Secret Sibling

4 Sep

Letterbalm Young Man in Blurry PhotoDear LetterBalm: I am dealing with double sadnesses. My husband of 27 years is dying of incurable cancer; his doctors give him only two or three months, and he is in care at home for now. He has a son from a relationship he had early in our marriage. Our daughters don’t know they have a half-brother. Their father has refused to tell them. I’m afraid that our children will find out about him after he dies. It will be a shock for them. In any case, nothing good will come of this. Over the years, I’ve tried to persuade him that it is better to be honest. Now, I really need to convince my husband.

–Surprise Brother

Ms. L.B. is sorry you are dealing with two deeply painful life situations. This is a difficult time, indeed. And, you are correct – nothing good will come of this. Has your husband been secretly supporting his son in some way financially? Is your husband in contact with the mother of his son? She and her son may turn up at your husband’s funeral. The son may be cited in his will. You need to tell your husband that for his daughters to find out they have a sibling after all these years will be traumatic. It can also rupture their relationship with you if they blame you for sharing their father’s secret. It is better to hear everything from his lips before he passes on. (If he still refuses, you must tell your daughters after his demise and explain that you tried to convince their father to tell them himself.) Talk with him on one of his good days, or see if he’ll agree to a posthumous letter to his daughters:

Warren, there is no better time to talk about your son than now. You must tell Emily and Charlotte, and soon. Can’t you see that this is a secret that may not be possible to keep, that shouldn’t be kept? If I can speak frankly, Jonathan’s mother may show up with him at your funeral. Then what? Your daughters will be shocked, and their father is not there to explain. I know it won’t be easy for you, but this is your chance, darling, to tell them everything in your own words. They deserve to know. You can prepare a letter you leave for them posthumously, but it would be better to talk in-person. Your daughters love you. Do you want their memory of you to be tarnished by your secret?   This is your opportunity to tell them how much you love them and how much you feel sorry for the hurt you caused me and them. You need to tell them that you made the right decision to stay with us.


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