Season 4, Episode 5

Dawn S. Rodgers /

Geoff

Photography in the Shadows of Surviving   Sibling Loss Decades Later: Dawn / Geoff

This episode, of The Broken Pack: Stories of Adult Sibling Loss, explores the enduring impact of sibling loss with guest Dawn Rodgers.  Together, Dawn and Dr. Dean delve into Dawn’s experience decades after losing her brother, offering support and strategies for navigating this complex and persistent grief.

Dawn Rodgers is a surviving sibling who found solace in photography after the loss of her brother. Her book,a photo essay, “Sorrow” acts as a powerful testament to the transformative nature of art in processing grief, honoring her brother’s memory while guiding her through her unique experience of loss. This conversation sheds light on the often overlooked nature of sibling loss and offers hope for those navigating their grief journey.

Content Warning: This episode contains discussions of murder and violence, including: death of a sibling , grief and trauma related to a sibling’s death by murder, the impact of violence on families, and the emotional and psychological challenges of coping with a sibling’s murder

Key Discussion Points:

-The overlooked nature of sibling loss and its isolating effect on surviving siblings
-The importance of finding outlets for grief, such as artistic expression
-Creating a support system through therapy, support groups, or connections with those who understand
-The enduring nature and persistence of sibling grief: Dawn’s story highlights that the pain of losing a sibling can persist even decades later
-Honoring a sibling’s legacy and finding meaning after loss regardless of the time since the loss helped Dawn reconnect with her brother and her own grief

About Dawn:
Purchase Dawn’s photographic essay “Sorrow” and learn more about her and her work on her website: https://www.dawnrodgers.co.uk/

 

Surviving Sibling Dawn and Her brother as children
Transcript

Dr. Dean: 

Hello and welcome to The Broken Pack™, a podcast focused on giving adult survivors of sibling loss a platform to share their stories and to be heard. Something that many sibling loss survivors state that they never have had. Sibling Loss, is Misunderstood™. The Broken Pack™exists to change that and to support survivors. I’m your host, Dr. Angela Dean. Listen to this episode to hear Dawn’s sibling loss story about losing Geoff, who was murdered 30 years ago. in this episode, we discuss her delayed grief and the difficulty that she had with speaking about her brother. We also explore how her difficulty in processing her loss for three decades has manifested into visual processing of her grief in her now published book called Sorrow. We also discuss where she is now with her grief and advice she has for those of us who are much earlier on in our sibling loss journey. Take a listen. Content warning. This episode includes discussions of sibling loss through murder. Listener discretion is advised. All right. So welcome to the show. I’m wondering how you wanted to introduce yourself to our listeners.

Dawn Rodgers: 

Most obvious way is to say that, I’m a teacher. So I teach people photography, but I’m also a photographer and those are my two kind of great passions in life is teaching photography and actually doing it. That just sums it up really quickly about what I do.

Dr. Dean: 

What would you like us to know about Geoff before we talk about losing him?

Dawn Rodgers: 

My brother was quite a shy and quite reserved person. That’s how I always saw him. It’s very very quiet and, and as thoughtful I think what I would like to say about him. But we were very close,, when we were very young. and I miss that closeness. But it was fun to be around. We both had a passion for sci-fi, and regularly visited the cinema together, to go watch various things. when we were young, we spent a great deal of time together and. I’m sure it’ll come out in the conversation, but, it was partly to do with, the fact that my father was in the military. So we moved around a lot. So we generally tended to be quite close to each other for that reason.

Dr. Dean: 

Mm Hmm I’ve heard that from a lot of people that moving around because the stability of friends changes so much that you hang on to your siblings in a different way.,

Dawn Rodgers: 

Yeah, definitely.

Dr. Dean: 

What was the age difference like?

Dawn Rodgers: 

It was 18 months. So again, I think that played a part in the sort of closeness that we had. was that in age we were very close, but I very much took on the role of the older sibling, looking after my brother, although I can’t remember doing this, she tells me this a lot, was at one point in primary school when we moved to a new school and he just wouldn’t speak to anybody because he was very shy. And, so they had to come and collect me to come and speak to him and for him, at that particular point. But obviously as people grow, as they change, but yeah, so very much I was in a kind of caring role for my brother.

Dr. Dean: 

mmhmm So it sounds like your relationship was pretty close as kids. Did that change over time?

Dawn Rodgers: 

No, I don’t think So. I think just circumstances, meant that it changed. I left home at a quite a young age and went off to pursue my life and my career and wanting to be an artist. It was my kind of focus. So I moved and moved away from our hometown, in my 20s, but I’d left home by the time I was 17 and went on to be self sufficient. I was quite an independent person. So we did stay in touch. but I think, this is going back sort of 30 in touch was very different from now where, you can be in daily connection with someone across the world. But at that point, it wasn’t. So when I would go home, we would see each other and socialize together. and it was funny the other day, I was just talking to another sibling who had lost their brother. And I don’t know, it just occurred to me, I don’t have photographs of us, the two of us together as adults. and that was slightly melancholic to realize that.

