Ask Amy: Adopted sister keeps birth family a secret
Dear Amy: I grew up adopted. My adoptive parents also had a biological daughter. My sister is several years younger than I.
When my parents sold their home 15 years ago, they gave me my adoption papers. These weren’t much help in locating my birth family, but they did identify my birth name.
Fast-forward to a year ago, and a DNA test connected me to my biological family. I’m fortunate that my birth mother and half-sister have embraced me, my kids, and my grandkids.
Before Dad died, I asked him about telling my sister about connecting with my birth family and he advised me not to, as he didn’t think she would take it too well.
I’m alternating feelings about disclosing this to her or keeping it to myself. I’m close to her and I don’t want this to affect our relationship. At the same time, it really has nothing to do with her.
What are your thoughts on this? — Conflicted
Dear Conflicted: People in your father’s generation sometimes fell back on avoiding the truth in order to spare what they believed would cause someone else’s discomfort. People still do this, but I believe that many of us now realize that temporary discomfort is easier to manage than the burden of carrying a long-term family secret.
I’m assuming that your sister knows you are adopted, and, surely, she has wondered over the years if you would connect with your biological family. You maintain that this doesn’t have anything to do with her, but it does! You are her sister. You have discovered other family relationships that are meaningful to you. To keep this knowledge from her denies her the opportunity to connect with you in a deep, intimate, and sisterly way.
She may be upset, confused, or even jealous that you have these new-found biological family members, while at the same time she has lost some family members who have died. Most likely, she will be upset that you neglected to share this important news with her until now, but she will have to deal with her own reaction to this. Don’t put this off further.
Dear Amy: My husband of 30 years died last January.
I retired from my job in February, something that had been planned for some time.
With the pandemic, I haven't been able to travel or visit friends (or have them visit), just like the rest of the world.
What do I say to people who continue to say, "I hope you are enjoying retirement" or ask if I am “enjoying my retirement,” without mentioning my loss?
It feels like such a slight that I can hardly "enjoy" anything, much less continue with any of the plans I/we had for retirement.
After a number of holiday cards came in asking me about my retirement, it feels hurtful.
Am I being a little too sensitive? Do I just chalk it up to the discomfort people feel when a death has occurred? — K
Dear K: I don’t think you are being too sensitive. Your entire world has crumpled, and without the benefit of traveling to see people and receive their personal condolences, you are quite naturally continuing to grieve.
Understand, however, that everyone else’s world has also shrunk down proportionally. People are overwhelmed and struggling. In the best of times, many people don’t seem to understand how to respond to loss; this awkwardness has been amplified by the daily heartbreaking reminders of the pandemic’s toll.
I suggest that you respond honestly, but with compassion: “After ‘John’s’ death last year, I’ve struggled to enjoy most things, including my retirement. However, I recognize that most of us are hurting right now. Enjoying anything seems like a long way off, but I’m trying my hardest to simply keep going. I hope you are, too.”
Dear Amy: “Feeling Different” described an extremely co-dependent relationship. Here she is, only one year sober, enabling her live-in guy, who is drinking heavily and is not nice to her.
Thank you for taking a tough-love stance. I was in a similar relationship where I was constantly giving, giving, giving. Honestly, I was proud of how “nice” I was, until I realized that I was basically paving the way for my partner to abuse alcohol, and me.
Al-anon helped me to recognize my role in the family dynamic. Eventually, I got out. — Been There
Dear Been There: I urged “Feeling Different” to accept responsibility for her own actions, value her own sobriety, and do more to protect herself and her son.