Brotherly Love

18 Sep

Dear LetterBalm: My fiancé was killed in an accident several months ago. I knew his brother only slightly, but we connected at the funeral because both of us were grieving. Without intending to, we began to see each other. He and I are taking things slowly to get to know each other, but we know we have deep feelings. We’re being very discreet. We deliberately see each other only occasionally, but we talk every day. We’ve had several conversations about what his family will say when they find out. What concerns us even more is that my fiancé’s teenage daughter is very attached to me, and I regard her as a daughter. I’ve helped her deal with the loss of her father; we’re worried she’ll think I’ve betrayed her. When should we tell the family and what should I say to the daughter?

–Unexpected Love

Ms. L.B. supports your discretion, and she understands how you would develop feelings for your fiancé’s brother. The two of you seem to be approaching the situation with some maturity. (Counseling may apply here.) You do understand that neither you nor he has entirely processed the death of your fiancé; it’s only been a few months, and grief may hit one or both of you more fully in the future. Additionally, you are well aware that the family may not take the news well. Your boyfriend is the daughter’s uncle, for one thing, and she may think you and he are being disloyal to her father. To help defuse the drama, the two of you might hold off your announcement until at least a full year after your fiancé’s death. Try to time it when there is no family gathering or celebration (a wedding, Christmas, etc.). You need to be kind, low-key, and respectful. Tell your fiancé’s daughter first, privately, just the two of you. Some of what you say to her can be said to the family at large:

Jillian, I’m glad we’re sitting together, just the two of us. Losing your dad was a terrible thing, the biggest sadness you’ve ever had. I know that this year has been hard for you. I’m going to ask you to listen carefully because I have something important to tell you that may be hard for you to hear and may make you angry and sad at first. But before I do, I want you to know that you’re the first person in the family I’m telling this to because you are so important to me and I hope I can be in your life always. Here it is: Your Uncle Dan and I have grown close to each other and are seeing each other. We didn’t plan for it to happen, but it has. We didn’t even know each other well before we met again during the family events for your dad’s wake and funeral. This is a lot to take in, and I’ll understand if you don’t want to talk to me or see me for awhile. I’ll also be there to answer all your questions. Your uncle and I will be talking with your grandparents this afternoon because it’s only fair that they know, too. Jillian, never, ever forget that I loved your dad very much. He was a wonderful man, and there’ll always be a place for him in my heart.

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