Dr. Dean: 

Mmhmm. Yeah it’s interesting to think about that one because photography and photographs are so important to you and also yeah we didn’t have a lot of ways of communicating back then in the same way that we do now. Like this conversation we were having probably wouldn’t have happened.

Dawn Rodgers: 

No.

Dr. Dean: 

You would have, I would have never known about you or connected.

Dawn Rodgers: 

Yeah.

Dr. Dean: 

Thank you for that perspective. What would you like to share about losing Geoff?

Dawn Rodgers: 

Because of doing the book and doing this project, I’ve spoken to so many people about their experiences. I think the biggest thing for me is just not having that kind of person there, that person that sort of shares your past, that remembers, the sort of in jokes that you had; that remembers the Christmases and all those sort of events growing up and the time you spent together, like just talking to you now, I’m remembering when my brother and I decided to set up a shop at home and, handcrafted things to sell to the neighbours, and it’s those little things that, When you are with your family and when you’re with your siblings, they remember that, but they also remember your perspective and your viewpoint on it. Whereas your parents, their perspective and everything is completely different. it’s from that parental perspective. So you know the person that when you say, oh, that was so unfair, whatever, that person that would, so that would say, yeah, that’s right. That was really unfair, isn’t there anymore. And that’s really, it’s really sad, but it’s also, I think. the future as well. They like the future is taken away. So as we move on and grow older, your sibling is normally with you and they’re the ones that remember the past with you. And eventually obviously, when my parents aren’t here anymore, there will be no one that will really remember the past in the same way that he did. And that connection and that family bond, I think, just isn’t there, that won’t be there anymore. I find that really sad as well. I find that really hard. And then the whole circumstances around losing him were not easy, as well. So it’s all of those things. It’s all a bit messy, I think, in some ways. ways

Dr. Dean: 

mmhmm for sure. I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately too, It sounds like you don’t have other siblings either.

Dawn Rodgers: 

No, it’s just me now.

Dr. Dean: 

Yeah, so being the last one standing, if you will, in your family of origin, that’s a difficult thing. I’m sure difficult if you have siblings too.

Dawn Rodgers: 

I just think when, it’s part of the natural order when, eventually you lose your parents and it’s that person there that would remember them with you and will remember that childhood that you had together and, suddenly that’s not there. And then, like I said, the future isn’t there either. the perspective. prospect maybe of, he might never have married, but he also might have. And, had children and all of those things, nieces and nephews aren’t. I don’t know. These are things that really occurred to me in the very early, early days. They’re not things that I think about very much now. Your question has prompted me to think about that, but. not very much now, but there’s still a sort of sadness that those, that future isn’t there. I think that’s the biggest thing.

Dr. Dean: 

Yeah. How old was he when he died?

Dawn Rodgers: 

But he was so young. It was in 93. So I think he literally just had his birthday. He might’ve just turned 23 then. Yeah. So very young. that was some of the things like when I’ve been creating my artwork is, it’s that loss of potential, that future potential, that I thought about a lot, all these kind of experiences and things that have happened in the world and all this, like just talking about the technological changes, which I think he’d have found so interesting. He hasn’t witnessed any of that or experienced any of that and might have been part of that. You don’t know what a person’s future potential is. And It’s just incredibly sad to have someone so young, no longer there.

Dr. Dean: 

Yeah. So you’ve been carrying this grief and this loss of him for a very long time.

Dawn Rodgers: 

Yes. Yeah. last year was like 30 years, since he’d, passed away. And like I said, in the early part of that, when I’ve spoken to a lot of siblings, like later now, cause it’s obviously I connect with these people. there just wasn’t that there wasn’t any support there wasn’t anything there and it felt like in the beginning like you didn’t count and your grief didn’t count and that you had to just get on with things and you had to be there you know you had to be the one supporting everyone else because you were just the sister or you’re just the brother or whatever. I mean I had a particular experience When, the police came to my parents house and I opened the door to them and they’re like, who are you? And it was just that kind of experience really, hammers home that. So, it very much felt like there wasn’t a space for me to grieve. There wasn’t anyone to talk to. Any support was there for partners or parents. And even now, there’s so much more now. Which is why I was so passionate about doing the project, because I just wanted to tell this story. And there is more there now, but still not enough, I don’t think. So yeah, it’s, it’s felt like a big weight for a long time.

Dr. Dean: 

Yeah. that’s why I founded this project, is because there was very little, even just four years ago. Thank you for sharing that perspective. It sounds like you’re moving with the grief in the ways that you can. You’ve mentioned the project a couple times, and I know what you’re talking about. I’m very excited to See that soon. But do you wanna share with our listeners the project you, you’ve been doing?

