Jess' story: sister, daughter, young carer, her own person

When Jess's brother broke his back in a car accident it changed her life too. She has written her own honest and emotional account of being the sibling of an accident survivor.

I feel different. Yet I am not the one with a physical injury. In most aspects of my life nothing has changed. I can still have the life I had always wanted. I can still have my planned career. I can have a family. But I feel the grief.

I feel like I could never be the same person I was before 7 July 2018 when my brother Jarrod's life completely changed.

A severed spinal cord

He knew it before we'd even had scans. And he was okay with it. He wanted a green wheelchair he told us as we surrounded him in the emergency room.

I can walk. I can climb stairs, but I feel different. Every day I carry this weight. Some days I forget that it’s there; other days it is all consuming. It’s been three years since the accident and thinking of those first moments can still undo me.

I am a teacher now. I finished university as planned. I was determined to make my parents proud—as if my success would somehow lift the pain we all felt. I graduated with great marks and it was the best day of my life. But these days I catch myself summarising my years of university with the traumas that punctuated my studies, rather than my personal successes.

A few weeks ago I was reading the novel Wonder, a story about a boy with severe facial deformities, to my Year 5 class.

We reached the section where Via, the boy's sister, explains what it’s like to be a young carer and how our needs are often put on hold to support those around us. Of course, we understand this but at the same time find ourselves lashing out and becoming frustrated.

Family dynamics

It can be so isolating. I remember the first time I spoke to Mum about it and explaining that I felt I was no longer their child. There had been a big shift in our family dynamics. I could understand why, but I was also horrified at how resentful and angry I had become.

Angry at my parents, my friends, my community. Everyone was always asking about my brother. The support was overwhelming for our family and yet I was uncomfortable answering their questions. It made me angry and I hated that I felt that way.

I started ordering my groceries online because I couldn’t handle people asking me about my brother in the supermarket. When I’d hear the word inspiration I wanted to vomit.

My family was moving on with life but I was stuck. I was angry and I felt alone. Like no one was looking out for me.

I remember a discussion with a psychologist only a few weeks after the accident where I was explaining how I felt, and she cried. She was the first person who showed me that my feelings were justified and real.

I was so afraid of upsetting my family and drawing attention away from Jarrod that it wasn’t for months that I spoke as freely again.

Then, with perfect timing, icare provided a wecare mentor. I found out about the structures in place to support carers. I could relax knowing Mum and Dad had other supports.

Safe with a mentor

Mum and I have a wonderful relationship but there are things we can't talk about because our first instinct is to protect each other. That is what's so hard about being a young carer. Not only are we caring for a sibling but our parents—listening to them, running errands, keeping our own problems to ourselves. And at the same time they're looking out for you. It’s a difficult situation to find a balance in.

Immediately I felt safe with my mentor. I learned there are a lot of other siblings out there who feel like I do. My mentor listened to me, allowed me to cry and process.

We unpacked my recent life events, my reactions, and every time she validated my emotions.

My inner voice was telling me I was being dramatic and ridiculous, but I also couldn’t control these emotions. I knew I couldn't ignore them forever. We developed strategies and made plans.

We met regularly. We spent a lot of time working on managing my new relationship with my family and community. My mentor prompted me to have conversations with my parents and to share how I was feeling.

I am so proud of my family. We have come out on top after so much adversity. I can now recognise these triumphs because I've learned to be grateful.

I am still learning though. Occasionally the feelings of resentment return followed instantly by anger at myself for feeling this way. At these times I need to reflect on how well I have been looking after myself. Have I been giving myself space to feel? Have I been speaking up when something bothers me?

The burden remains

I am who I am today because I am a young carer. I care deeply for others and understand how important it is to speak up.

My brother lives a few hours away from me now but the weight that I carry is still there. Even if he lived on the other side of the world I'd still be a young carer. I'd still read Via's story and tear up because I understand how tricky a situation it can be.

How wonderful it is to see someone you care for so deeply succeed and be happy for them. I now know I am not forgotten.

Each day I get up and I remind myself that I am resilient. I am a young carer and I am stronger than I think I am.

“For many young people it can be hard to manage emotions after traumatic events and often, like Jess, they feel alone or forgotten when other family members are consumed by the rehabilitation of a loved one. Every young person thinks and feels differently and will experience different challenges.”
Lizzy Bowles Children and Young People Mentor–wecare program, and mentor to Jess 

About the wecare program for young people

The Children and Young People's Program provides tailored support for those aged 5 to 25.

Each participant in the program is assigned a mentor who uses age-appropriate resources to help the person:

  • adjust to additional roles and responsibilities with their loved one
  • understand and identify with their caring role
  • make informed choices, and
  • discover strategies to manage and regulate emotions during difficult times.

The program hopes to increase the wellbeing and resilience of young people and connect them with long-term support where necessary.

Find out more



02 9280 4744


wecare website, or talk with your icare contact.

Watch Jess tell her story

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