Replacement Children Are Not Only Those Born Subsequent to a Loss…

In response to Liza’s guest blog post of 18 July 2022

Liza writes in her blog “Impact of replacement child condition on siblings” of July 18, 2022, that her situation is slightly different from those discussed on the “which has been extremely helpful for me understanding my particular path through life”.

She is born third, after two boys who were born directly after a girl who was brain-damaged in the birthing process and given away to be raised in an institution.

I have seen in my clinical practice many replacement children who were not the child directly born after a sibling was lost to the family, a miscarriage, a death, a child lost in addiction, I even saw a replacement child who ‘made up’ for child lost in a divorce.

Newborn baby Photo
Photo by Hu Chen on Unsplash

In one case, a boy was born several years after a stillborn girl. In my book Individuation for Adult Replacement Children (2019) I describe the case of Anton: born after the stillbirth of his sister, he was a subsequent, a replacing child, a disappointment to his parents as he felt, with characteristic symptomatic suffering. But not only he was a replacement child. His sister, born after him, was also a replacement child. The family had wanted and expected a girl and she was the same first name as the earlier lost girl, supposedly with the intent of ‘making up’, of ‘undoing’ the earlier disappearance.  Both were replacement children. Anton had come to the painful conclusion that he, who had been born in-between, that he was doubly unwanted, that he was not to be.

The definition of a replacement child is best assessed by the person affected by such family dynamics and who is familiar with the core elements of this condition. What counts is the role a child is taking on in the family, either via projection by family members or out of own volition. 

In Liza’s greatly appreciated blog contribution, I feel the healing starts with the recognition:  this is what I am, a replacement child; and: this is who I am, a unique individual on the road of recovery and re-discovery of their original self-hood.

And you are not alone. There are many, many replacement children, and many who do not even know that this is the root cause of their suffering, caused by confusion, guilt, grief, loss, doubts of self-worth and difficult relationships stemming from the early felt ambivalence in a family where joy of birth mingled with grief over a loss.

There is now information, a forum to share, discuss and question, research, trained therapists and most valuable of all: there is a force in yourself, Liza, that keeps seeking for the true self.

Thank you for speaking up, for making your voice heard and yourself be seen.

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Kristina Schellinski