Dawn Rodgers: 

So when my brother passed away, just before that, I’d also had my daughter and the circumstances around that were pretty traumatic as well. I had these two huge events that happened, together that I’ve buried for quite a long time and as time went by, I found it just easier not to talk about my brother, which I find now when I think about that, really sad. And then, when we had the lockdowns in the UK, I don’t know, I think a lot of people self reflected. So one of the ways my grief manifested itself, this buried grief was consistent and persistent anxiety constantly about just about everything I couldn’t control, very much trying to control things. And before that I’d been to see a counsellor, I’d been talking to her quite a And it was helping me to realize it was okay to still be grieving after all this time and putting it in perspective. But I decided to do my master’s degree in photography and you had to put in a, proposal for it. And I decided I was going to look at My own childhood. And that just naturally led me to my brother. So over two years, I started thinking about how I could tell the story of what happened to my brother without having to reveal lots of private details and to create something. That other siblings could potentially relate to as well as it being, hopefully, a beautiful work of art. I’ve created this photographic project which has manifested itself as a photo book. but within it there is, there’s nothing, there’s no words, there’s the tiny title of the project. and the only information in it is my brother’s death certificate. and it just tells his life story in a very short and brief way, but also the imagery I’ve created in it is also an expression of my feelings. So this project took me two years of my MA and then I just finished it. It took me another year after that to get it to a place where I really wanted it to be. So, this has been a way that I’ve been able to turn my grief into something really productive, but also to be something, that I’m in control of, that expresses how I felt and through only way I know how, and that was to do it visually because talking about it was too difficult.

Dr. Dean: 

Mm-Hmm. Thank you for sharing that. I wonder what it was like to process your grief in that way after all of this time.’cause grief does last forever, but it also sounds like you put it off.

Dawn Rodgers: 

Yeah I definitely put it off. in the introduction to the book, I talk about, Like grief being pushed down and being calcified. I photograph a lot of rocks. We grew up in Dorset. So, anyone who knows the UK, the Jurassic coast, if you look that up, you’ll see, geographically, there’s lots of, chalk and different kinds of stone and they’re formed under pressure. And I think that was one of the kind of ways of being able to say, because I couldn’t say it in words. Whenever I talk about what happened and about him, I’d get so anxious. even doing this later on, I’ll probably have some mild anxiety that I’ll have to process and then that’s fine, but I can do that now. And it just felt like, if I being under constant pressure, I had a big realization this year when I realized that I get anxious because I think something terrible is going to happen just before the anniversary of his death, because something terrible did happen. And that’s quite a normal reaction to feel like that. but now it’s now that I know that it’s, I can be prepared for that and then obviously manage it better, but it was really hard to start unpacking it all. And so I did it very slowly and I did it in ways that just suited me and just pleased me and I didn’t feel any obligation to anyone except for my mum and dad, to do it in any way whatsoever. And by obligation to my parents, what I mean was I wanted to take into account their feelings into this because we are very close as a family, so it’s not just me that this project might affect it. It’s them. But my mum was amazing and really on board with it. And they gave me their blessings, so to speak, to do it. And my dad literally said, if anyone can do it, you’re his sister. So if anyone can do it, you should do it. And so once I knew that, that was it. So I was very much in control of how much I was allowing, to come out and to come and it was all done through finding a visual language. So I didn’t actually have to say it, I could do it through pictures. If I say and through books, and initially at the beginning, I was using photographs of my brother. but I was only using photographs of him from behind and sometimes only using photographs of his hands because that is one of the really strong visual memories I have, like his face is faded over time, but for some reason I remember his, hands I think that’s because when we went to my grandfather’s funeral, we held hands. We were, quite young teenagers then. And I was very upset and my brother held my hand. So I just remember him holding his hand and what his hands looked like. So I could use all of these things and allow them to naturally come out in a way that I was very much in control of. So It was difficult at times, but I was so in control of it that actually helped. I could just do it a bit at a time. And the tutor team I was working with were really sensitive to it and really supportive. And so I looked at a lot of other artworks that were dealing with the same sort of issues. There’s an amazing book, I can’t remember the artist’s name, but the book is called, The Rules of Fighting. And her father passed away when she was five, but when her parents married, they said, if we’re going to have a disagreement, these are the rules. And that’s where the title came from. And the way that was done was. Just really fantastic and made me think, this is a way that I can talk about my brother. I can talk about what happened to Geoff, but not actually, I can only, I can reveal as much as I want to. And I made it a rule that I was never going to say his cause of death in the book. I didn’t mind saying it to people, but not many people. because I didn’t want it to, taint the work. So that was the only thing people would remember when they were looking at it. So that was a good way of giving me control as well. I don’t have to tell you because, it’s, you don’t need to know thing. So it gave all the control to me.

Dr. Dean: 

Yeah, I love that. I find it interesting, too, that, you found comfort in him holding your hand in your grief for your grandfather. And then it sounds like you were finding comfort in his hand for grief for him.

Dawn Rodgers: 

Yeah, I’ve never thought of it, like that. But yes, I think it was just such a strong memory. And I think when you lose someone, especially as time goes by, one of the hardest things is forgetting what they look like, which is why photography is so important. It’s, it’s like a kind of wormhole, isn’t it? to the past and, the things you remember and associated around photographs are not, I think you tend to remember the photograph, but it can also trigger a conversation. So when I look at these images, I do remember events, around it. and also, our memories are quite fallible, aren’t they as well?

