How would you feel if you discovered that you had been named after an older dead sister?
In the old days, and in some countries, naming someone after a dead relative is a custom. And there are people who have been named after the dead who were able to make a “name” for themselves, like Vincent Van Gogh and Salvador Dali, as mentioned by two commenters in this viral post.
Maybe what is really tragic is when you are expected to be as “good” as the dead family member after whom you were named, like in this story of a teenage girl who posted on Reddit’s r/AmITheA**hole forum about her plight.
Naming herself in this post as u/shallowthrowaways, she relates: “2 months before i was born (when Jess was 4 and the twins were 7) Jess died, i was never told exactly how but i knew it had something to do with her medical issues. my parents were distraught and when i was born i was named Jess, after my older dead sister.”
OP continued saying that this became the root of her suffering, since her own older siblings do not want to call her by her name, and instead they use her middle name or refuse to name her at all. OP wanted to become close to them, but she reasoned to herself that it may have been the age gap or their closeness with the original Jess which posed a hindrance.
Their parents are more bizarre because they would post the original Jess’s photos whenever they celebrated OP’s birthday, and they often criticize her for not doing well at school, unlike her dead sister. And even when she is sick, her parents accuse OP of simply trying to get their attention and say that she could not possibly get as sick as the original Jess.
The inevitable happened, with OP finally exploding: “A few days ago my mum found a letter from my old school where they used the nickname Anna (my middle name), and my mother blew up on me. she called me ungrateful and said that i was ruining my sister’s image and good name and destroying her soul or something. and i blew up on her too, explaining why i hated using the name Jess and how it was stupid naming me that and how i can’t keep living in the shadow of a kid who died nearly 17 years ago (harsh i know but i was so angry). My mum, dad, family friends and even my own friends are telling me that i’m the a–hole here, that i shouldn’t of gone off on her but my siblings are saying that i said what needed to be said, and to be honest i like having their approval.”
Now, OP is turning to her fellow Reddit users if she was really in the wrong. She mentioned that her parents are actually good, except for this dead sister’s name issue.
And many members of the AITA community quickly sought to console her.
As one Reddit user said, “NTA (Not The A–hole). Not even a little bit. Honestly I think it’s super twisted that they named you after her. They robbed you of your own identity because they hadn’t processed their grief.”
Meanwhile, another AITA member commented: “Yes, historically it was very common to name younger children after their deceased older siblings (one famous example a lot of people are familiar with thanks to the musical Hamilton is Alexander Hamilton’s sons named Philip, the latter of which was born/named after his brother’s death in a duel). But there isn’t a cultural framework for that practice anymore, which makes it potentially very damaging for the namesake.”
Another remarked, “This. Change your name to what you want to be known as. You are your own person, and not a replacement or a reminder for a tragic life lost before you were even born. Shame on your parents.”
On the other hand, a Reddit user explained, “Salvador Dali was also named after his dead elder brother. He managed to make his name his own. For that matter, my husband’s elder brother was given the same name as their brother who died in infancy when a nurse made a mistake with his incubator.”
This person brought up another historic figure: “Vincent van Gogh was named after his older brother who was stillborn.”
But this commenter’s heart certainly bleeds for the girl: “They messed this child up from the beginning. It’s like they didn’t even give her a chance. And to be so blind as to not see how damaging it is to be constantly compared to a dead person. This is tragic. Eventually they are going to lose the second Jess.”Whizzco