Hi, Carolyn: I am in the middle of a growing crisis in my extended family because of revelations from a DNA match. After getting my results, I was contacted by a woman looking for her biological family. It quickly became apparent she was the child my sister gave up for adoption 52 years ago.
I made contact with this delightful woman and was amazed to find out she grew up a mile from our family home and knew many of my relatives.
My sister has never disclosed this birth to any of her other children or grandchildren. Her husband is aware, but they want nothing to do with the situation and would prefer no other family members get involved. They are in great fear of their children finding out this secret. So far, none have.
Of course, the cat is out of the bag, and others have become aware. I feel guilty for being the one to bring this to light but worry it is going to eventually divide our family. Any thoughts on how to handle this?
Surprise: You didn’t stir things up on purpose. Your getting the test was also the last thing you did over which you had full control.
Those are the two points I suggest you make to your sister upfront — and in person, if possible — when you apologize for knocking the lid off her secret. We apologize all the time for harm we cause innocently and by accident, and this is no exception.
The rest is up to her. I wish I could assure you that you’ll come out of it all unscathed, but your sister is already several steps down the road of making this whole situation worse than it needs to be.
She is answering to her fear and trying to keep a secret when the laws of juicy news mean everyone will know eventually. As in: soon, if not already. Her only rational play is to take control of the story herself and start telling her kids.
You can suggest this to her or not, depending on how receptive she seems when you talk.
She especially needs to tell because to keep hiding it is to treat her actions as shameful when placing a child for adoption is at its core a courageous act: One who can’t or won’t do right by a child, for whatever reason, chooses to trust other parents who can. It’s profound. A little validation now for her decision then probably wouldn’t hurt.
Dear Carolyn: At least one of my husband's relatives, but usually two or three, will find a moment when we visit to express their absolute disgust with our large metropolitan area. I either stare blankly or pretend something has caught my attention and walk away. After all these years, I really don't care to challenge this every . . . single . . . time we get together. I'm thinking of taking a year off from these visits, but I know my husband would be sad and lonely. Do I take a break? Or do you have some other fabulous idea?
— Regional Insult
Regional Insult: A year off is a fair request, and husbandly intervention on your behalf is a fair alternative if he wants you there. Share your fatigue, and ask him which remedy he’d prefer.