Dr. Dean: 

Absolutely.

Dawn Rodgers: 

So sometimes what we think we remember is not necessarily what we do, but it was. It allowed me to go back and really look at all these photographs and go back into my past in a really safe way. Again, it was about control. And I think a lot of that controlling thing comes from the fact that this massive event happened and I couldn’t, control it. I wasn’t even there. So it was, quite, I felt terrible that I wasn’t there to do something for quite a long time, which again is. Gosh, it’s so unproductive and, I couldn’t have done anything even if I had been there. I wouldn’t have been at home. I would have been, because I had my daughter, my husband, we were living elsewhere at that point. yeah, so I these photographs did give me comfort. They allowed me to go back to a time when we were together and to really remember funny things, sad things, happy things. I don’t remember fighting. with my brother particularly at all, like siblings do. Occasionally we’d have disagreements like any sibling, but not really. We were just very close to each other.

Dr. Dean: 

hmm. I know in the book that you mentioned, you didn’t want to share how he died. Do you want to share that with us?

Dawn Rodgers: 

Yeah. I’m happy to share that here in this context. my brother was, was murdered. So that comes with such a loaded, thing. So much weight. I don’t even know how to say it. it’s very loaded. And so when people ask, at one point when people used to ask me that I would refuse to answer,

Dr. Dean: 

Mm hmm.

Dawn Rodgers: 

because of their reaction to it. But now I’ve got the point of view that if you ask me and I tell you, then you’ve got to deal with that. with what, yeah, with what I say. I don’t go into it. I wouldn’t share the details of it, but that is a huge thing to happen. when it did happen, my husband, was actually in Weymouth at the time, so had to come To collect me and had to tell me. So I was just woken up in the middle of the night and my father was injured as well at the same time. So yeah, it’s not an easy thing to talk about and not an easy thing to process. And I think at that point. And the reason I mentioned my daughter earlier was that at that point I’d been recovering from postnatal depression. I’d really struggled with it and I was feeling really good and really well. And I think I just shut myself down at that point and thought, I’m not going to feel anything. I can’t feel anything. that’s another reason why I didn’t think about it. I think I just couldn’t feel like I’d felt previously having to deal with the previous sort of experience.

Dr. Dean: 

It’s the funny thing about trying to shut down emotions and, reactions and grief is that they find their way to come out eventually.

Dawn Rodgers: 

yeah. And they do, and they did, and they came out, for me, in this form of anxiety, of trying to control every single situation, scenario, which I wasn’t aware of for many, for a long time. Not all the time, it would come and go,

Dr. Dean: 

Yeah. What I also love about what you’re doing is there are different ways of grieving. A lot of people think I have to talk about it to feel better. and I’ve posted about this on social media or talked about it. I’ll probably put something in the show notes about it too. But there are absolutely ways of grieving. that are a little bit more instrumental and doing things like engaging in photography or physical activity or, and so what I love is that you’re normalizing. I don’t have to talk about this. I can’t put this into words, but I can very much process this visually. So thank you. I don’t know if you have other thoughts on that.

Dawn Rodgers: 

Yeah, because I think, like you say, I think we feel obliged to, I think that’s what made me stop talking about it. I felt like I owed people an explanation as to what had happened, but actually, no, I don’t. I didn’t owe anyone an explanation about it. I had some really thoughtless comments, and Funnily enough, I was talking to my mother this morning about our conversation today, and we were both saying, we both experienced people that just avoided us because they didn’t want to talk about it to us. you would meet them and go, oh, by the way, here’s this terrible thing, and I’m going to tell you all about it. And, I didn’t want to speak about it, and I’m not that kind of person, really, I’m quite a private person, ironically. I, By not having to speak about it, I don’t have to go away and examine, because that’s part of the sort of anxiety thing, I don’t have to go away and re examine everything I’ve said in my head. It was weird, I will say, doing the book, the very first book I made, and then the first one I sold, that felt very strange. And then, I had to rationalise it by the person it went to I knew would really value it as both as an object and the story that was in it. And so that kind of put it to peace a little bit. And then making this book and then selling it, it’s weird, it’s a very strange thing. that’s the whole purpose of art is that you make a book and, or you make a piece of artwork and the hope is that somebody else may want it and you might sell it to them or you might not, I don’t know. It was really odd and there was a lot of complex feelings tied up in the whole creation of it. But the main thing was I was in control of all that. if I didn’t want to sell it, I didn’t have to. If I didn’t want to talk about anything, I didn’t have to. It was just there. It was in this thing, but I don’t know. I’ve had such a positive response, mainly from other siblings that have contacted me, people who, some people I’ve met and spoken to and formed friendships with, because of it. So it, it gave me the power back. It gave me the right to decide what I said and when I said it. And I think that was the most important thing that’s come out of making it. And also, I think artwork is quite a good way, no matter, people often think of artwork as having to be a certain thing, a certain standard or a certain thing, but it’s such a good way, even if you just write everything down and then set fire to it, or you somehow get your feelings out and down in some way, whatever way that is. I just think it’s really positive and you’re always in control of it. You don’t have to do anything with it or whatever.

