A Letter From Not J

Thank you for establishing your website and promoting the existence of Replacement Child. I feel now I have got an answer. 

The realization that I was a replacement child came about when my second son was born and my mother went through her old photographs of my sister J and found one which looked a lot like my son. I got that invisible feeling again.


I found a therapist who helped me identify what I am.

My sister J died of leukemia at the age of four. She was the first born, then came my brother 18 months after her birth, and then me. J had died 2 years before I was born. She was a supreme being in my mind untouchable, clever, beautiful, blue eyed girl. When I was younger, Mum would talk about her and how advanced she was for her age and then she would cry a lot. I always felt that I needed to comfort her whilst conversely feeling I rejected,  I didn’t have any of those attributes. I was invisible, my mother didn’t see me. I also wasn’t sure whether I should grieve or not. I felt like an imposter.

Over time she (Mum) came out of that type of grief and we have had a close relationship, but not connected by a bond. She doesn’t understand why I am how I am and doesn’t see the impact of choosing to have a replacement child has had on my life. I’m 41 now. My 41 years have had many voids of alcohol abuse, feelings of looking in the mirror and not associating myself with what I was seeing. I was self-destructive. I starved myself of self-love. 

I remember in my twenties going to a bar in London with a boyfriend at the time to meet his friend who was having a party. I was introduced to him and he already knew who I was. “You’re J’s sister, I went to kindergarten with her.” I initially broke down in tears, not because I was sad, but it was because I’d never heard anyone talk about her outside of my family and used both our names together. It was like our worlds were suddenly coexisting, that she lived in my world and I lived in hers. The effect of that exchange caused a huge breakdown of worthlessness. I was devastated.

I would always lie and say that I was alive when J was so I could be a part of the family before it happened. That I wasn’t associated with her death and therefore not responsible for the role that was bestowed upon me.

I’m really keen to understand how you find your ‘self’ after such a long time. I’m 41 and I feel that this has really impacted my life choices. I have seen the world, got a degree etc. I am happy with my husband and my gorgeous boys. I just still feel like I’m someone looking in, like I don’t know how to be present in my life. Whether that’s anxiety I don’t know. I would be grateful for any insight. Really happy to be a case study.

Kind regards, Not J

Dear Not J,

We are deeply moved by your letter and thank you very much for writing. 

We recognize many of the core elements of your suffering, like the lack of recognition and feeling invisible. 

We understand that you suffered from auto-destructive behavior and that you ’starved yourself of self-love’.

May there lie the beginning of a new life? Start valuing yourself, look inside and discover who you are. There you may find great sadness and a feeling of loss – but also the discovery that you have been there despite it all, safely hidden away and waiting to be re-discovered – your very being, your original life – you, and not you in place of the other. 

There is a way forward, a way to find your true self and re-connect with your true self, that rock bottom ground to your very own being.

As adult replacement children, we three co-founders of the replacementchildforum.com have all benefitted from therapy and analysis and we recommend that you seek guidance and counseling, from a health care provider. If you let us know where you are located, we may be able to help you find that help.

We also humbly recommend each of our books, which each offer a different perspective on the replacement child condition:

  • Individuation for Adult Replacement Children, Ways of coming into Being, by Kristina E. Schellinski
  • Replacement Children, The Unconscious Script, by Rita Battat and Abigail Brenner, MD
  • Replacement Child – a memoir, by Judy L. Mandel
  • They are all listed on our site: http://replacementchildforum.com/books/

Thank you so much for reaching out, it is the first step towards healing.

With warm wishes to you, 

Judy, Rita, Kristina 

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