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January 06, 2006


Lisa Olson

I am a replacement child for a brother who died at 10 days old from congenital heart failure. I was named after a fictional television character: Lisa on "As the World Turns" (she may still be on it!). My parents were so terrified of my impending doom, that they never picked a name or set their hopes on me while they were pregnant. The story goes that they had to stay in the hospital for 2 extra days because they couldn’t agree on a name for me. They never considered any boys or girls names…at all. “Never even thought about it”, according to my mom. Ultimately, I was named after "Lisa", a soap opera character because the television was on. I don’t know the actual actress' real name, and I haven’t ever investigated what kind of “person” she was on the television show. She may still be on the show too. I know she has been on it for years and years. One of several "family jokes" about me. This is like the story of my life – my parents were so paralyzed and apprehensive about my existence that I was named after a fictional person!! Like I have said before (in other places discussing my experience as a replacement child), I feel like I stand behind a veil: they know I am there, but they can’t see me. I wasn’t even worthy of a name for a real person.


Hi, from the Mountains, daughter of two immigrant parents, one sort of bourgeois daughter of an orfan mother, and one son of "land slaves" - they had a son, he died, then 3 years later I was born, and they gave me the same name save for a vowel to change the gender... never admitted to relpacing him, still... always felt awkward and usurpating someonelses's spot and breathing someonelses air on earth... 8 years into therapy... 2 kids, first a boy, my mother holding him going in a weird trance-like state and calling him my dead brothers' name... rage and fear I could have killed my mother in that moment if only I wasn't afraid she'd drop my boy if I'd Wake her from her trance. Still mad. Grandmothers had advised mother and father not to name me the same... so, slavery, replacement, and orfanage heritage... all on me? why? what can I do with this not to thrwo it in my kids' lives? I thought of cérémonies but you need a community who believes in cérémonies, all alone it doesn't make sense. Some sort of Art? ... I don't know, whatever I think as soon as it gets some sort of material existence, feels absurd and impossible.

Claire McInnerny

I was born a year after my step-brother died of septicaemia after a peritonitis operation; I am 64 and still struggle with permanent sadness and a fear of living pervaded by the threat of dying: this has dominated my personal life (depression), my married life (I have had no children) and my professional life (sabotaging my Teaching career). I started understanding that I was a replacement child years after having various types of therapy for my anxiety disorders; I understood that I had inherited, almost viscerally, my mother's (unresolved) grief. She must have been crying over me when I was born, when she was pregnant and she wore black at my christening. I 'became' my mother and found it difficult to live my own life fully. Art brings me relief, I am 'me' when I paint.


wow how is it possible that i thought i was the only person who had ever experienced this.... i carry my dead sisters first name as my first name....i'm 45 years old and am feeling overwhelmed and yet releaved at what i'm reading

Rita J

I am also a replacement child. My 14 year old brother died from a heard defect and I was born a year later.
I would very much like to be in contact with other adults who are Replacement Children as a friend and I are doing a project on this subject. If you are willing to talk about your experience, I would very much appreciate it if you would contact me.
[email protected] Thank you so much, Rita

Gail Roberts

My sister Karen died from an unnecessary surgery at the age of 3 and I was conceived as a "replacement" in my Mother's words a year after death. As Anonymous stated: "Being overprotected and afraid of everything felt normal." And: "My family was destroyed before I was born. My parents fell inside themselves."
My brother, 2 yrs older than his dead sister became a career psychiatric patient with every conceivable diagnosis and cocktails of drugs that finally killed him. I never forgave myself for having a serious nervous breakdown in my 20's. At age 61 I'm finally free of lifelong depression, I'd better cross my fingers, "aging isn't for sissies." I'm writing from the Middle East! I never settled down, didn't marry, didn't have children, but luckily I was able in some measure to give birth to myself and see a lot of the world, and I'll come home someday soon.


My brother Matthew died at age 7 of leukemia. My parents miscarried shortly thereafter, and nine or so months after that I was born. I carry his name as my middle name.

My family was destroyed before I was born. My parents fell inside themselves. At an early age I learned of my dead brother and began to have nightmares and couldn't sleep. I was afraid of Matthew, he terrorized me. He was so angry at me for existing. I could see his ghost through the window at night. By the age of 8, I felt like I was living on borrowed time. In reality I was forced to confront my own mortality at the very beginning of my life, with no support or mental capacity for handling such a thing. My childhood became an attempt to paper over everything, everyone's hurt. Being overprotected and afraid of everything felt normal. I fell inside myself too. Until I went to college and got a girlfriend who really loved me, I was suicidal-- for ten years, from 5th grade until I was 19.

I've been in therapy for over two years, and I just realized that I am a "replacement child."

Jackie Stafford

This topic answers a lot of questions for me. I was born in 1962 a year after my sister died at 9 months old. I have always felt a bit of a failure and that if my sister had lived she would have been much better than me.

My mother could be quite distant and aloof. I don't think she ever got over the death of her first child and I was a constant reminder.


Replacement child here, Born a year after my sister tragicly drowned.Im male and have never felt very masculine, lifes been hard and i do all i can do to maker myself more confident and happy, still feel unworthy and small thou , il will fight thou it hopefully.
Be nice to talk to others like me so leave your email if u want, bye.

Decarpentrie Patricia

I am a replacement child following the death of my sister Alison born with a heart defect she died on the 11th of May 1964, and I was born on the 17th of March 1965.
Following my mothers dealth in 2004 I have found the berevement process extremly long and difficult leading to depression. I am now having therapy and beginning to understand my life.

Judy Mandel

I am a replacement child. You can read about my upcoming memoir, Replacement Child, at:

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