Ask Amy: Lifelong father/son hurt resurfaces
Dear Amy: My husband’s biological father left him and his mom when he was 2 years old. They haven’t seen each other in decades. We live on the other side of the country.
My husband just learned that his dad has stage 4 cancer.
My husband says he feels ready for his father to die so he can be done wondering if he’ll ever reach out to apologize.
His dad’s name recently popped up as a suggested friend on his Facebook page and my husband wondered if maybe his father will try to reach out that way. My husband doesn’t want to be the one to reach out, which I fully understand. It’s not his job to do that — he’s the child in this situation.
I feel pulled to introduce myself online to his father or maybe his aunt to see if there’s a willingness to communicate with my husband. My husband says he’s numb and doesn’t like talking about it, but I wonder how he will feel when any chance to get an apology or acknowledgement of his hurt is totally gone.
My husband says he would want his bio dad to reach out on his own terms. Would I be hurting him and breaking our trust if I do this on my own?
I want to honor his feelings, but I also believe in the humanity of other people and the chance to heal. Should I leave this alone? — Let it Be?
Dear Let it Be: The odds that your husband’s father will reach out and either acknowledge or apologize for leaving him in childhood are low. The whole topic is simply too big for a late-life reveal.
A suggested friend on Facebook is simply someone whose “friend” network crosses paths with yours. In this case, the FB algorithm did its work.
But your husband isn’t “the child” in this situation. He is a man, numbed by disappointment. If he doesn’t connect with his father, the father’s death will not bring relief or comfort from all of this pent-up hostility. If they do manage to connect, the hurt and sadness will also surface.
Reconciliation is its own reward. Reconciliation in this context would be your husband’s realization that he will not likely receive what he wants from a man who has never been able to give it. Reconciliation is not stuffing down your feelings, but letting them surface and being willing to feel them, in order to accept what is. His father is flawed, cowardly, and perhaps also “numb.”
Your husband might want to “lurk” a little bit on his father’s social media in order to see photos and view these common ties. You should NOT connect with his family members without asking first. Ask: “Honey, why don’t I make this connection, and we can see how it goes? I’ll be the buffer, and stay beside you the whole way.”
Dear Amy: When doing a DNA test, I discovered that my uncle (who is now 95 years old) has a son he didn’t know about and has never met!
This son is now about 75, and lives in another state.
Our whole family now knows about our uncle’s son, but we are hesitant to inform him. He and my aunt have a son (my cousin), and he is aware of this, but my aunt and uncle are not. They have been happily married for years.
My uncle is doing very well, but we are concerned about causing any upheaval at his age. Should we tell him about his long-lost son? Or should we avoid any potential turmoil that learning about this could cause? — Perplexed Relative
Dear Perplexed: This decision should be up to your cousin (your uncle’s son, who you say is aware of this DNA discovery).
I can imagine a wide range of reactions to this news, including a positive one. But you should be supportive of whatever decision your cousin makes concerning disclosing this shocking news to his parents.
Dear Amy: “Worried” said her elderly stepmother was thinking of temporarily abandoning her father, who has dementia.
As someone who facilitates a caregiver support group for people caring for someone with dementia, I want to commend you for your insightful response. You were firm, clear and compassionate in delivering a difficult wake-up to a daughter grieving the loss of her father, but unable to face the reality of her own role in a difficult circumstance. — Tough Love
Dear Tough Love: Caregiving for someone with dementia is not a one-person job. “Worried’s” stepmother desperately needs respite.