Dr. Dean: 

Yeah, I love that. it’s interesting because in my work with patients that are struggling with anxiety, this idea of control is so present, but I think that’s obviously true in grief as well. Like we want to be able to control things and when we can’t, the emotions and other responses, physical or whatever, catch us off guard. I like that you were able to take control and still process your, experience.

Dawn Rodgers: 

the master’s degree I did was online because of the, it’s online anyway, but with the pandemic it was more, more online than it had been. And you create these sort of seminar groups you build a trust with the people. So you’re talking about your work as a piece of artwork. So that was a really great way for me to talk about it. Cause I could make it academic and I could read texts and I could look at other photographers that have done it. And I could create this language that was a little bit removed that allowed me to then very slowly, process it. and I read a book, which I wouldn’t unless you’re really into photographic theory, you wouldn’t want to read it, but it was by Roland Barthes and it’s Cameron Lucida, but there is another book called The Morning Diaries where basically the first book is about the death of his mother and photography’s relationship to that, but then this morning diaries is just a few sentences when he just says today, I am so desperately sad. And so he processes that. I mean, that’s been published after his death, but it was, he would just reveal these small amounts of information to himself. So all this language allowed me to then, in return, I was able to reveal small amounts of information. And as the time went on, I then could talk about it. And I’ve wrapped it up in mythology as well to make it a little bit easier. So as part of it, I was looking a lot at Welsh mythology, because I’m not a religious person, I have deep respect for everyone else’s beliefs, but I’m not. And but this Welsh, mythology, sort of told these sort of sagas and stories. And one of the things that came out of it was this thing called the other place. And it’s just another dimension. So it goes back to my brother and my love of science fiction in a way, but it, they were like, there are portals to the other place all over the English countryside and in Wales. And, so I then started walking as a way of, Kind of working through it and I could go back to places where we’ve been as children and I’d read a beautiful book by Robert McFarlane and he talked about how we can tread memory into the earth and we leave our presence behind. And so I would go back to these places, there’d be a real like comfort in the fact that we’d been there together and there was a little bit of both of us. left behind in that space from our footsteps wearing a pathway. so all of these sort of little metaphors and things all helped me to keep processing my grief and over, over this sort of two or three year period to the point now where I can have this sort of conversation.

Dr. Dean: 

Yeah. Thank you. This reminds me of last year. I went to this conference. I’m very excited because I’m going back It’s on death dying and bereavement and I went to a workshop there and they had us for homework that evening just walk around the city that we were in and take photographs of something that reminded us of our loss and It was super meaningful to do. I haven’t really done it much since a few times, but it sounds like that is what your book really was. Yeah,definately. I used to find that part of the process

Dawn Rodgers: 

was I had to absorb myself, had to get into a certain mindset to get into, to be able to take the photographs. And it was almost like projecting my grief through the camera onto the landscape or, and vice versa. And sometimes when you go to these places, they are some are really remote. Some weren’t, but you, become quite peaceful. I found that I was becoming quite peaceful. they’re often Iron Age sites, Dorset’s full of them, standing stones and barrows. And like when I was in these places, I’d be like, Oh, I can see why this, stone circle was built here. If you take away all the farmer’s fields and you’ve just got this amazing view out to sea. and so there was a sort of thought process there where I was thinking about it and processing it. And I suppose just letting it go into the environment. So walking is, became really important. And I would then just go and sit. And then I had a few kind of experiences where like wildlife, because you’re so still, I’d be so still in these environments that I would think like rabbits and hares. I had two experiences with a hare, where they just came out of nowhere and it jumped over a fence and it looked at me and I looked at him or her, I looked at them and they like we all, they, then they ran away. And then there’s an amazing place here in, not far from Berkshire, it’s called the, Uffington White Horse. And if anyone, ever gets a chance to go there or see it, it’s just this amazing chalk white horse. But I went there one day on my own in the week. So there’s no visitors. And again, I saw a hare. So this hare in a strange way, Came to symbolize my brother. And I felt like he was then like very with me, when I was out taking these photos and then in, in a way, obviously he was in here, with me as I went out, but it, an amazing way to. To process, feelings, to just get outside and reconnect with nature became very important to me, and, to be able to do that because you can just leave it all out there. And in my case, I let it all out and then photographed it and then took it back home and processed it in another way. But so it did, it was an amazing thing. I’m really, I’m so glad I did it. I don’t think I would be where I am now.

Dr. Dean: 

Yeah. I’m glad that you were able to do that too. It sounds like you, obviously with the hare, had that connection with your brother. Do you feel like you have an ongoing relationship with him?

