Sometimes, clearing out a family home will uncover things you never knew about a loved one. I recall one home I was called to clear out; we found written evidence that the father had an affair way back in the 1940s. This sort of information should be handled with kid gloves. The best advice is to dispose of any such thing, while you are alive, that may cause great pain to loved ones, if they should find it after you’re gone . . . because someone will find it.
As you walk through your loved one’s home, you may find evidence that one of your parents had an illicit relationship, a secret habit, a child borne out of wedlock, something illegal, etc. You may discover that your father hadn’t filed tax returns for several years, or that your mom had given up a child for adoption when she was seventeen. In other words, you may discover things about one of your parents that no one knew and that would bring embarrassment if their secret got out. What would you do?
If you discover something unsavory or unflattering about your parents or a loved one, ask yourself the following questions:
- Does what I found offer absolute proof or only raise suspicions?
- Would what I found be considered evidence for any unsolved crime?
- If the information became public, would it implicate someone outside the family?
- Does anyone else have the right to know something my mother or father wanted to be kept secret?
- Will I be affected emotionally or spiritually trying to keep something secret from my siblings?
- If my mother or father went to great lengths to keep this secret, should I tell it? (Think long and hard before you respond.)
The answers aren’t always clear and often there are gray areas. It is important to realize that everyone reading this will have a different opinion as to how to handle these matters. Always use your best instinct. When in doubt, seek outside counsel to help with the issue at hand.
© 2010 Julie Hall