Tamsin - Interview 06

Age at interview: 37
Brief Outline: One day in 2007 Tamsin said goodbye to her brother. That evening Matthew died when his motorbike collided with a car. Tamsin was devastated. Her partner and her family support her but she misses Matthew dreadfully and the pain doesn't get any easier.
Background: Tamsin is a Project manager. She is co-habiting. Ethnic background/nationality' White British

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One Sunday in 2007 Tamsin said goodbye to her brother. Matthew was aged 34 at the time. Later that evening Matthew died when his motorbike collided with a car. The car was driven by a woman who turned right without looking in her right hand mirror. Matthew was overtaking on the wrong side of a double white line.

Tamsin was getting ready for bed when she heard that her brother had been in an accident. Her father gave her this news over the telephone. The police took her and her father to the hospital, which was about 30 miles away. There they were met by other policemen, her mother, and the coroner’s officer, who gave them information and who asked the family about organ donation. After waiting for a while in a small ante-room Tamsin and her parents were taken into another room to see Matthew. The policemen then took them all to her mother’s home. The policemen were kind and respectful at all times.

Tamsin felt absolutely devastated by what had happened. She spent the next week with her mother. After that she wanted to be with people who had known Matthew well, and who understood how much he had meant to her. She found it helped to talk to her friends about him and about the good times they had had together.

Tamsin was away from her work for about three weeks. She helped to plan and organise Matthew’s funeral, which was held about two weeks after his death. The family chose a casket that was biodegradable and environmentally friendly, and very pretty. The service took place in United Reformed Christian church, which was packed with Matthew’s friends. Many spoke about his sense of humour, his sense of optimism and his kindness. Matthew was buried in the churchyard. The family is planning a memorial stone. Matthew’s girlfriend has put a memorial bench in a local park.

During the next few weeks the coroner’s officer and the liaison officer helped the family with practical matters and gave them information. The coroner’s officer showed them the photos of the crash site and gave them details of the medical examination. She also explained what would happen at the inquest. She was kind, helpful and respectful.

The inquest was held nine months after Matthew’s death. Tamsin and other members of the family had the opportunity to question the woman who turned right across Matthew’s path. Tamsin believes that there was fault on both sides and that her brother’s death was an accident. She knows that strictly speaking her brother should not have been overtaking at that point on the road but she also believes that the driver should have looked in her mirror. Tamsin is still upset and angry by the apparent attitude taken by the driver and by the lack of any sign of remorse. The coroner concluded that Matthew’s death was due to an accident.

Tamsin missed her brother dreadfully and still does today. The pain she feels doesn’t get any easier or any less painful. Matthew was so central to her life that some days she finds it hard to cope without him. She dreads having to deal with her parents’ deaths without his support. She likes it when people talk about her brother and acknowledge what has happened and show some sympathy. This makes the world seem less black.

Tamsin was interviewed in 2008.

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Before the inquest the coroner’s officer showed them photos of the crash site, gave them the...

What did the coroner’s officer do to prepare you for the inquest?
Well she talked through the results of the path, the examination, and also actually allowed us to see the photos of the crash site, which was very important. We found it very important to understand what had happened. My brother was a very experienced rider.  
He was not a boy racer. You know he was thirty-four and had been riding since he was sixteen. He was quite a mature rider. So we needed to understand. And I think particularly my mum who doesn’t ride bikes and hasn’t really ridden bikes, so probably had less of an understanding of what you do on a bike and how things happen.
And the coroner’s assistant visited us and talked us through all of that. And talked us through the results of the medical so we understood exactly what had killed him, and some of the circumstances around that. She ran through with us the format of the inquest and the people who would be there. And also gave us a little bit background on the coroner himself, because she was concerned that he might be one of those people who was a little bit dismissive of bike deaths.
And in fact we didn’t find that with, we found that he was, he was quite fair. He didn’t belabour any point unfairly we didn’t think. So that was helpful, so at least we knew what to expect.  
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After Matthew died a local reporter asked the family for a draft article and a photo. Tamsin felt...

Did you get involved with the press at all?
No I didn’t. I think they contacted my mum and she gave an interview. And oh and we drafted the article, the sort of “in memorial” article. And the local paper was very good. They allowed us to draft it. And they allowed us to choose a photograph and put that in, which, which was really important to us because we felt that there were a lot of people who wouldn’t have known. And we wanted everyone to have an opportunity to come [to the funeral] if they wanted to.
This was before the funeral?
Yes. And so we were able to say in that and in the funeral announcement a week later that we would like people to come and we would like to share memories with them.
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Tamsin misses her brother very much. The knowledge that one day she will have to deal with her...

How do you view the future?
The scariest thing for me and the hardest thing that I find, particularly now that my parents don’t talk to each other, is being the only one for them. I find that really difficult and I also find that inevitably almost, my brother took more after my dad and I take more after my mum…


...and my brother was very good at lightening situations and, and I perhaps get a bit intense about things and I, and I miss that so much, his ability to just stop me worrying about things.
So, yes. And I mean can’t go on holiday without wanting to text him.
Because we always, we used to go on, we’ve done some quite good holidays between us over the years and we used to send each other really smug texts from some beach in Thailand or, you know, saying “I’m here, You know, you’re not, Hurrah.” And I miss doing that. And I know this sounds terribly morbid but I dread dealing with my parents’ deaths.
You know, I have a very supportive partner who I know, we’ve already, we’ve been together 17 years now and, and I don’t see, I hope there’s no prospect of us not being together for the future, but it’s not the same. He doesn’t understand my parents’ relationship, he doesn’t understand the difficulties and the emotion and, you know, the difficulties that go with that.
So, yeah, I dread doing those things without my brother.
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Tamsin heard about her brother’s motorbike accident from her father. The police drove her to the...

