My brother died, and my feelings are more complex than I expected.

I have–had–two brothers, both older than I. It’s the oldest brother to whom I refer. I have rarely if ever mentioned the one closer in age to me, because while he’s a fine fellow – reliable, honest, hardworking, a good son, brother, husband, and father – there’s just no good stories about him.

But our oldest brother is another matter. Him I have mentioned often, usually to vent, and generally referring to him as my hated older brother. Which is an exaggeration. Oh, I didn’t like him; we haven’t been friends in something like a quarter of a century. But I didn’t really hate him. I didn’t want him dead or arrested or deported; I just didn’t care whether I ever saw him again. There’s a ton of reasons. He was a bully who enjoyed sadistically tickling people, including our younger sisters; he was as self-righteous evangelical Christian who took every opportunity to lecture persons less holy than he; he lectured me on the state of my marriage when his own had lasted less than two years. Most importantly he spent fifteen years breaking our mother’s heart a little bit at a time, because he could never be arsed to visit and rarely to call. She spent the last years of her life in and out of the hospital, and yet he, so proud of his adherence to the Ten Commandments, could never be arsed to take the one hour plane ride home to visit her (even when his siblings would offer to pay for his ticket), except on the one occasion when I decided to spend my day off calling him at work every hour on the hour to shame him into coming. A month after her death, he finally came home for Christmas. Trying to make peace with him I engaged him in conversation, whereupon he repeated something he’d been saying for years: that, as a righteous servant of God, he was guaranteed to live 120 years. And then he acted surprised that I was offended by this, as our mother had just died at 68.

Okay. Got some anger there.

Anyway, my brother died over the weekend. I do not yet know the details of how or why he died, though I have my suspicions. What I do know is that his landlady got concerned about him because mail was piling up in his box, so she called the police to do a welfare check and they found him dead in his bed. She got one of our cousin’s phone numbers off his facebook page, informed him, and that cousin called me.

If you had asked me a month ago – hell, a week ago – what reaction I would have to news of my brother’s sudden death, I would have predicted that I would shrug and say “Well, damn, I hope the funeral’s on a Saturday so I don’t have to take any time off work.” But I surprised myself. Apparently there’s some remnant of the six-year-old me in my heart, because when my family started assembling, my little sister, already crying, came to me for a hug, and when I returned it I burst into tears. Intellectually I know he was a fucking jackass whom I not only wished never to see again but also wanted to keep away from my wife and kids. But for that moment I was that six-year-old who worshipped his older brother, and I missed him and I was miserable.

I am not sure how I feel now. This very moment, the six-year-old me is quiescent, as if that crying jag exhausted all the grief. But I’m not sure. I had grown to hate the sight of his face, but I keep imagining what it will be like to see him that one last time before we close the coffin on him. I know he was a pernicious influence on me whom I consciously chose as a negative role model, but part of me still remembers playing chess with him, going bow-hunting with him, watching Star Trek with him, reading comics with him, and those are good memories.

I never wanted to see my brother again, and yet I’m upset that I will never get to see him again.

Apparently you can love and hate someone at the same time. Design flaw of the heart, I guess.

Skald first off I am sorry for your loss. Yes, you have lost someone, whether you were close to your brother or not. Perhaps you’re having feelings of loss because it is a brother. A relative, if you will, of your own generation. Someone you grew up knowing, someone with whom you lived. You share parents and siblings and like it or not probably some of your weird family quirks.

I lost a younger brother thirteen years ago. I was a lot closer to my brother than you were to your brother from what you posted, but still, a sibling. You lost a sibling. That hits real close to home. So, feel sad. You probably should feel a little sad.

Hope this makes some sense to you and helps.

For now I wish you peace and strength.

It’s difficult to know what to say to such a post, Skald.

I offer you my sympathy for whatever distress the processing of these complex emotions causes you. For my part, I thank you for thinking of us (Dopers) as a fitting audience for this particular step of such processing.

Condolences to your little sister, and to the six-year old fabulous creature who apparently still resides in your heart.

Makes total sense to me. You’re not exactly mourning the jackass he became, but you’re mourning the big bro you idolized as a kid. He’s dead, too, and that sucks.

Feels. They’re complicated. It’s not a bug, it’s a feature.

Condolences and all that stuff, too.

I am sorry for your loss, and know exactly what you mean. My family just celebrated my father’s 75th birthday. I think if I told anyone much about my upbringing they would be surprised that there was a family celebration. I wrestle more and more often with what I will say at his funeral.

I hope it’s not too trite to hope you can celebrate the good you remember. I wish I had an answer on the rest. Maybe it’s time to let it go?

Best wishes.


I also have some difficult family members. Sorry to hear of your bad news.

Emotions, and especially grief are so complex. HUGS

I’m very sorry to hear about your loss. I’d suggest waiting for a while before you try to figure it all out, a life is a long time, the relationship between brothers is always complex, memories and feelings will spin about in your head for now. Later it will make as much sense as it ever will. Unfortunately life ends, we can’t spend forever trying to get it all right.

I’m sorry for your loss, Skald.

Maybe you are lamenting that you never get a chance to get along, that he died when you both were on bad terms.

My condolences.

Sorry for six year old you’s loss.

sorry Skald.

yeah things are hard with a sibling you didn’t get along with dies.

there could be occasions in younger years where there was good times. your good times in your younger life were in the same family and house with them so you have an association.

there are also other siblings who might have had a better relationship or different attitude, so you have sadness for them.

the sibling could be unlikable through teen and adult years.

and you could have mixed feelings when they die.

i did get a better lawn mower when he died, though still not the best way to get it.

It’s okay not to like your relatives. My bro is also a pain in the ass religious fanatic who makes stupid comments about my twenty year old marriage to a goy but has never been married himself. You didn’t pick him and you’re not obligated to like him. My condolences all the same as you try to work out your thoughts.

Can’t think of a thing to say that you don’t already know.

The mind is like that. My old man and I have had our differences, but when he had his last heart attack, all I could think of was “who will look after me?”

I was thirty-seven at the time. But some part of me forgot that. Same way my daughter’s in her mid-thirties and been married for years, but some part of me will never quit seeing her as eleven years old.


Yeah,I think you’re missing the brother he should have been… Sorry - same boat here

Family is a tricky thing. So is love. So is life.
Losing any of that can be painful, in almost any situation. My condolences.

Peace to you and your family, however it comes.

I was abused by my father for years as a kid, and when he died, I surprised myself that I still felt sad on and off for someone I hadn’t talked to in many years and basically hated… Emotions are strange things…

Sorry that you’re going through this…