My Brother

After his little brother Jeffrey died, Stephen became an only child again, which wasn’t in the blueprint of our family. Steve was in first grade when I was born, so there are about 6 ½ years between us. I don’t think he planned on having a sister either and I assume he would have liked another buddy to play with, but again, so many unplanned events brought us together as family. As most little sisters, I worshipped my big brother and tried to emulate him in every way. By the time I was old enough to have a sense of my self, he was mostly out the house. In fact, when I was 14, he brought home his wife-to-be, Marilyn, who was to become my sister-in-law and best friend. I remember feeling so upset that I would be losing my sibling to another girl, yet Stephen reminded me that he would always love me and that I would always be his sister. His words have stayed with me my entire life and I know he feels this way today.

Today, while we do not share many of the same interests (his are business, golf and sports and red wine while mine are teaching, reading and writing and white wine), we share our family history and our current families. We are as close as a brother and sister can be, with our age difference unimportant at this stage in our lives. We share the legacy of memories that define our family of origin and our personalities. My brother got to spend more time with my parents by virtue of his age, but I can remember no sibling rivalry between us even when I perceived that he was the favored child by our mother. I was relieved for him that he didn’t have to feel less than in this way. He was always loving and caring to our mother no matter what, a quality that I respect in him as a man and as a child. He is strong in areas that I am weak and I so respect the part of him that worries less about what people think than the part of me that still cares.

If I needed my brother, he would be on the next plane, which is really all I need to know. His children feel like my own and I would assume that mine feel like his. When my three boys were little, my husband and I asked Steve and Marilyn to be their guardians should anything happen to us. Of course they immediately agreed, but my brother in his joking way also added, “Just stay healthy, Barbara.” I knew what he meant and we both laughed. I guess that is one of the elements of our relationship that I love most. We don’t have to say much or even talk every day. I know how he feels without him telling me and I know how much he loves me and cares for me without such words.

My brother has given me his wife and his children, who I love so very much, but he has given me the gift of his friendship and devotion, which I am so fortunate to have. We are the only two people in the world who share memory banks that reflect our origins: family dinners, babysitters, vacations, grief, and joy.

2 thoughts on “My Brother”

  1. Hello! I am so glad that I found your website. My eight year old brother died the year before I was born. I know now that I was brought up inevitablely under a cloud of grief. I had issues with loss for as long as I can remember. Both of my parents died in the same year when I was in my twenties which I exacerbated my fear of loss. I am embarrassed to say I am 45 years old and just dealing with this. I have extreme anxiety, fear of death, fear of illness, and compulsive thinking. Recently I literally shut down in every way for a week and have finally sought help through therapy and medication. I realize now that I am a replacement child and that may carry long term issues. Is there any advice you can give me to try to heal myself from living in this cloud of loss my whole life? I am really suffering right now and feel I will never live up to what I should be and be able to get past this chilling and terrorizing fear of loss and death. Thank you for any advice you have.

    1. Hello, Joyce,
      I am glad you found my website as well. I would suggest that you read the following books, for all 3 deal with the issue of being the replacement child. I think they will help you understand so much about yourself, as they have with me. I wrote my book “When Will I Be Good Enough? A Replacement Child’s Journey to Healing” as a way of processing my own issues and challenges and ultimate triumphs as a result of always feeling ‘less than.’ From what you write, you, too, have grown up with similar issues as a result of your brother dying before you were born. I would also suggest reading “Replacement Children: The Unconscious Script” by Silverman and Brenner. Dr. Brenner has done a lot of research on the topic and has found that we share many traits as a replacement child. Finally, Judy Mandel wrote about her experiences as a replacement child in “Replacement Child.” Many therapists are just beginning to learn about such children, so it is a relatively new focus even though the earliest research was an article written by Cain and Cain in 1964. I do believe that you can work through so many of the issues you have come to see in yourself, as I have, and live a very happy and productive life. Don’t worry about your age….I think that the journey to serenity takes quite a while. Keep up the good work. I would love to hear how you feel after reading my book. I also provide guided questions for my readers to answer and explore. These are the questions that helped me in my own journey. Take good care!

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