Dawn Rodgers: 

I’m not quite sure in what way you mean, but he’s always there in my thoughts now in a more peaceful way. And I think I can talk about him and our relationship because I couldn’t before. So maybe yes, in that way. Yes. But I do feel like, I can go and visit him. And so that I do occasionally when I go home to my parents go to the crematorium where his ashes are interned and I’ll go and visit him. that’s how I see it. And I’m, might have a little chat. I don’t go very regular. One time I was going quite often, but, occasionally my mum will always on key dates. put, flowers and things. And I always think about him, because he died on Remembrance Sunday, it’s very hard to, or Remembrance Day, sorry, in the UK, it’s extremely hard to not remember because you’re surrounded by compulsory remembrance, it feels like to me, and So it’s very difficult. but it does mean that remember him, remembering him is now not painful in the way that it was. And it, the actual point of his death will always be difficult, but I can now remember all the other stuff. it’s not tainted by that one moment. Now I’ve been able to bring back all these really lovely memories about him and remember them rather than the actual point of his death.

Dr. Dean: 

Thank you. I think for a lot of our guests and listeners, that’s been something many of them and myself are a lot earlier in the grief process and thinking about sometimes you don’t want to remember. of course you don’t want to remember how they died, but sometimes that’s where you get stuck. So thank you for sharing your perspective on that.

Dawn Rodgers: 

yeah, I definitely agree with that. I think you can get stuck. I think I definitely got stuck before that. At that point, I couldn’t get past that. it was so big. And I think because that moment, had to last a whole year because of the event where we went through all kinds of legal processes. So you weren’t allowed to move on for a, at all, to any kind of space or place it felt like. So you were a bit stuck in that moment and that was very hard.

Dr. Dean: 

hmm. You have a daughter. Do you have other children?

Dawn Rodgers: 

No, I just have my one lovely daughter, Jasmine.

Dr. Dean: 

Have you shared with Jasmine about your brother?

Dawn Rodgers: 

no, do you know, that’s funny enough you saying, I haven’t actually, she knows about him and I do refer to it, but I wouldn’t say I’d sit down and have a conversation with her about it. I’m not sure why, maybe that’s the next thing. I think because for her, he is. a very abstract figure because she was three when he died. So she has no memory of him at all. And he did used to babysit for her, look after her. And when we were talking about, things that you are taking, that are taken from you, it’s that’s another relationship in some ways, I know that have been taken from her was this relationship with her uncle. So no, I don’t, it’s funny. I haven’t really thought about that at all. So no, I don’t think.

Dr. Dean: 

It’s interesting because I can relate with her on that. My, father’s brother was murdered in Italy before they came here. And it wasn’t until I lost my brother that I really started asking more questions about my uncle. I knew the story and I knew that my dad’s brother had been murdered, but I didn’t really ask questions. Because it feels like this mythic, like you said, mythical figure.

Dawn Rodgers: 

Yeah, I think, when she was younger, it didn’t feel appropriate to talk about it with, and then I think it becomes habit, doesn’t it? So you don’t and it might be something she asked me about at some point later. obviously I’ve talked about the book to her. and she knows what that’s all about, but again, that’s just a bit more abstract. it’s a piece of artwork. She’s used to me doing that, if that makes sense. Like throughout her life, I’ve always made work. so yeah, gosh, yeah. I’ve never, it’s maybe making me think I’ve never really spoken to them.

Dr. Dean: 

What would you say to him now about where you’ve come since that time?

Dawn Rodgers: 

Well, I think he’d probably be slightly embarrassed by the fact I’ve made, a book about him So I probably wanna talk to him about that. I, to check he was okay with that. But then part of me knows that he would,’cause he is such a massive supporter of me, doing art when it wasn’t necessarily, approved of, I think growing up in there. the 80s. It’s all about, leave school, get a job. this is what you’re going to do. It’s very prescribed for women particularly. so my brother was always a huge supporter of me doing my artwork. so yeah, I’d like to show him, I’d like to have a little chat about it and see if he’d want to change anything. And I don’t know, that’d be really nice to just catch up with him and find out how he’s been what he’s been up to. if that was a possibility to go back to, to talk to him now, as he would be, it’s, I think, gosh, he’d probably be really horrified because I’m quite old now and he’d be still 22. So the last time he saw me, I was 24, look very different. I had, my hair wasn’t white for a start, but yeah. So it’s it’d be quite a nice thing, I think, quite a joyful thing. I’m not sure what we’d have a coffee or something

Dr. Dean: 

Yeah,

Dawn Rodgers: 

went.

Dr. Dean: 

What do you miss most?

Dawn Rodgers: 

I think it’s the friendship. that was the thing we were developing, as like the friendship of young adults, starting at our adult lives and having our families. And, I do feel, I used to feel really envious of seeing people with their brothers, and, being at their weddings or, I noticed these, all these big family events, but just spending time with them and that friendship and that companionship. And, I’ve got friends now who have siblings and the closeness, just all of those things, really. I think that’s what I really miss. And, Yeah, we used to play, we used to play Dungeons and Dragons together. That was one of the things we did as a young adults. And I kind of missed that. They were always fun evenings. We ate a lot of snacks when we did that. It was good.

