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Health & Spirit

Should son of abusive father try to reconcile?

By Amy Dickinson, Tribune Content Agency on

-- Worried Wife

Dear Worried: I think your husband should seek a meeting with his brother, and perhaps also visit his father.

I believe that the right thing to do is to give people a chance to make amends, while still reserving a self-protective skepticism and overall release from specific expectations about how things will go.

Your husband's parents created a toxic atmosphere in their home, where one child was singled out for tough treatment, and the other children were enlisted as part of the abusive system. Understand that when parents do this, all of the children suffer. The child being abused suffers, of course, but their siblings grow up witnessing this behavior, knowing that they might be next and feeling extremely conflicted and guilty.

Now that the father is no longer a threat, Steven's brother might have had a genuine realization regarding the family dynamic, and it could be healing for Steven to talk to his brother about it.

I know from my own experience with a tough and sometimes frightening father that my willingness to spend time with him at the end of his life proved liberating. I hope you will support your husband's choices through this challenging time.

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Dear Amy: My father-in-law is dying of pancreatic cancer, and may only have months to live.

I was assisting him on his cellphone and found evidence that he had an affair. I saw an exchange of X-rated messages and "I love yous." I pretended not to see anything and said nothing to him.

I assume the affair is over; he can barely care for himself and my mother-in-law is his caregiver.

But what now? I know the information would hurt my wife, her sisters and of course my mother-in-law, who have all been taking care of him through his journey. I am angry at him for betraying our family, but I feel that saying something would make things worse in this hard time.

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