Mental Health Awareness Week — Dr Sandra Davies

Dr Sandra Davies is our Director of Public Health. Four years ago she lost her beloved brother to cancer.

“Kevin was fifty-four when he died, so still quite young.

We knew he was ill, so in many ways him dying wasn’t a shock. Except you never prepare for losing someone you love, so it did come as a really big shock to me.

After it happened, I didn’t know what to do. He died on the Saturday. I decided that I would go into work on the Monday, even though I felt stressed, anxious and upset.

I suppose I didn’t want to be on my own. I wanted a bit of normality. People were lovely, I felt so supported. They let me cry, they were there for me, they looked after me. I had a lovely boss — Samih Kalakeche (the council’s former director of Adult Services) — who asked me what I needed. And what I needed was the freedom to come into work — my job is so important to me — but also, if things got too much, the freedom to go for a walk or have time out.

The first few weeks were really difficult. I had days where it was hard to function. Sometimes I felt anxious for no reason. Although Kevin was not my only sibling, I have six sisters and one other brother, he was the one who lived closest to me. We used to go to rugby together and would see each other every week. We were very close.

Because of my anxieties, which would come on at random times, I went to my GP, who was great. He helped me to see this was part of the grieving process and what I could do it manage it. I came away from that and decided to do things that would help me. I found some mindfulness sessions and took up lots of physical activities, like walking and running. When I felt anxious, it would help to be out in the fresh air. It took me away from feeling I was on my own with this.

I had my family, who were wonderful, but it was difficult to talk to them at times because they were grieving too. So it was important to have other people to talk to who weren’t so involved or emotional. My GP also offered me counselling. It really helped just being able to talk.

“After a while, you do come out the other side.”

The biggest thing I learned was to give myself time and not to expect to “get over it”. Even four years on, I still feel lonely without him. There is so much I miss. But I try and focus on the good times we had and the happy memories.

Kevin loved life. He was a very positive man. He was always joking or had a smile on his face. He was very outgoing, but gentle too.

He had a phrase he always used to say: ‘Little victories’. He’d say it to people when they’d had a difficult day. It means find something you’re proud of. So that’s what I did after he died. I would think, ‘What was my little victory today?’ It helped me get through those early days when my emotions were all over the place. I would look for my little victory, whatever it was, even it if was something tiny I’d done well.

After a while, you do come out the other side. You never stop missing that person, but you become stronger in different ways.”

Further help and advice

NHS advice on coping with bereavement
Cruse Bereavement Care — free helpline — 0808 808 1677
Anxiety UK
Talk Liverpool — mental health services
The Samaritans

Liverpool Waterfront