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'How a Facebook post about my dad tore my brother and I apart.'

As told to Ann DeGrey

My brother Ethan* and I were very protective of our mother when we were growing up. We knew how much she struggled in the aftermath of our father leaving her so he could start a new family with his mistress. I was five and Ethan was just two when our dad left, and while Mum tried her best to hold things together as a single mum in the 80s, we knew how tough she had it, juggling multiple jobs to pay the rent.

We rarely heard from our father, although he sent us birthday cards once a year, usually a week late. The cards would always have cash inside and a nice message, but eventually, those birthday cards felt more like something he felt obligated to send, rather than genuine attempts to connect.

When I was 16, he arranged to see us and I remember being taken to the movies and then shopping for new clothes, which I thought was a bit weird. He knew little about me but wanted to help make clothing choices? Just strange behaviour but I also remember feeling good about spending time with him. But when he showed me a photo of my half-sister, I was mortified that she looked like me.

Watch: The signs you have a toxic sibling. Post continues after video.

Video via YouTube/Psych2Go.

As we grew older, our dad became more of a distant memory. Mum never spoke badly of him, and we didn’t ask much about him. As far as Ethan and I were concerned, he gave up any rights he had over us when he walked away all those years ago. And, as far as I knew, he paid Mum very little child support, so he wasn’t exactly a great person in my eyes.

Years passed, and I was busy with university and then an office job, while Ethan took up an apprenticeship and eventually had his own business. We remained close, checking in with each other regularly and meeting up whenever we could to visit our mum. I did stay in touch with Dad from time to time, more so by the time I was in my 30s and found out that his wife had left him – karma and all that!

Last year, I received a call from a relative saying Dad had been rushed to the hospital after suffering a heart attack. I didn’t know how to feel. I was numb, overwhelmed, and confused. I started thinking about the man who’d missed the bulk of my life. What if he died? I called Ethan right away to let him know what was happening, but he didn’t answer. So I left a voicemail asking him to call me back as soon as possible.

As I waited, I decided to check Facebook, just to see if any relatives had shared updates. My father’s ex-wife had posted about his hospitalisation, and family members were expressing their prayers and support. At that moment, I felt compelled to share my own post, acknowledging the situation and asking for support as well.

Please keep my family in your thoughts and prayers as my father has suffered a heart attack and is in the hospital," I wrote. Hoping for a speedy recovery."

By the time Ethan finally called me back, the news had changed. Dad didn’t make it. I was devastated and could barely string words together. I could only tell Ethan through tears that our father was gone.

The next day, Ethan called me again, this time furious. He was hurt that I had shared the news on Facebook before telling him directly. He felt blindsided and betrayed, saying that learning about our father’s heart attack through social media was a slap in the face.

I tried to explain that I didn’t know Dad had died when I posted on Facebook, and that I’d left him a voicemail asking him to call me back, but he wasn’t hearing any of it. The pain and anger in his voice were palpable.

"I can’t believe you’d do that," he said. "I needed to hear this from you, not through Facebook."

From that day forward, Ethan stopped talking to me. He came to the funeral but ignored me. He didn’t respond to any of my messages and he blocked me on social media. It’s been over a year now and the silence is deafening and so upsetting.

I miss my brother deeply. I’ve tried reaching out and apologising for what I did, but he hasn’t responded. The loss of our father was already difficult – thinking about all those lost years. But losing my brother’s friendship and support has been just the worst thing, and I only have myself to blame.

I wish I could wind back the clock and tell Ethan personally before sharing anything online, but I can’t. All I can do now is hope that one day, he’ll find it in his heart to forgive me and that we can rebuild our relationship. I feel very foolish and I know I’m not the first person to blurt things out on social media before telling people in person, but I hate myself for what I’ve done to hurt my brother.

*Name has been changed due to privacy.

The author of this story is known to Mamamia but has chosen to remain anonymous for privacy reasons.

Feature image: Canva.

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