Talking to other replacement children

Recently I’ve found other people that identify with being a replacement child of some sort. Talking to them, it is uncanny the similarities I am finding in my own feelings and attitudes, even when their circumstances are vastly different than my own. It’s apparent, for instance, that parents of replacement children–those born to replace a sibling who has died–don’t talk about the child who died. Some don’t even acknowledge that the child existed until the replacement child may discover some old photos or documents that clue them in.

I remember when I first started asking about my sister Donna and the plane crash that killed her. My mother insisted that she had told me everything about it. But she hadn’t really. Until I was around 10 and started asking questions, I thought it was only a fire that had killed my sister, and nearly killed my other sister–leaving her scarred and needing surgery after surgery to reconstruct nearly every part of her 2 year old body. I had no idea a plane had crashed into their house.

These other replacement children are telling me similar stories that their parents thought they knew the details of their particular story through some kind of parental osmosis. Some started asking questions at around the same age I did, others not until they were in their twenties or later. Still others never thought to ask until some physical evidence–like a secret baby book–was discovered.

At first, I would have thought–no harm done, what does it really matter? But, the more I learn about the long-term effects of being a replacement child, the more I realize that knowing the origins of certain feelings and issues is the first step in taking control over your life and your relationships.

I’m also more and more convinced that other replacement children are out there–that may not recognize themselves as such until someone asks the right questions. And, because of that, they may not understand some of the issues that keep popping up in their relationships.

Judy L. Mandel is the author of Replacement Child, a Memoir

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