
 
Ian now accepts that God allowed Dorrie’s death. However he works hard to prevent other violent deaths and he does voluntary work with the organisation, Mothers Against Violence.
 
Ian was interviewed in January 2009.
 

As soon as Ian heard that his brother had been shot he started to pray. Then he heard that Dorrie...

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It was, yeah, I remember it being one of the busiest weeks of my year because I was working at summer school, and I was quite used to, to doing this because it was something I’d done over a number of years, so I was prepared and geared for this very, very busy week that I was going to have.
 
And anyway the second day I was exhausted, I remember coming home, being very, very tired, my family and myself, because my wife also does the summer school with me, and my son attended with us, and he was very, very young at the time, so it had been a really, really busy day and we came home and I remember us having a very, very early night, and going to bed round about eight. And then it was phone call that that woke me up, and I didn’t actually get to the phone in time, but when I did I received a message and it was my sister’s boyfriend and in the message he had just said that my brother had been shot, and my family had gone to the hospital. I called back and he sort of gave me a bit of, of detail on what had happened, and my sister had just left, my Mum had just left for the hospital, Junior had been shot, and we refer to him as Junior because Junior was named after his Dad, who was Dorrie, and at home we called him Junior, because he was Dorrie Junior.
 
So I got the call, I remember putting the phone, the phone down, and turning to my wife, and telling her that Dorrie Junior had been, had been shot and the first thing I felt I needed to do was to pray, because I had the faith in God, and I believed that he was going to be with me, and was going to protect me and was going to, I think make sure that everything was going to be right. And I guess even that faith at that particular time, I also believed that nothing would seriously happen to my brother, that he wasn’t, wasn’t going to die, he wasn’t going to you know die like they were, that the faith that I had was going to make sure that he would live. Like there was a sense of going down in and praying that he would be okay, and that he would be fine.
 
And as I started that prayer the phone went again, and I stopped praying, I picked up the phone and it was my sister on the phone and her words were, “Junior’s dead.” And my whole body just went numb.

 

My whole body was just, it’s an experience that I’ve never had before, and I’ve never had since. Because everything in my whole being just became paralysed for from a moment and I remember just screaming a scream that just came out from the bottom of me you know. I remember, my sister recalls that hearing it on the phone, this scream that she’d never heard before in her life, and my voice never had sounded like that before, and since, but it was just it was almost as though something had been removed. I can only describe it as something like a leg or an arm, something had been removed from my body and I was never going to have it back again.
 
And I was totally lost in that that grief, that shock, and I was just lost for a period of time, and I guess quickly I went back to my faith. I went back to God again and thinking, “God Why? That shouldn’t have happened to me, that shouldn’t have happened to my family.” You know, we’re a God-fearing family, where we’re, we’ve always believed in you, we’ve always had faith in you, we’ve prayed together, we’ve done all the things, why has that happened to my baby brother?”
 

When Ian trained as a counsellor he was told that there are stages in grief and that one stage is...

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Did you feel angry at all?
 
Personally, I didn’t no. I always say that you know, even when I did my training as a counsellor, I was told that you know there are so many stages in grief, and one of them is, is anger, feeling angry and it’s been ten years, you know since his death, and I’ve never got to that stage, I’ve never experienced that stage. I never ever felt angry. I told you earlier on about the faith I had in God, and even then I wasn’t angry at him, I mean I just wanted to understand what did I miss, what did I miss here, because I wasn’t expecting this to happen to me, so I never ever experienced anger, and I know anger, and I’ve experienced anger in many, many ways in many, many experiences in the past, but during my brother’s death I was never angry. I was never angry.
 
How about have your feelings changed over the ten, over the years?
 
Well yeah my feelings have, have changed a lot. I don’t feel I’m shocked anymore. I was, I was greatly shocked at the beginning, hearing of his death, I was extremely shocked but that has gone, I’m no longer shocked. So that’s changed in me. I feel that I’m much more proactive with my life. I take more risks with more life. Before I was very, very a very complacent person really, I was someone who was just happy to have, you know, with my lot, really. I think since his, my brother’s death there’s a part of me that’s living for him as well.
 

