Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

The Forgotten Sibling

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on August 21, 2012

Theresa,, went to Becky’s house for a gathering of family and friends. Becky is one of Theresa’s older sisters and she lives around the corner from Theresa, yet Becky and Theresa hardly speak. Theresa introduces herself as “Becky’s sister” to a consistent response of “oh, I did not know about you.” One friend went even further. “We had dinner with Becky on many Friday nights, and your parents were always there, but we never heard about you.” Theresa, not shocked, but hurt, understood that in her younger years, her siblings and her parents were mean to her, but now she discovered that in her later years, they mentally erased her from their internal landscape. “In a way, this makes sense,” Theresa tells me. “I avoided them for years because they were so cruel to me, so I can understand that rather than feeling rejected by me, they just pretended I did not exist. Still, I was really hurt to hear this.” Theresa tells me, with a confused sense of pain and disappointment. “I can understand you being hit by not being recognized as a sibling, both by your sister and by your parents.” I say, trying to picture Theresa standing at this party, realizing how her family tried to delete her from their lives, while at the same time, they maintained enough contact to invite her to this recent gathering. “It is hard to process,” I say, seeing confusion and pain on Theresa’s face. “Yes and no.” Theresa says, referring to the many years where we have discussed the painful dynamics of her family. “I knew that whenever I go to Becky’s house, which fortunately is not that often, I am going to be hit by something. I always am. I always brace myself. There has been so much bad blood for so many years, that I know that more will surface with each contact. On the other hand, I did not know it would hit me like this. Imagine how her friends felt, knowing Becky for over thirty years and not knowing that I existed. That must reflect poorly on Becky. I would imagine. During that time, I have had significant trauma in my life, so I can’t imagine how Becky did not talk about this with her friends, but maybe she didn’t. Maybe her lack of concern for me is worse than I thought.” Theresa says, as if she is reaching a new level of pain as she thinks about her relationship with Becky. “My friends know Becky exists, even though they have never met her. I guess I care more about Becky than she cares about me. As the younger sister, I so intensely looked up to all of my siblings. I can imagine that as the older sibling, Becky wished that I was not born because I took away our parents’ attention. I guess that wish never went away.” Theresa says realizing that sibling rivaly is so different, depending on birth order. “She might have wished you were not born, and then pretended that as she got older.” I say, highlighting that people speak in wishes. “Wow, that is deep,” Theresa says as she leaves the consultation room.

2 Responses to “The Forgotten Sibling”

  1. Shelly said

    Shirah, did my comment not post or was it removed?

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