I saw my brother on the morning of… a sunny Sunday morning in January when he came round to borrow my bike leathers so that he could taken his girlfriend safely on back of his bike for the first time.
And we had a twenty-minute conversation. He discussed with my partner where they might go and where would make a nice little ride that wouldn’t be too much for her. And I lent him my leathers and off he went.
I remember very clearly him looking out of the window of his car as he drove past the front the house and pulling a face at me as he often did. And then that was that. And then much later that evening we’d had supper. I was actually in the bath. I heard the phone. And partner picked up the phone and spoke to my father, who said that my brother had been in an accident or was thought to have been in an accident. And that the police were with my mother and that they, another car was coming to get my father who lives separately.
And not too far from where I live. So my partner got me out of the bath and told me what was going on. And I phoned my mother and said I need to come down to the hospital where they thought they had Matt.
And so the police were fantastic and they organised between themselves for the car that was picking up my father up to come here and pick me up as well. And then they drove us as quickly as they legally could to the hospital, which is about thirty miles away, from where I live, a very bizarre car journey with my father.
With nobody really knowing very much what to say. I spoke to my mum before I left. And I remember her saying, “It’s not true”, which I’d actually forgotten about until she reminded about it when we were talking about this interview. And I remember saying to her, “No of course it’s not”.
But actually I knew it was. I don’t know why but I was very sure as soon as I heard that that was Matthew, that was my brother.
And I wasn’t going to see him again. So we, we arrived down at the hospital. And it’s all a bit blurry. I remember meeting my mum and obviously us all being very upset and very shocked. And just looking to the policemen to direct us. And walking through the hospital’s A & E department, which on a Sunday night you know is quite busy.
And going to the quiet chapel and then sitting for ages while people explained things to us. And that was quite hard because I know there’s a lot of legal detail that needs to gone into and that those people were trying to support us.
But actually all we wanted to do was find out whether it was him.
So you weren’t sure really in your mind that it was at that stage?

In my mind I was.

But he hadn’t been identified and nobody had seen him.
What happened after that? Did you have time to feel anything at this stage?
Yes, I think, I think there is an element of shock but for me it was very real, almost from, from the phone call. And certainly by the time we left the hospital it was very real. So, yeah, it was full on, I haven’t got a brother any more.
I’m so sorry.
But it, it’s so big and so painful and so incomprehensible that you’re not going to see this person again that it’s almost as though you can only, I’ve read about people discussing it as something you sort of sidle up to, or something that, that you look round a corner and remember and then come back again…
Because you can’t keep it, you can’t keep that knowledge in your head all the time. So the next few days were a really odd combination of, of feeling absolutely devastated and being unable to comprehend why the world was still turning and people were still going to work and there were still cars on the road, and, and yet having to do the practical things like phone work and say, “I’m not going to be in for a few days.” And trying to be with my family and, and offer whatever comfort I could to my family, particularly, well, just my mum and dad and my partner, who was fantastic. And other times, you know, because we were talking about my brother and he was a very special person, he was my brother of course…
But he was, and he always looked on the bright side and he always had a joke and he could always make me smile and we did a lot of laughing during that time as well.
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After Matthew died Tamsin spent the first week with her mother. Later friends allowed her to talk...

And my mum and I spent that entire week together My partner went back to work on the Tuesday but was there, you know, was on the end of the phone, but he didn’t feel that he could be helpful and he felt it was better that, that mum and dad and I spent time together. And then my dad, and I don’t know whether that’s a male/female thing but my dad went, went off for a while as well. Whereas mum and I felt that we had to be together the whole time. So I actually didn’t come home till the following Thursday, when I’d started to receive cards from people, particularly his work, because they had, the police had visited his work in an effort to find out his next of kin. So they knew almost before we did. And, of course, my friends, yes, and so, and then I came home.
And where [else] were you finding any support at this time? Your family, your partner, your friends, did you seek any sort of professional help at all?
No, I didn’t, no. I was very close to my brother throughout our life, there’s only 13 months between us. And we were very close and our parents had a somewhat erratic relationship [laughs].
And we supported each other through that I think and that’s one of the reasons why we were so close.
And my friends and my partner knew that, and obviously my parents. And whilst not every body can relate to it, because many people have siblings that they’re perhaps not as close to, it was easier for me to talk to people who knew how important he was to me and what a big part of my life he was.
But you had sleepless nights; did you go to your GP for some help with sleeping?
No I didn’t. I used some over the counter Nytol type things for a few nights. And self medicated a bit with white wine [laughs].
Because that was, that was enough. And talked and talked and talked and talked and talked and talked to my friends, that was so important. And they were so good because they let me.
And I tried, you know I tried not to be morbid. But it was very important to me that I could talk. If I had, if I was in a conversation where I would’ve usually told a story of my brother and I, it was really important to me that I could continue to do that without anyone freaking out, and especially me. So I did a lot of that, a lot of reminiscing about good times.
Yes. Do you like to talk about him and use his name now?
Yes I do. Yeah he’s still a very important person in my life.
Yes of course.
And it’s helpful for me when my friends acknowledge that by allowing me to do it. 
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