I hated my brother. When he died, all I felt was happiness: It"s a rarely admitted truth but some siblings loathe each other. Here one woman,…


I hated my brother. When he died, all I felt was happiness: It's a rarely admitted truth but some siblings loathe each other. Here one woman, with brutal candour makes a confession

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UPDATED:

00:53 GMT, 31 July 2012


Troubled relationship: Liz Hodgkinson, pictured, found most contact with her brother would leave her enraged

Troubled relationship: Liz Hodgkinson, pictured, found most contact with her brother would leave her enraged

The news came as a shock, yes, but it didn’t provoke tears, or even any sense of grief. I’d just heard from my niece that my brother Richard had died of a heart attack, aged 62, following an apparently minor operation. And all I felt was a surge of happiness and relief.

That day, five years ago, a long, dark shadow that had blighted my existence was lifted. You see, I hated my brother and he hated me to the point of pathology. So much so that we hadn’t even seen or spoken to each other for 20 years.

I imagine this sentiment will jar with many because it goes against everything we are supposed to feel for our siblings. After all, it is meant to be the strongest and longest bond we will experience in life.

To admit such animosity is to break
one of our strongest social taboos — but the feeling is far from rare,
with psychologists estimating that in as many as a third of all families
there is bitter hatred and rivalry between siblings.

Writer Margaret Drabble’s long estrangement from her novelist sister, Booker Prize-winner A.S  /07/31/article-2181356-1439A759000005DC-984_634x662.jpg” width=”634″ height=”662″ alt=”Bitter rivalry: Liz and Richard in 1954, when their rift had already begun” class=”blkBorder” />

Bitter rivalry: Liz and Richard in 1954, when their rift had already begun

Safer says that she took being the
favoured child totally as her due, as I did myself, and she imagines all
favoured siblings do the same.

Like me, Safer was bright and academic and her brother was, like mine, a ne’er-do-well dullard. While I glided through school, collecting good grades and accolades, Richard got into fights, was rude to the teachers, destructive and impossible to control at home.

From his earliest years, Richard nursed
an implacable hatred of me, his only sister. This took the form, often,
of tearing up my drawings and smashing my toys

From his earliest years, Richard nursed an implacable hatred of me, his only sister. This took the form, often, of tearing up my drawings and smashing my toys.

One particular incident sticks in my mind. From the age of eight, I took piano lessons, but for some reason Richard would never let me practise. He would shout and scream, bang the piano keys or his drums or tip me off the stool.

He shouted me down until the adults in the house gave in to him and begged me to stop singing or practising the piano ‘for the sake of peace’.

Hardly surprisingly, the music lessons were soon given up and from that day to this, I have never attempted to sing. /07/31/article-2181356-00F9B8651000044C-765_306x388.jpg” width=”306″ height=”388″ alt=”Margaret Drabble, author and writer” class=”blkBorder” />

novelist, Antonia S. /07/31/article-2181356-144CE5A9000005DC-75_634x530.jpg

Human characteristic: Ever since Cain slew Abel, stories and myths abound of siblings turning against each other

He even bullied her into changing her will to exclude me and my two sons, Tom and Will.

I only discovered this when, one day, my ex-husband Neville happened to call in on my mother, and she said to him: ‘Richard’s got all my money.’

Of course, he related this to me and I started to investigate. Whatever could it mean

I learned from our mother that a solicitor had called round to the house with the papers for power of attorney and she, not really understanding what she was doing, signed them. I felt the need to instruct my own lawyers because I did not trust myself to write a rational letter to him.

I rang my mother to ask what it was all about and her last words ever to me were: ‘I want Richard to have everything. I don’t want any more to do with you. Richard is seeing to everything, thanks very much.’

I knew Richard was lurking in the room, feeding her lines.

Not long after this, she went into a nursing home, too frail to look after herself.

Meanwhile, Richard sold her four-bedroom detached house and pocketed all the money, without informing or consulting me. As her attorney, he could legally do this.

Mum died in 2003. I had a phone call from Richard informing me brusquely of the fact and breaking a decades-long silence by saying: ‘I don’t expect you will want to come to the funeral.’

‘I will make that decision, thanks,’ I spat, slamming the phone down.

The truth was the breakdown in communication was such that I didn’t even know which nursing home Mum had been in. Come to think of it, I still don’t. In the end, knowing how unwelcome Richard would make me feel, I decided not to go to the funeral. It was another four years before I received news of Richard’s death. Perhaps you will now understand why I reacted with such joy.

When I think of people I know who have close relationships with their brothers or sisters, it does sadden me that we could never patch up our differences.

One of my best friends, for instance, hated her sister, or said she did, when they were children. But now, as old ladies, they are the best of friends.

Yes, it is still hard to admit that I hated my brother. But I hope it will help me learn to forget, if not wholly to forgive.

For years, I had kept my shameful secret to myself. All I would say to others about Richard was: ‘We don’t get on’ and leave it at that.

But after his death, I could finally acknowledge the extent of the mutual hatred.

Of course, it drew gasps of surprise from family and friends, but I am satisfied there is nothing I could have done about it.

Even if I had been a nicer and kinder person, he would have reacted in the same way.

Now, years later, this is the first time I have committed these thoughts to paper.

Yes, it is still hard to admit that I hated my brother. But I hope it will help me learn to forget, if not wholly to forgive.