Dr. Dean: 

where can our listeners find your book and

Dawn Rodgers: 

if they want to, see it, it is on, it’s on my website, that, so the actual book to buy is on the website. If they go to my Instagram though, they can follow the journey of development and how it’s got to where it is. And there are lots of examples of all the photography I’ve done and my thought processes are all there. And that’s the best place to see it really is on Instagram. on my website, I do have a blog, which if you go back to the beginning, explains how I got to got to where it is now in an academic way. but it’s an easy read. so yeah, if you said my website will eventually be updated with the whole story, the Kickstarter had that kind of, the talk, the, the sort of beginning of it on it as well, and I think that is still public. if people find that they can actually read that as well. So yeah.

Dr. Dean: 

I’ll put those links in the show

Dawn Rodgers: 

Thank you.

Dr. Dean: 

You’re welcome. Thank you for sharing that. Are there things that you wish you knew 30 years ago that you’ve had to learn over the 30 years for those of us that aren’t out that far?

Dawn Rodgers: 

Yeah, I think, I wish I had just spoken about him more. I think it would be, I’d have more, probably more memories now. I think the fact that I’ve. not really spoken about it and not thought about it means you forget things. And I think if I’d that was one of the joys of doing the project was, going through the photos with my mum and my mum remembering stuff. And I was talking about it and finding out things. And I think I’d be more open about it and less afraid of what other people might think. I think that’s really hard when you’re young. perhaps to process that. I think I would have taught, if I could have connected with other siblings, I think I would love to have done that. And it means so much to me now when people contact me, to talk to them about their brothers or their sisters. I had a massive connection, with someone called Megan, who, she was the first person I really spoke to it about and because of the circumstance of her own brother’s passing. we really connected and it was, and it just felt such relief. To talk to her and I’d never had, and I really wish I had been able to do that. I have a really dear friend who I think without her probably would’ve gone a bit mad, who was who I could talk to, but I think I just needed to relax about it all a bit. which is really hard though, isn’t it? You’re in this situation where you’re so upset and I just couldn’t manage that and I think I should have just allowed that to, to happen. And I think probably spoken to someone about it much. it sounds ridiculous and what got me really got me started on the journey was I had a really, I’m a big dog lover and I had a really beloved Labrador that died very dramatically and suddenly in front of me and my mum rang me at the exact moment and it was a massive trigger. It triggered everything back to the beginning and that was the beginning of the journey of recovery. And in fact, I met. The lady who had been counseling me recently to give her a copy of the book and I said to her I think that was my dog’s last gift to me. That makes me really feel sad actually when I talk about that because he allowed me to then begin the conversation, begin the journey to being properly feeling healed about the whole event. So it was just I don’t know, it’s very, I’m so locked down about my brother emotionally that I think that event allowed me to

Dr. Dean: 

Mhm.

Dawn Rodgers: 

out.

Dr. Dean: 

You mentioned earlier that you were perceived as just the sibling in that, in those early days. I wonder if that also impacted how you shut down, even with your parents or,

Dawn Rodgers: 

yeah, I think, and that’s not, I have to stress that, it’s not come from my parents at all, it’s

Dr. Dean: 

oh, good, good.

Dawn Rodgers: 

It’s just like societal, I think, but it did, I think it did, I felt I wasn’t aligned. This could be completely imagined. I don’t know. But I really felt that I wasn’t allowed to be sad because I was a sibling, and that I was there to support everyone else and to help them, cope with their grief and to be there for them. And I didn’t feel like there was a space for me to, to be able to grieve. when I’m, when I’m sitting here talking to you now and remembering all sorts of. things that are really upsetting. but I couldn’t really share them with anyone. And I just, it was all me. It was all in this. I was the one that put up the barriers, I think. but I don’t remember anyone asking me if I was okay, but they might’ve done. It might be that I just wasn’t ready to hear it. So. It’s not about placing blame on anyone or anything, but I did feel like I, it wasn’t, I, I wasn’t his partner. I wasn’t his parent. I was his sister and I somehow felt like I didn’t have a space to be able to grieve

Dr. Dean: 

I don’t think you’re imagining that, because that’s been a pretty common theme with all of our guests and myself and some of my patients, that’s just unfortunately how society often sees siblings until it happens to them. And I don’t think it’s harmful, like you said, I don’t think, people are not asking you. it’s not intentional. We just don’t really think about the sibling relationship in the same way that it actually has meaning.

Dawn Rodgers: 

I think as well, people Don’t think there’s a sort of politeness maybe in the UK where people don’t ask you about those things. They don’t want to upset you. Whereas actually you might want to be upset or you might, I might just, in the early days, I just wanted to like, when people were talking, this is a really clear memory. When people were talking about their brothers and I would go, Oh yeah, my brother used to do that. You just hear the silence. It was like, like I dropped the biggest clanger in the room. And so that also stopped me from talking about him and. It made me quite angry at points, but it just became easier just to save other people’s discomfort. and then maybe I’m a product of my generation, but all about not upsetting anyone else. So in the end, I just stopped talking about it because it clearly upset other people to think that might be a possibility, for them, when you start talking about someone in the past tense and in the circumstances, my, my brother’s death. Yeah, it was really difficult. If I met someone, this was really fascinating, her experience. So her brother died the exact same year as mine. Few months apart, but we were both had the same experience that we were both at university where people went, just need to get this bit done really, if you can just get on and do it. And just like this kind of pressure to like finish, whereas, put that thing behind you, this really big event that’s happened to you, like just forget that and let’s just get on with doing your degree. And it, and I don’t think they meant anything by it. I’m not going to mention anyone’s name, but I don’t think they meant anything by it. at all, but people just didn’t know how to process that. Whereas now, obviously, that experience would be completely different for any, anybody of my age that was studying at the time. the support would be there, but at that time it was like, let’s just forget this and crack on and get your degree done. So yeah, I made it through to the end amazingly.

