(The following is a compilation of a few email exchanges with Anonymous)
I am a replacement child. I was born almost a year to the day after my brothers suicide. Currently only on chapter 2 of your book, Replacement Child, taking it slowly cause I have to. As I read the book, I simply cannot believe how similar the experience is. I felt compelled to write to you just to simply say thank you for words I could never find for my feelings. I didn’t realize there were more of me out there, let alone people talking about it.
I started therapy several weeks ago. The Pandemic has exacerbated my overall condition to where I was feeling totally broken. I wanted to dig into why I am the way I am, and start from the beginning. I’ve been to a Bessel Van Der Kolk talk years ago, at the time connected the dots, and committed to investigate the trauma I was born into one day. While researching childhood trauma recently, I found the Psychology Today article “Are you a replacement child” and was blown away, thinking to myself, “wait, this is a thing?”. The more information I discovered, the more I connected with this concept. I started looking for books, and I found yours on Audible. I’m an ear reader. I’m up to chapter 45 now; went for a long walk and cleaned the garage.
I’m Jewish, so the prayer and events around the funeral as well as other Jewish references resonated with me. I’m craving a corned beef sandwich now. There are many parallels with your parents behavior and mine. Your intense and detailed presentation of the details of the crash echoes my intense curiosity with my brother’s death. I know very little. I’m just beginning to decode this, so I don’t have many deep insights yet. I’m sure I’ll have more to say soon. However, I’m beginning to understand the little boy who’s frozen inside me, never having fully formed. I haven’t even heard of individuation until now.
(And in a subsequent letter)
First of all, I finished the book the other day and I’ve been waiting for the feelings to settle before reaching out. I was captivated by the swirling chaos of the crash; culminating with the description of your father’s reaction to the news, and then sharing it with your mother. To some degree, that allowed me to identify with and participate in my own defining moment of pre-birth trauma. (I was driving at the time, so I had to keep it together.)
Hearing how life went on, and events unfolded added clarity to the environment I was born into. It was another step toward understanding my own history and self. So many things are starting to make sense now. So much so, I have had fleeting feelings of being ok in my own skin. I was resigned to never discovering self-love or forgiveness. I still need to get my head around that, but for once, it seems attainable.
It happened the Saturday before Mother’s Day… Suffice to say that was a difficult holiday to celebrate in our household. Pictures of my mother before it happened are very different. I don’t think I ever knew that woman.
Thank you so much for writing. I know how it feels to find other replacement children. Your journey is similar to my own, as you will know from my book. I had no idea this was a “thing” until at least a year into writing my memoir. And so interesting that you found Bessel Van Der Kolk, as I did later. He offers such great insight.
I am so gratified to hear that my book was helpful to you in understanding your own journey. I did feel like I needed to dive in to the details of the accident that killed my sister. It seemed imperative for my understanding of myself. I’ve always believed that even as we learn the specifics of others situations as replacement children, there is somewhat of a universal feeling and impact on our lives. My own struggle with my identity led to 3 failed marriages and finally my current marriage to a man who sees me and appreciates me for who I am. I believe I needed to do that for myself first. In my case through a roundabout and somewhat haphazard way. The several therapists I had seen over the years had no idea of the replacement child condition. Finding other replacement children has been, for me, like finding family.
Be well, and keep going on this personal journey. I hope it helps to know you are not alone in this.
Thank you again for reaching out. It means a great deal to me.
All my best,
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