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Ask Ellie: Seek legal help to get keepsakes from estranged sibling

Sibling feuds are emotionally draining and difficult to reverse.

Dear Ellie: My brother is six-years-older than me. Eight years ago, I got Lyme Disease and almost died. My ex-boyfriend was useless in helping me. I had to stop working and go to my brother in the U.S. He and his girlfriend invited me before I even thought of it! “You’re family” she said.

After I arrived, my brother reacted very negatively to how sickly I looked. He said I was “not allowed to talk about [my symptoms]” He showed total lack of emotional support or understanding.

I got my immune system back through a special diet, my weight back to normal, and exercised enough to recover more. Through Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) I reimbursed my brother for my early weeks of expenses.

Eight years later I was strong enough to move far from my verbally and emotionally abusive brother and to retire, at 68.

I refused to talk to him for a year, though he occasionally sent texts.

Our late mother had been a famous British singer. I’d treasured and kept seven or eight recordings but my brother had once insisted that I bring them with me when I visited so he could transpose/protect them as CD’s.

But when I’d visited while sick, he was very secretive/protective of them and I asked for my favourite one, which he gave me. When I then moved far away, I realized afterwards that he’d gone through my boxes in the truck and “stole” that one record.

I later asked for half of her records. He insists he “doesn’t have them!” I’m furious regarding his strange behaviour and want my half of my mom’s recordings!

What can I do about this situation?

Stressed by Sibling

He’s not about to give up those records, if he still does have them. So, you’ll have to decide how far you’re willing to go to get your half of the lot.

You could start with a search through the music industry of the time, and the company that produced her records, if it still exists.

That could be an interesting route through her career history as a famous singer, possibly gleaning a lot more information about her life.

Or, you could have a lawyer send a letter of notice to your brother that you’re “owed” your share of her records which he must produce. But that will only work if you’re willing to fight him in court, which can be expensive and end up fruitless.

Reader’s Commentary #1 regarding the divorce that “blew up our family” (March 17):

“My first husband asked me for a divorce 24 years ago. He wanted freedom from the responsibilities and costs of domestic life.

“As a stay-at-home mom then, with children ages four and six, I was devastated. But I was determined to give my children a good life. I went back to school and started a career, making it possible for us to stay in our family home.

“I married another man 18 years ago, and he’s a wonderful spouse and supportive parent to my children. I now look forward to retirement after a fulfilling career as a teacher.

“My children, now in their 20s, are seeing their dad clearly — a self-centred man uninterested in their lives, unwilling to support them emotionally or help them financially.

“My success is proof that my divorce was a blessing for me and my children.

“My advice to people faced with divorce is, “live your own life to the fullest.”

Commentary #2 – “I had the exact situation happen to me. We had a seemingly happy family, great celebrations, vacations, friends, etc.

“It changes everything in your life and counselling doesn’t solve that.

“I lost friends, the children were angry, our relatives divided into separate groups. It destroys you financially.

“Anyone cheating or thinking of it is very selfish and the repercussions destroy families. I suggest to anyone I know: Try to save your marriage at all reasonable costs before it’s too late.

“What’s wrong with our society when more than 50% of marriages end in divorce? We live in a disposable society where values have shifted and marriage is no longer seen as important.

“The woman’s ex-husband might be smiling now but years from now he’ll see the extreme damage that he’s done, all for the sake of sex.”

Ellie’s tip of the day

Sibling feuds are emotionally draining, difficult to reverse. Regarding a complex unfairness issue, seek legal help.

Send relationship questions to ellie@thestar.ca.

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