Dear Jody: Family secrets spilled out during holiday season

By |2018-01-16T11:37:15-05:00October 31st, 2017|Opinions|

Q: This past holiday season was a disaster for me. I grew up an only child. This past summer my father died. It’s like when my father died, secrets began seeping out of the closet.
First, I find out from Mom that my dad was abusive to her. I left home when I was 18 years old and have been gone from home for five years. Mother said that my dad was always abusive, but became more abusive when I left. I never saw him being abusive so it is hard to believe, but it’s not like I totally don’t believe my mother. I did see a mean side of him, but I frankly didn’t suspect abuse at the time. Anyway, I was floored by that revelation, and then came more. It was like a family secrets housecleaning.
The second revelation was that my mother was married before she married my father!I was never told that. I couldn’t figure out why they wouldn’t tell me that. It’s not uncommon for many people to have more than one marriage. I asked my mother that, like why the big secret about that. She said that my father never wanted me to know that. That sounded weird to me, but then I thought that if Dad could be abusive, then maybe he might be that way. I was beginning to feel like I wasn’t raised in this family.
All this stuff came out two days before Christmas, and then on Christmas Eve my cousin “Sharon” came over. I didn’t know she was coming. Mom and I were scheduled to do Christmas Eve by ourselves, that’s what I thought, but it wasn’t all that weird. So, at first, I thought nothing of it; I was just happy to see her. Sharon and I were never that close because she is five years older than I am; however, we have always liked each other. I asked Mom why she didn’t tell me that Sharon was coming over. She told me that we all had something to talk about. That’s when she dropped the big bomb. Sharon is my half-sister.
When my mother married my father, my father didn’t want Sharon. So, my mother let my aunt adopt Sharon. That’s the short of it. This Christmas season changed my whole view of my life, my mother and my father! My dad was abusive, he would ask my mother to give up her child, my mother gave up my sister, her daughter, and I wasn’t an only child and lost the companionship of having a sister!
Sharon was told, by my mother, shortly after my father died. Mom said that they waited to tell me, letting Sharon absorb the shock before telling me. Sharon seems to forgive my mother for giving her up. Mom has been her aunt, so Sharon feels less “given up” than she might have if a stranger took her. Sharon says she now wants us to be “real sisters.”
It’s sort of like Sharon and Mom wanted us to kiss, celebrate and go shopping together. I just wasn’t ready for that. I’m still stunned. I don’t want to lose my mother, and I don’t want to shun my new-found sister. I just don’t know what to think or feel. Why can’t I just get over it and feel better about all this?
A:
You need time to adjust to all this. Your concept of your parents and family has been turned upside down. There are a lot of feelings associated with all this. Sharon was told this information shortly after your father died. She and your mother have had time to deal with it. You need to give yourself time, and they need to give it to you as well. You might want to see a counselor for a while in order to help you through the process. Good Luck!

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Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 27th anniversary.