Dr. Dean: 

I’m glad to hear that. Do you have any favorite memories that you want to share with us?

Dawn Rodgers: 

Yeah, I think some of my favorites are Christmas type memories, and being the one that constantly woke my brother up going, is it time to get up? waiting for Christmas morning and constantly waiting, for him. And just, there’s one really clear memory and it’s in one of the first books that I made and My brother and I were putting up Christmas decorations with my father and he obviously clearly was ready for us to go to bed. I don’t know how late it was. And he started going, Oh my goodness. Can you see? Look, I can see Santa over there on the rooftop. And he literally convinced us both that we could, see Santa on the rooftop. So we had to go to bed in case he didn’t come. We were very young. I mean, I think I was probably only about four or five when that happened. And so my brother would have been about two or three, I think I was five. But yeah, he totally convinced us it was time for us to go to bed. So we did. And that, that really stays with me. That always makes me chuckle when I think about it.

Dr. Dean: 

thank you for sharing that. that’s charming. Imagining you as a child

Dawn Rodgers: 

Yeah.

Dr. Dean: 

looking out The window for Santa.

Dawn Rodgers: 

fishing.

Dr. Dean: 

Fishing?

Dawn Rodgers: 

Yeah. My brother was a huge fan of fishing and I remember him trying to teach me to fish. That was the other one that was very bad at it.

Dr. Dean: 

Do you try now?

Dawn Rodgers: 

a, Oh, no. Goodness. No I don’t I’ll leave that to him.

Dr. Dean: 

He tried to teach you though.

Dawn Rodgers: 

he did try to teach me. we did go out. so we were very lucky because living in Dorset, when we were young, youngsters, weren’t quite teenagers, but we had to have a lot of freedom to, to roam around. And we’d often go down to the beach and, so my brother would go fishing. So one day I went with him and was trying to get him to teach me. I think I managed to cast a line eventually, but yeah, it wasn’t very good. I have done it since than my husband actually. but yeah, that any lessons I had from the past didn’t help them either.

Dr. Dean: 

All right. Was there anything else that you wanted to share or talk about today that we didn’t talk about yet?

Dawn Rodgers: 

No, I I suppose just anyone who’s listening to this, there, there are people out there that are they will be willing to listen and support you. And, just, as, and when you feel, don’t feel like this pressure to have to move on in your grief until you’re really ready for it. I think that would be the biggest thing and don’t do what I didn’t lock it down for so long. cause it does it, I have forgotten lots of things I think because of that, which is a shame.

Dr. Dean: 

Thank you for that actually leads me to one other question. I know it’s slightly different there in the UK But it sounds like you’ve had a incredible grief counselor to help you.

Dawn Rodgers: 

Yeah, I was really lucky. So I, I started having, so when the big event happened with my dog, I started having my anxiety just went through the roof and I’m very, I was very lucky that I had access to free counseling, which is not always the case, but the counselor I had. I went to talk to her about anxiety and ended up talking about my brother all the time. and I could see her as and when, even when we were in lockdown, I could see her remotely. it, it was so strange. I think it was just so the right time. It didn’t, it allowed me to understand that grief was just this thing that was like, very organic and it didn’t have to follow a line and that it’s, no wonder you felt anxious. this thing happened and just helped me to gain perspective about it all and then being able to process it through, artwork. So I, I do sometimes just get in touch and not for counselling, just to let her know when I made the book and when I finished that, I did get in touch there and just to let her know that, because I felt she was quite instrumental in helping me just think and reflect on things, as well. So I just wanted her to know that it came out really well. It was really helpful and that it just, yeah, it was, I don’t know, it just felt all okay. It all feels all okay now.

Dr. Dean: 

Yeah thank you for that and congratulations on the book.

Dawn Rodgers: 

Thank you very much.

Dr. Dean: 

You’re welcome. Thanks for chatting with me today as well.

Dawn Rodgers: 

It’s been my pleasure. It’s been lovely.

Dr. Dean: 

/Thank you so much for listening. Our theme song was written by Joe Mylward and Brian Dean and was performed by Fuji Sounds(feat. MYLWD.). If you would like more information on The Broken Pack™, go to our website, thebrokenpack. com. Be sure to sign up for our newsletter, Wild Grief™, and to learn about opportunities and receive exclusive information and content, as well as grieving tips for subscribers. Information on that, our social media and on our guest can be found in the show notes wherever you get your podcasts. Please like, follow, rate, subscribe, and share. Thanks again.

 

Listen wherever you get your podcasts!