Not My Brother’s Keeper

When I was 15 my parents started to get divorced. At 16 my mom and I moved out of the house after a pretty fucked up situation that made me respect her even more than I already did. To some it up, she threw herself to the wolves instead of letting me ruin my relationship with my dad. What also came out of that was she lost my brother. It has been 10 years since my brother stopped talking to my mom. It has been 6 years since he stopped talking to me and while the reasoning for why he stopped talking to her makes sense, even though he only knows half of the story and he wasn’t actually present like I was to see what actually happened. Why he stopped talking to me doesn’t.

The thing that frustrates me about this whole situation is that when he stopped talking to me, he cut himself off from my whole family on both sides. While a few family members on my dad’s side still see him every once and a while the vast majority only know what I do, and that’s nothing. Every holiday I now expect to be asked about him, to be told to keep trying, to tell me that it is up to me to bring him back.

In reality it isn’t.

My brother is an adult. If he wants to not have contact with his family that is his choice. If he doesn’t want to have contact with me that is his choice. It is also my choice whether or not I should put myself through the emotional mess of dealing with the fact that I have someone out there who shares the same DNA as me and wants nothing to do with me. I throw that box on the top shelf of my closet and hide it behind all of my other baggage.

I am often told that I should just contact him, write a letter every once and a while. This again ignores that I am doing all of the emotional output in this relationship. I care about my brother, I care that he is well, I care that he is happy but at what expense should I care about him when he has little regard for my own wellbeing?

If you know someone who is estranged from their sibling stop giving advice and just listen. You probably know very little about what actually happened. Shit I was involved and I still don’t know exactly why he stopped talking to me but I’m sick of sitting around and caring. If he comes back then he comes back, if he doesn’t well then he is missing out.

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3 thoughts on “Not My Brother’s Keeper

  1. This resonates so strongly with me, though it was a different family member in my case. I know exactly what you mean about not wanting the advice and nudging of people who don’t, and can’t, understand. One cannot carry on a relationship unilaterally; not in the long term, anyway. You keep taking care of you.

  2. I am the family member who has chosen to opt out in my biological family. I wish my family would respect my choice as you are respecting your brother’s. Instead they try to mend something that is not only damaged, but missing most of it’s components.

    Instead I have created a family in my life of people who love and care for me unconditionally where my biological family do not.

    I hope that you can find the space and peace you need.

  3. What’s going on with your brother may have nothing to do with you. I have a sister who suffers from depression. When it hits she withdraws from everyone. We are old now and this has been happening all our lives. The first couple of times it happened I didn’t understand it was the illness and I didn’t reach out to her. I thought it was all about me. After I realized it wasn’t I started to reach out when it happened. I think it helped her and I know it helped me.

    She is just coming out of a depression that lasted over two years and during that time she took my phone calls and answered the door when I stopped by. Years of just being there finally paid off.

    I am a firm believer that adults do not owe other adults anything. My children and grandchildren aren’t obligated to visit me or to do things for me. I am not obligated either. What I do is because I love them. I realized with my sister(one of my seven siblings) that no matter how awful she was(and depression can make people absolutely awful to be around) that I loved her even when I couldn’t stand her. This made it possible for me to send a card or leave a voice mail once or twice a year to begin with and then more often when I realized it didn’t hurt me and might help her.

    People who are asking you to keep contacting your brother probably find you to be more stable and think you can do it. With seven siblings, I have a large extended family. Sometimes what seems like pure nosiness is also concern.

    This is so long but this is a difficult issue. There is no one right answer.

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