Ian was upset that journalists spelt Dorrie’s name wrong, but he understood that a change of name...

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There was one thing that was very, very difficult for me personally, My brother’s name was Dorrie, and when the media announced his death they referred to him as Donny, and that had to continue even though we highlighted this, “Look his name’s not Donny, it’s Dorrie.” We gave them the spelling and everything, but the police had unfortunately said, “We’re going to have to continue running it as Donny for now because once a mistake’s already made, to change it means that people are going to think it’s somebody else”, so they have to continue until the period of time, so we had to go through this whole two weeks of referring to him, having referred to him in the media as Donny, and you know people are constantly coming and saying, you know, and I’m coming back to work and people are calling him Donny at work, I said, “His name’s not Donny, it’s Dorrie.” I mean it’s all, and the other thing is that my brother was so proud of his name, he so loved calling himself Dorrie, that that added to that you know, sorry, that just really was an awful you know.
 
It really was an awful experience, to have to see it in the media as Donny and then have people referring to him as Donny when he was, you know, how proud he was of his very, very unusual name which was Dorrie.
 
 
Apart from the incident with the name, that was the only thing I think was difficult. I think we were very, I think we were very, very fortunate really because I, because I’ve worked supporting families. I know the experiences, some awful experiences that people go through with the media, and even with the police, but I’ve got to say that my experience of the media and the police were very, very good on the whole, the only thing that was very difficult to accept was the name, the printing his name wrong at the beginning, and then the need to continue to print, but I understood why they needed to do it, because I could, I could understand that the change of name would have actually hindered finding his killers and you know because, a change of name would sometimes confuse people and therefore people wouldn’t come forward so it was important to continue printing the same name for that period of time. So apart from that, there was no other problem with the media. I think most of the stories that went into the papers we had already been briefed by the police before they went in, so we knew they were going to be there, the pictures they used of him were pictures that we sort of like sanctioned and we never saw a picture in the paper that wasn’t one that we thought was appropriate. They used the same picture, which was a picture that we had, not quite pleased with but, so yes, the media and the police on the whole were very good. You know we had a very good experience.
 
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Ian joined a Catholic support group for men. For the first time he felt that he could cry and...

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You said the family is being supportive, did you look anywhere else for help, counselling or anything?
 
Yes, the week before my brother’s death I had been invited on a weekend with men, a weekend that was specifically for men, and it was run by the Catholic Church. And I was invited with, from one of my Catholic friends who had actually was going, and actually was going to be doing some singing. And he asked me to, would I sing? Would I help with the singing? And I said oh yes, I’d come along. And so I went on this weekend, with this group of men, and part of the weekend is to form a counselling group, a group, a supportive group.
 
And we had done this, and this was just a week before my brother’s death. And we had formed this group over this weekend, it was very supportive it was a, I think there was five of us in it, this small group. And we talked about lots of issues, different issues that we were going through as men, whether they’d be family, marriage, and parenting, all those things we talked about, and shared, and the idea of this was that it was supposed to be established in this weekend, and then it was to continue once a month or so after the weekend. And we had actually booked our appointment, our first appointment for the 5th August. That was in our diaries after this weekend that I went on with them. And the 5th August was a few days after my brother was killed, and funnily enough the group all phoned round and said, “We can cancel it, and move it because of what’s happened, because we don’t want to go on with our, have our first meeting without, you know, one of the members, because of what happened.” And then I got a call from my friend and he said, “Oh we’ve cancelled, we’ve decided to cancel it, just because of what’s happened, we don’t want to go on without you,” and I said, “You know something, don’t cancel, I’m going to be there, I’m going to come to the meeting,” and that was the best thing that I did.
 
They supported you?
 
