Reconnecting with estranged sibling

Hello, I am looking for ways to reconnect with my brother who is older than me by 3 years. We are both in our 40s. We have been estranged since he cut off connection after the birth of my first kid, so 5 years ago. At the time that we were trying to conceive, he and his wife were also trying (both of us couples were doing IVF). I was successful in the IVF, but they were not. I also moved closer to my parents so that they could have a relationship with their grandchild. At that time, many feelings surfaced on his part about how fiscally irresponsible I was to move to a HCOL area and not be in a lucrative career and how I was using our parents for childcare. He also chewed me out for endangering my parents when I took my family to visit them in 2021, when people were still very much in their COVID bubbles (that was the first time he talked to me in 3 years after the birth). Now I have 2 kids, and he has never met them. Throughout all of this, I would send emails to acknowledge his birthday and career milestones, and with the passing of my brother's father-in-law, I also sent condolences and a card. I would never get a response. To some degree, I made peace with this and also, I never doubted that he used his very stressful high-powered job to simply not deal with our relationship. However, this summer, he finally emailed me, saying that he would be in town last minute and if he could visit. Unfortunately, our family was not in town, so I had to decline but emphasized that we should shoot for next time that he is in the area. My quandary now is this: I know he will be in town in CA this year again because my parents told me. I would like to email him and suggest meeting in way that is the least awkward, one where it would not make him uncomfortable to meet my kids (potentially his wife could be there too). Also, my partner was also extremely hurt by the silent treatment and probably needs more 'explanation' on my brother's part than I do (I am practically willing to sweep things under the rug because I want my kids to know their only uncle on my side). I just don't think that an explicit reconciliation is possible, esp. at first meeting, given that we may only have this one chance to 'get it right'. I don't know what I mean by 'get it right', but I don't want to be cut off again. I thought of suggesting a meeting all together with my parents (although they live several hours away) so that the emphasis is less on getting to know my kids and more about reuniting. It would nice to be able to suggest Thanksgiving, but given that we haven't spoken in so long, I think that just might be really awkward, plus he and his wife are used to jetsetting around the holidays. Thoughts on how to navigate this?

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I had a falling out with my best friend. She got divorced and she cut off any one who remained friends with her ex but we had met her through him years earlier and wouldn’t defriend him. We felt very unfairly treated by it all. I kept reaching out to her but she ignored me even when I told her one of my parents had passed away. We eventually reconciled when my husband saw she was in town and arranged to meet up. We had coffee together and chatted. But it was really hard to keep hurt feelings under wraps. We ended up briefly talking about the conflict at the end and from there we agreed to reconnect and we ended up closer than ever. But that first meeting was really hard and emotional. I suggest going to a neutral place and keeping the first meeting short. Then build on that hopefully positive experience later. I hope it all goes well for you. 

It sounds like a therapist could be helpful to explore your feelings around this situation and possible ways to connect with your brother. You might want to be prepared for your brother to bring up issues from the past (maybe not at the first meeting but after reconnecting). It could be helpful to explore what you might say. 

I have to tell you, my first thought, upon reading this, is “why is this woman tiptoeing around that sulking narcissist?” Perhaps there is something about your family dynamic I’m not getting, but if he really severed ties because your IVF was successful and his was not then…wow. Also, your finances are NOT his business. Nickel and diming your parents’ time when you have kids and he doesn’t seems like next level narcissism. Again, I may not fully understand the situation, but, at face value, your children may not be missing much. Perhaps it’s time to consider your own emotional investment in this relationship.

Without knowing the backstory and temperaments of the individuals involved, from what you have written it seems that a low-drama reintroduction might be the best first step.  In other words, just hanging out with the whole family, with no structured meetings might be best.

While you describe this as an estrangement, all the parties have expressed willingness to continue some sort of relationship.

It must be very hard for this couple who have not succeeded at IVF. But they will have to "get over it" if that is the hand that fate has dealt them.  Being an uncle and aunt is a good thing.

However, while you may be willing to forgive your brother for lashing out and judging you while he was upset about the unsuccessful IVF attempts, IMHO you should not continue to tolerate his unreasonable complaints about matters that are none of his business, such as your choice of places to live or how much time your parents spend with the grandchildren.

For the reintroduction process, you could try just ignoring him if he goes off in this vein, and hope that he gives up on it.  Since they live far away, having a conflict-resolution pow-wow may be avoidable - unless you can reasonably predict that all the parties would benefit from "clearing the air". 

Thanksgiving holidays are notoriously emotionally loaded, and if air travel in bad weather is involved, that might not be an ideal setting for rebuilding a positive relationship.

As someone who is co-estranged from family members (mom and sister), I would suggest reaching out and accepting your relationship with the sole focus being for your kids. Granted, your post is different in that it is him estranged from you (not that you both are choosing to not have a relationship which is more my case). The options it appears you have are a) see if he can share why he feels what he does (and for you to be prepared for anything and have to accept those things he shares), b) work on yourself alone or with a therapist to accept you cannot change a person or why they choose what they do, or c) push the relationship with the intent primarily for your kids. I have chosen options b and c for my own life. I have the kids call and Facetime. I send pictures and basic updates via phone or email. When in person, I arrange time for my kids to spend time with their grandma and I recently saw my sister (for my kids' sake) when she was in town after 8 years of not having seen or really spoken to her (my kids had but not me). It does cause me emotional depletion when I'm in situations like this "why can't things be 'normal'" but it's the best option for me while maintaining the relationship with their grandma / aunt that is important to me/them. Good luck.

I agree that your brother has a lot of issues to work out, but I am more sympathetic to him than other commentators. It sounds to me that he's experiencing an unbundling of his family unit - you and your parents are now focused on your children and your lives, and he's not part of it for no fault of his. In the meantime, he has to navigate his relationship with his wife, and come to terms with the idea that he is not going to have kids. That's a lot; meeting your kids would not be on my list of priorities either. I believe that you should meet him somewhere neutral (coffee shop, restaurant) for a meeting of the two of you, and work on the past that unites you. Just arrange for quick meetings, and take it from there. I think you're at least a few meetings away from him meeting your kids. I also think that your parents have a role to play here. Have they been to see him - just him and his wife, or even just him - without you being around? They should arrange trips and time to spend together with him, and you should encourage them by hiring alternative childcare while they're away. Their focus on your kids might seem to him like he is being penalized - his parents take away time from him to give it to someone else, at a moment that perhaps he needs them most. 

I’m wondering if maybe he feels resentment in connection to your ability to conceive when it sounds like he and his wife were unable to do so right around the same time. If so, it could be helpful to start by just acknowledging those feelings, if they are present at all (and if he’s even conscious of them) and validating them. Of course it’s no “fault” on your part but I imagine he may have experienced some negative feelings toward you without having the words to talk about it in a constructive way. Even just saying something like “I have really missed you and remember that we stopped talking right around that time. I can imagine that you might have felt really angry or sad during a time that felt happy for us and maybe that was too much for us both to try to overcome in the moment. But I want to try to do that with you now if you’re willing and able.” I could totally be off base so take it with a grain of salt but I find it’s always helpful to start with validation!