“I Wouldn’t Exist, If My Brother Hadn’t Died”

This letter I would like to dedicate to all replacement children who are still looking for their place in life, as well as to my former professor, on behalf of all those people, who find it difficult to understand this circumstance.

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It`s a great feeling, when you have people around you who believe in you and support you. But there are also situations in life, in which this belief and support of others burdens you more than it helps you.

I am a 31-year-old Replacement Child and I was born three years after my brother died in a car accident when he was 19. Even if I didn’t know the expression “replacement child” when I was younger, I always knew that I wouldn’t exist if my brother hadn’t died. I can’t remember 90 percent of my childhood, but I still remember the moments when my mother called me by my brother’s name, Hansi. I can probably remember it clearly because those where the key moments of my childhood. Namely, that I am not meant at all. That it’s not about me at all. That I shouldn’t even be there. Maybe that`s why I forgot the rest; because it just didn’t matter. How can events, memories be important, when it was never about yourself, about the person, who you were, who you are? For me, this is one of the main problems in this replacement child condition: The loss, respectively the missing of one’s own identity. And that’s what makes it so difficult even as an adult. You don’t know yourself. And when you don’t know yourself, how should you find your place in this life?

“How can I know what I want if I don’t even know myself?”

I am over 30 now, but I still haven`t found a job that fulfills me. I see my peers, who have both feet firmly planted in life, and above all in their professional life, who have a career and make plans that they follow. And then, I see my life, I have no vocation, no special talent, no higher goal that I aspire to and that I want to achieve. This circumstance used to make me angry and desperate in the past, but today I have learned to be more understanding with myself in this regard. Because how can I know what I want, including what I want to achieve professionally, if I don’t even know myself. Now you would think that in such situations, it helps to have people around you, who believe in you and support you. Not necessarily. On the one hand, of course, I think it’s nice when someone believes in me, but on the other hand, it also puts me under a lot of pressure. When someone believes in me and believes that I can become more than I am at the moment, then I feel this expectation on me. An expectation that I should do something with my life, that I should get ahead, develop myself further, possibly even have a career and become successful. And it is precisely at this point that the other person’s belief in me burdens me more than it helps me. Something that is actually well-intentioned becomes a burden.

For me, there are two main reasons for this:

On the one side, even as a child I couldn’t satisfy the expectations that were placed on me. After all, I wasn’t the dead child I was meant to replace, and no matter how hard I tried, the dead sibling’s footsteps were always too big for me to fit in. So from an early age I have not had good experiences with expectations placed on me. For me it’s no wonder, that even as an adult I have problems with it. Especially when you consider that lots of replacement children struggle with mental health problems, it is not surprising that any kind of expectation becomes a burden for you, because you know that most of the time you can’t live up to them.

On the other side, I get the feeling again that it’s not about me, that I`ve not been seen again. I often think to myself it’s all well and good that someone believes that I can achieve something, but first of all I wouldn’t even know what I’m supposed to achieve, and secondly this raises the question of whether you are again: just not good enough? That I again won`t be liked and accepted, just the way I am. I’m aware of the fact that when people say “I believe in you” or “I believe you can make it” that they don’t have this intention, but they ignore the circumstance, that I may not yet be able to make something of myself. And that I may never be either. That I just want to be, and want to be accepted as what I am: A human being, who is still searching for himself, his identity and his place in life.