Because the support, this was the first time, sorry, this was the first time I felt supported, you know because the first time I felt that people heard my grief, and heard my pain, and heard my insecurities, and heard my fears, and I was able just to be me. I was, I didn’t need to be a husband, I didn’t need to be strong as a brother, as an older brother, and there was a lot of that when a, when a, when a death takes place there’s a lot of having to be strong for other people around you, having to be strong for your Mum, you don’t want your Mum to see you broken because you want her, her to be strong. You don’t want your sisters to see you broke, you know, you want to be strong for everyone. And you don’t want to be, you want to be strong at home, you want to be still showing that you’re coping. But this was the first time I was able to just…
 
Did you feel you could cry?
 
I could cry. I was able to cry. I was able to share every emotion and feeling that I had, that I felt, and do you know something I was, I was able to hear from other men also their experience and you know, so many answers were given to me at that, that session, to so many of the things that I had, was battling, I was battling with., my personal battle in accepting this, this death. In trying to cope and move on from this; so many answers came out of that, that group of men.
 
Did you meet again? Did you ever…?
 
We met again, yes, we met, continued to meet for a number of sessions, after that, and again it was it was, it continued to be a strength and we dealt with lots of different issues, we dealt with other people’s issues as well, after that, but that first session was entirely for me I think, they had all, or whatever they, issues were going on for them, they had just put to the side.
 
The other thing is that they don’t live in this area, they don’t, they don’t know. You know they live in a very, very maybe affluent area, part of the city, they had never ever been in contact with anyone from violence. I was the only black male in the group you know, it was a completely different life for them, you know, and this was an experience I guess that they never ever thought that they would ever meet someone who had lost a member of their family, so it was completely new for them, and they were totally accepting. The acceptance I felt at that meeting, the fact that they were all there, they all turned up. None of them was too embarrassed to come; none of them was too embarrassed to ask questions. I mean, you know, they didn’t treat me with a sense of ignoring, or there was no difficulty there, they just they seemed to at ease with it, and I guess that came because of the week that we had had, the weekend that we had had together, we had formed such a good relationship, and I guess you know when I talk about God and my faith in him, I really feel that that group was formed a month before my brother died and it was key to seeing me through. I believe that it was him, that he, God knew that this was happening, and this was preparation for me, this was going to be my, my outlet, this was going to be the place that I found comfort and that I found him, you know and his love, and I found a great lot of love in that, in that, in those meetings with them.
 

Before his brother was shot, Ian thought that faith protected his family, but his faith in God...

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How did your faith help or hinder at that point?
 
I think I began to understand my faith in a very, very different way. I think before his death my faith was the thing that stopped things happening in my life, I could actually prevent certain incidents and certain things from happening to me, through praying, through being, feeling close to God, there were certain things that that I was immune from. I remember often being asked in my work where I used to work at the time, about the problems in the area that I lived in, and the problems with crime and gun, gun crime, and incidents that were happening, I was often challenged about these, “How do you feel living in, having your family live in an area like that?” And my response was always, “That would never happen to me. You know it would never happen to my family. It doesn’t happen to people, and families like mine. My family are not into drugs, we’re not gangsters. It doesn’t happen to us.” And I was very, very confident saying that, and I actually believed that there was something in my life that protected me from certain things happening, and that’s what I saw as my faith. So my faith was truly shaken through this experience because I realised that something that I was never expecting, or thought would never happen to me, actually did happen to me. So I don’t know, I don’t think it weakened my faith, I think it allowed me to see differently, because what my faith taught me was that I could overcome and handle this situation, and during the experience as deep and as dark and as dismal as sometimes it got, I never ever felt that I was alone in it. I felt that God was with me through it and my faith in him actually enabled me to realise that I was able to come through an experience that I never ever thought would ever happen to me.
 
So in many ways it deepened my faith in God but at the time it opened my understanding of my own faith, and made me see bigger, than I had ever seen it before. Though facing the reality of the fact that anything is possible, anything can happen to me, anything at any time. 
 

Ian believes that counsellors need to listen, accept and try to understand what it might be like...

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And have you got any message for professionals?
 
