Life Advice



Ask Amy: A family secret threatens to implode

Amy Dickinson, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Amy: My wife’s brother recently died. A couple of weeks after the funeral, his daughter (our niece) received a letter from a half-brother that she was unaware of. The letter was addressed to her recently deceased father, from a man (his biological son), who was trying to find information about him after the death of his own adoptive parents.

Our niece was not sure if we knew of his existence, as neither she nor her brother knew.

They also did not know if their mother (who had been married to their dad for almost 60 years) was aware of this, as their mom had not yet met their dad when this son was born.

When my wife was 15, she knew that her brother had impregnated his high school girlfriend.

This was in the early ’60s, and the girl’s parents decided to take her out of state for the pregnancy, and then place the child up for adoption.

My wife feels she is in a "no win" situation. If she lets it slip that she knew about this, and her sister-in-law did NOT know about this other child, then her niece and nephew may be upset with her.


If she says nothing, and somehow it gets out, then her sister-in-law would be upset for not telling her earlier.

I hope you have some words of wisdom that will put my wife at ease with whatever she does.

– Torn in Seattle

Dear Torn: The most obvious answer is that this tough knowledge was not your wife’s to share. She was 15 years old when her brother fathered a child. I’m assuming that her own family kept her in the dark, and that this child’s existence was treated as a family secret, discussed only among the principals.


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