Dear Fiona: My late long-lost brother had children I didn’t know existed – now they want to make contact

01 June 2021

The problem…

“I’m the youngest of four siblings and, now I’m in my 70s, I’m the only one left alive. My eldest brother was always a bit of a rebel, but he was always good to me. I was 16 when he left home and moved abroad and it left me heartbroken, especially as I never saw him again.

“He wrote occasionally – from America, Australia and other countries too; he never seemed to stay anywhere for very long. He often mentioned girlfriends but as far as I know, he never married, and the letters stopped about 30 years ago.

“So, it came as a real shock to be contacted via one of my nephews to be told that two people, who said they were his children, wanted to talk to me. They had found each other through one of these sites you can go on now and, through that, had found my nephew.

It came as a real shock...

“They really want to know more about their father – which I can quite understand. He hadn’t married either of their mothers and neither of them had any memory of him at all – it sounds like he left the mothers when they were pregnant. They believe there is another child as well but haven’t made contact yet.

“My problem is, I feel so ashamed and embarrassed that I don’t know how I can face them. Both my mother and my grandmother would be appalled – we weren’t brought up to be so cavalier with other people’s feelings. His lack of respect and care for these women and children is unconscionable. What a dreadful thing for my brother to have done!”

Fiona says…

“Whilst I can understand you are shocked by the revelation that the brother you dearly loved has behaved in a way you don’t approve of, I am surprised you feel it reflects on you. I am sure that his children will be only too grateful to talk to you and find out more about their father, to ever consider passing any judgement on you.

“And who knows what happened to him after he left home when you were 16? It may have been something deeply traumatic that changed him, or he might have been a commitment-phobe who treated other people badly. Alternatively, he might have always lacked respect and consideration for women – but perhaps you (his little sister) were an exception, or you just didn’t see it.

Mature woman deep in thought

“You cannot go back and change the past, but you can help his children. Embrace the fact you have suddenly discovered two more relatives that you didn’t even know about. Share with them what you remember about your brother, about how you and he were brought up. Talk to them about your parents (their grandparents), about whom, presumably, they know nothing at all. You will be helping to fill in the blanks in their lives, and you may even find out more about what happened to your brother.

“If the mothers are still alive then they may want to talk to you as well – don’t be afraid of this as I’m quite sure no one will blame you. It might give you an opportunity to find out more about your brother and what happened to him.

“The flow of information could go both ways and you may find that the hurt your clearly felt at ‘losing’ your brother all those years ago will lessen. I hope you will also feel able to forgive him – after all, he’s brought you into contact with a raft of new people you didn’t even know existed.”

If you have a problem you need help with, email Fiona by writing to [email protected] for advice. All letters are treated in complete confidence and, to protect this privacy, Fiona is unable to pass on your messages to other readers. Fiona regrets that she cannot enter into personal correspondence.

The best videos delivered daily

Watch the stories that matter, right from your inbox