For people who are supporting families that have been through grief, and because I’ve also studied as a as a counsellor myself, it’s something that I’ve heard quite often is the sense of being able to understand, even if you haven’t experienced it, and I believe that that is impossible. I think that sometimes we go with a professional head, feeling that we can understand someone else’s circumstance, through their communicating it, and I don’t believe that that’s the case. I think that the best that we can give is an acceptance, of their experience, and I think more professionals need to go in with the sense of that, “We’re not going to bring you the answer. We’re not, we don’t want to give you the solution to the problem, but we want to be there to accept that this is your experience, and value your experience”, and I think that that would be a greater help to people than professionals who come in and feel that they can put things right. And I think that goes for, not only for counsellors but particularly for people who are supporting in that way, but also for the police service, the people who are working in hospitals and things like that, I think it’s really, really important that you don’t go in with the head that your professionalism or your skills will actually bring resolution, I think it’s about your understanding.
 
So a plea for listening?
 
The need to listen and accept, and value the experience of the person, however difficult it might be to accept, I think that it is really about that. And that’s what I do when I seek to support others even after being through this experience I think it’s important that I still try and value the experience of the person, and don’t think that because this family has lost someone through gun violence that I can understand it. I don’t, there are many people who come in through the doors that have had a very similar situations to mine and they’re going through things that are completely different to my experience, and I have to value that their experience is unique to them, and that I cannot understand it even if I’d been through it myself, you know? So it’s about valuing the experience.
 
And really listening to the person?
 
Listening and yes, and assuring them that you’re there for them, and that that you’re there to support their experience and value that. 
 
 

Ian and his family went to see Dorrie soon after he was shot. Ian was glad that his brother...

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I then prepared to go to the hospital. And when I arrived at the hospital most of my family had already, in fact all my family were there, sisters, brothers, some of my brother’s close friends were there. And we were told that we couldn’t see him straight away, and that we’d have to wait. There was a number of police at the hospital at the time, and one of my older sisters came in and said that they’d told us that we were only allowed to go in in two’s, we’d only be allowed to go in in two’s, and  we didn’t want that, we wanted to go in as a family.
 
But they were refusing to allow us to go in as a family. They wanted us to go in two’s, and this was very, very, I remember very difficult for us at the time, and my Mum was very as always, is very direct in making her feelings known. And it served us well in this particular case because she insisted that we all were going to go in as a family. And she told the nurses and the police that we were all going in together, and no-one argued with her.
 
And as a family we went in, as a family we walked in together.
 
So we were all together, we all walked in, my family. Aunts were there, my Aunties were there, and a number, my Aunties, some of my Aunties had arrived, my sisters, my siblings and some of his friends were there, and we all walked in together and he was just laying there as though he was sleeping, you know he was, just sleeping, and so still, and so at peace, you know, I hadn’t seen my brother looking so peaceful, ever since he was a baby really. Because I was, I’m 10 years older than him so I do remember him being a baby and for me he just looked like such, you know his face had such peace, and for me that was very comforting.
 
It was comforting was it?
 
It was comforting yeah, it was comforting to see that and to experience the feeling of this person looking at least at peace, a calmness over him, and a stillness in him.
 
Were you allowed to touch him?
 
We were. We were allowed, we weren’t, well I think, we were not allowed to touch him, however people, did touch him. We were told that we weren’t allowed to touch him but my mother again was not accepting that, and she touched him quite a lot. She rubbed him, she kissed him, hugged him, held him, she did everything that she felt she needed to do. For me that was not something I wanted to do, personally. I felt that just seeing him was enough for me, and I did not touch him.
 
So seeing him, the most important thing was to see him at peace? Were there any other reasons why it helped you to see him?
 
To accept it, to accept it. Until I saw him he was still alive as far as, even though I’d been told he was he was dead, it was important for me to go and see him, because it would confirm to me that this was the truth, this was something that I had to accept. And seeing him, for me, was very, very necessary, to conclude that he has gone. 
 
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