Discovery of family secret troubles surviving relative

Published 8:21 am Thursday, January 5, 2023

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DEAR ABBY: While doing some genealogy research during the pandemic, I came across my maternal grandfather’s death certificate. I knew he had died at a fairly young age during the Depression. But I was shocked to learn that he had committed suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning in his car in the garage of their home. His little restaurant was not doing well, and money was scarce. I imagine he was desperate and depressed.
My mother had anxiety issues, which may have been the result of her father’s suicide or a genetic issue. Should I share this information with my adult children? Could it be helpful to them in any way? My mother didn’t share this with me. I have a close relationship with my children, and this secret is troubling me. — WITHHOLDING INFORMATION

DEAR WITHHOLDING: Your mother didn’t share the details of her father’s death because, back then, suicide was considered a source of shame. The stress of keeping her father’s suicide a secret may have contributed to her anxiety. Fortunately, attitudes are more enlightened today, and the subject of suicide can be discussed.
Because this secret is troubling you, you should definitely bring it out in the open. It might be helpful to your children to know that depression may run in the family.
DEAR ABBY: My husband’s brother and his wife visit every six weeks and are guests in our home. My husband is very close to his brother, and I know the time they spend together is a blessing to both of them. My problem is his wife. She drives me crazy. She wants to get into my business and is very outspoken.
My husband’s parents and his other brother have passed. Other members of the family have room for them to stay, but I was the only one who opened my home to them. I don’t want to cause problems in the family, but she criticizes what we watch on TV and tells us what she prefers to watch. She wants to go out to eat and I have told them, repeatedly, that I don’t want to do that. I still take precautions against COVID, but I can’t get that through to her.
They have a lot more money than we do, so spending $100 at a restaurant is nothing to them. I’m not comfortable spending money like that. I cook at home, which she rarely does. I dread the weekends when they come. How can I tell her that in MY home she should keep her opinions to herself? — FED UP IN THE SOUTH

DEAR FED UP: In the interest of preserving family harmony, do not confront your sister-in-law. You and your husband should speak to her AND his brother and lay down some ground rules about their visits, particularly the excessive spending on restaurants. Divide the TV entertainment time equally between you. If that doesn’t suit her, offer to loan her a book or suggest she bring reading material the next time she visits.
Unless you are quarantined, make a point of visiting another equally health-conscious friend so you aren’t subjected to this woman’s company all the time. You might also “sweetly” suggest that it doesn’t seem fair she spends all her time with you during these visits, which deprives the other relatives.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.
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