When Someone Dies Too Young

02/10/2012 08:18 BST | Updated 30/11/2012 10:12 GMT

When our friend Stevie rang us up to say he was ill and couldn't come down for the weekend we didn't think much of it.

He'd been taken into hospital but was laughing about it with his usual dry wit.

It was a shock to find out he'd taken a turn for the worse and unbelievable when we were told two days later they may have to turn his life support machine off.

He'd rang us on Thursday. On Sunday he was dead. He was 24.

stevie sims

I studied at St Andrews University with Steven

There's a frozen horror to the shock of a sudden death. The world recedes into the background as you try to process the reality.

Your ordinary surroundings rise into a kind of ugly mishapen vividity. Everything seems bizarrely mundane and almost unreal.

To confuse you even more, your mind goes on repeat, echoing 'life support', 'gone' or even 'dead' in a kind of futile attempt to confront the reality. It's like your thoughts are paralysed till you can understand what's happened.

And there's nothing you can do. You can get drunk, you can get angry, you can quit your job or you can shout at your friends, but you can't bring them back.

stevie sims

Stevie is so incredibly missed by everyone

When the shock dies down to a kind of fragile numbness and your mind accepts the finality of it, that's when it really begins to hit you.

The senseless nature of the death alters your perception of everything; the world you live in, your relationships and who you are.

Grief can be incredibly inward-looking and sometimes its easy to confuse what feels like right remembrance (I wanted to think of him all the time for fear of ever forgetting) with a destructive brooding on death.

stevie sims

Stevie was talented musician

As a journalist I write about a lot of horrible things. It's easy to become numb to it: practical things like grammar, deadlines and the sheer number of awful things that occur on a daily basis make empathy a luxury.

But after Stevie died, I could feel the bilious pain that death causes families and communities. Many of the people I was writing about had felt that same gut-wrenching shock and grief, and judging from the awful situations I was writing about, most had probably felt worse. It was like Stevie's death had opened my eyes and this deluge of grief, anger and confusion threatened to rush in and sink me up to my eyeballs.

Sometimes telling yourself that "death is a part of life" offers comfort, the truism encouraging an acceptance of the loss while validating recovery.

Time too, the enemy of all us really, turns on its heels and offers some protection from the pain.

However the sudden loss of someone only a year out of university seems to something that will never make sense. It seems there is no way of accepting that this could be 'a part of life', at least a life I rate.

"Live each day as if it was your last" is another phrase intended to provide comfort.

But who wants to live like that? It's human nature to plan, to hope, to dream: to think that what you do today may make tomorrow better.

Yet for some people tomorrow never comes and there seems to be no reason why. I found that (and still find it) it incredibly upsetting.

In the wake of Stevie's death, his friends, members of his rugby team and bandmates shared stories and pictures on Facebook. As people remembered him, there was some comfort in knowing what a well-loved and respected man he was.


He had touched so many people, and was continuing to do so. And that I suppose is where its possible to find some resolution.

Looking to Stevie showed me how to come to terms with a world where someone like him could be taken away so young.

He wouldn't have wanted everyone to stop living their lives as they are meant to be led. It's not ungrateful if you dont live every day as if it was your last, and it's OK to work a rubbish job for six months just so you can live your dreams and go travelling.

Living long-term is fine as long as you are doing it because you want to make your life count.

So Stevie I thank you for being such a great man and making so many of my friends happy with some of the best one-liners I've ever heard.

Thanks too for making sure that I think of everyone I write about. People aren't just words and no writer should ever forget that.

Most of all though, thank you for teaching me that living is about looking forward. Through all of us, you're living on too.


Steven died from ITP (Immune thrombocytopenia, also known as idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura) which is a rare immune disorder that affects the number of platelets you have in your blood.

To find out more about symptoms, help raise awareness or join a support group click here.