My Brother’s Birthday

I have been down and discouraged all week, only yesterday realizing that today is my brother’s birthday. He has been dead six years now after having been totally disabled by a massive stoke for eight years. Those fourteen years feel like an eternity and an instant at the same time. I can’t seem to come to terms with this: I cry every time I think of him. I’m crying as I write this.

I realize that strokes occur to those who were not born into cults, as well as those that were, but I cannot help but feel that there was a connection.  I resonate with the factors that led to it — self-neglect, shame, and guilt, all-encompassing guilt. He was told he had high blood pressure, but that he could lower it by losing weight. I’m sure he said to himself that he would go back to the doctor when he lost weight, and then never did, until he was forced to by a medium-sized stroke. A couple of years later, a second stroke left him unable to communicate, unable to eat except through a feeding tube, and able to move only one arm. The ER, intensive care unit, and nursing home gave him very good care for eight years and kept him alive in total dependence. It was heart-breaking.

I was close to my brother as a child in both the “day life” and the “night life,” although we never spoke of the cult — it was buried under impenetrable layers of amnesia. He was the only person in my family that I liked and trusted. But slowly, we grew apart. In high school he appeared increasingly shy and by the time he graduated college he had what these days we call “social phobia.” People made him so uncomfortable that he withdrew as far as he could.

It wasn’t just strangers — everybody made him anxious, including me. First he stopped calling me, then he stopped answering his phone when I called. If I did reach him and invited him to something, he found an excuse. My sweet brother had become a ghost. We managed to see each other every few years, more so after my husband died. He sensed I needed him, and rose to the occasion. He painted rooms, changed tires, fixed my fence. We connected over tasks, but couldn’t talk personally.

When I discovered I had been molested, and later, when my cult background came to light, I disclosed to him without hesitation. I was hoping that he, too, would remember and would have a chance for a happier life. He said a few things that indicated he had been cult-abused, like “I cannot look people in the eye because I see a knife in their eye or a beating heart.” But that was all.

I couldn’t protect him when we were children and I couldn’t help him heal when we were adults. As I became more connected to my past, he became more disconnected from me. And then the strokes came.

I see that the way I handle my grief is to reach out to others. Although I could never help him, I can at least try to make a difference in the lives of some people I do not know. Every word I have written is in his memory.

12 thoughts on “My Brother’s Birthday

  1. I’m so sorry for your loneliness and pain concerning your brother. I never had a brother, but five sisters. I have a sister who has been caring for my father for long time. She fears others will steal him away from her so she does not let me see him much. That is my great sadness. She took him far away to Texas. I have no memory any cult stuff. I was born with Aspergers syndrome. No one discovered the condition until late in my life. It explained some of my stupid actions. But only a Specialist at the Mind Institute at U.C. Davis can explain it. I do not totally understand it. My father mentally rejected me as stupid, deformed mentally person says my aunt a nurse at UC Berkeley for 40 years.

    I am always feeling dirty, unworthy, depressed due to my mollestings as a kid of 8-9-10 years old.

    My first Cousin Frank was like a brother to me, but he died in an auto accident where a truck killed him some decades ago.

    I am learning an alternative alphabet called from the Dr. Who Show on the BBC called Gallifryan and a dead English Phonetic Alphabet called the Deseret Alphabet. You might as well call them codes. They are hard to master, but I am drawn to secret codes and language scripts. It is a draw next to eating an sex itself for some unknown reason. It is supposed to protect me like in a cocoon. No Phyc med can destroy the feeling. Yet I wan to find those to communicate through these mediums and just can’t! No one is interested.



    1. I had a similar experience with my brother except he died from not being able to wake up in a fire due to massive amounts of prescription drugs he was taking. I also see the same thing happening with my younger brother with his drinking. Thank you for sharing this as it is very touching and real.


      1. Dear Kathy:

        That is so horrible, the way your brother died. I don’t have the words to tell you how bad I feel for him, and for you and your other brother.


  2. Thank you, everybody, for your compassion. I realized after I wrote this that I had never told this much of my brother’s story to other survivors. Bits and pieces, yes, but nothing that suggested the big picture. Putting together these pieces and sharing it with you-all was a very powerful experience. Thank you for witnessing.


  3. Dear Jean,

    I feel sad that you’re experiencing such pain and I’m grateful that you are sharing your tears. Your words speak volumes on the level of loss experienced by those raised in a cult. Certainly I relate to the devastating effects the abuse has on physical health. The fear, the self-hatred, the experience of torture, and the need to numb, that all make self-care so difficult. The terrible loss of the opportunity to be close to a sibling. I’m recalling a time some years ago when my husband and I spent a weekend with my brother and his wife. I watched in amazement as my brother physically placed himself as far away from me as possible no matter where we were. It is terrible that your brother lived in such pain and dependency for so many years, and that you have suffered so much, as well. I send you warmth, kindness, gentleness and my appreciation for your ability to feel.




    1. Dear Deirdre,
      in a way, this physical distance between you & your brother was perhaps better ; there was such an underlying emotional tension & psychic violence between my brother & I, and he had such fits of anger & hate provoked by his denial of the past, that we could have jumped to each other’s throat if we had stayed too long in the same room, and it got worse with time, even on the phone … So I decided to cut all ties even with him.


  4. Thank you, Elsa. And yet there are many of us who remember and die early, whether from physical causes, often caused by the abuse, or from exhaustion fighting the programming and despair. And each death is a great loss to those that are still alive.


  5. I’m very sorry for your loss, Jean … The strongest stay with the memories alive, the others leave early, defeated by their oblivion …


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