Judy Mandel

Judy L. Mandel

Replacement Child

Family Dynamics

Replacement Child for a Challenged Sibling

Replacing a living sibling

Posted Jun 03, 2013

Although my book Replacement Child doesn't deal specifically with this notion, many of my stories in the book point to a complicated dance around my sister Linda's—I hesitate to use the term—disabilities, that were due to the plane crash and the burns she suffered at the age of two. I certainly felt guilt at being the one spared from the crash, especially in the face of her continued struggles with her reconstructive surgeries, physical limitations and extensive scarring. In a way, I had a double wammy of replacing my sister who died, and being the replacement for my living sister to be all that she could not be for my parents.

A replacement child for a physically or mentally challenged sibling carries the responsibility of living up to parents' expectations for the first child that may undermine their sense of a unique identity. It may be another overlooked aspect of family history that can have far reaching implications in our choices, our relationships and our understanding of ourselves.