Learning A Secret After A Death

Coping with Grief / Coping with Grief : Litsa Williams


The topic of secrets has been a grief theme for me lately.  It started about a month ago when I watched the documentary Stories We Tell.  Haven’t seen it? No fear, the preview is below.

And in case you’re like me and you can’t just watch one trailer, here is a second trailer for the movie:

And in case you don’t LOVE watching trailers the gist is this (and don’t worry, no spoilers): Sarah Polley, a Canadian actress, lost her mom when she was 11 years old.  After her mom’s death, a secret came out.  Not a little secret, not a benign secret, but a holy-crap-if-this-is-true-it-is-a-pretty-humongous-deal secret.  Sarah learned that her dad may not be her biological father.  And so unfolds her story, her family’s story, and her mother’s story.  A story that raises questions about what happens when we loose someone and suddenly learn something about them that we never knew.  What do we do with that?  Who do share it with?  What does it mean for our grief and for our memories of the person we have lost?

after-visiting-friendsShortly after watching Stories We Tell, I started reading Michael Hainey’s book, After Visiting Friends: A Son’s Story.  Hainey’s father died when he was just 6 years old.  The circumstances of the death were never totally clear – he died on the street, so the story went.  It wasn’t until Hainey was an adult that he began to question the story.  Seeing inconsistencies in the obituaries, Hainey began asking questions: contacting old friends, colleagues, family.   The more people he talked to the clearer it became that a secret had been kept regarding his father’s death, a secret that was now more than 30 years old and that no one wanted to tell.  The grief secret theme continued: should we learn secrets, should we share them, what does it mean for our grief when the secrets have been told?

In searching for answers one of Hainey’s father’s friends, who knew the truth but refused to tell him, said, “I don’t think you have the right to know”.  When Hainey questions this, the friend says, “If you had a son and thirty years from now he went to one of your friends and wanted to know details about your life, would you want your friend to tell him?”.  “Yes”, Hainey replies.  “I don’t think so . . .” his friend counters.  Who knows who is right, and who knows if it matters?  As Sarah Polley says, describing her own documentary, “I am interested in the way we tell stories about our lives, about the fact that the truth about the past is often ephemeral and difficult to pin down”.

Here is the thing about secrets after a death: sometimes we seek the truth and sometimes the truth smacks us in the face, whether we want it or not.  Michael Hainey spent years investigating.  Other grievers I have known uncovered secrets accidently, while sorting through belongings or talking to old friends.  Sometimes these secrets are wonderful and positive things, but more often they are not.  Many times these secrets are complicated, but no matter what they change our story and our understanding of the past.  In case you are feeling alone in learning a secret after someone you love died, these are just a handful of the secrets we commonly hear people learning of after a death:

The person who died . . .

  • Was in debt.
  • Was having or had an affair.
  • Had a previous marriage they kept secret.
  • Had other children that were kept a secret.
  • Was struggling with drugs or alcohol.
  • Had a problem with gambling.
  • Had been aware they were sick/dying and not told anyone.
  • Had not shared their true sexual orientation or gender identity.

And these are just a few of the common ones.  There are many, many more.

Though I have been thinking about secrets a lot lately, though I know this issue impacts so many grieving, I hesitated to write this post because there is just so much to say.  It’s complicated.  Each type of secret brings up its own issues.  Each relationship is different, each family is different, each person’s grief is different, and the impact of each secret is different.  So what is worth saying?

First, let’s start with the common questions that come up when there is a secret (or possible secret) revealed.

  • If I suspect a secret, should I seek out the truth?
  • Should I tell others?
  • If I will tell others, who specifically?
  • If I won’t tell others, how will this impact me?

I know I know, you aren’t concerned with the list of questions, you want to know the answers to those questions!  Sadly it isn’t that simple.  I can’t give you answers to any of these questions, but we can talk through some considerations.

If I suspect a secret, should I seek out the truth?

This one is very personal.  Much like questions we get about reading a loved one’s diary or letters after their death, the decision comes down to you.  The important thing is to think through the ramifications.  This can be hard, because we can’t predict the future of even our own feelings, but try to imagine if you truly want to know the answer, no matter what the answer is.  Also consider that you may, once knowing the secret, feel your loved one would not have wanted you to know, even after their death.  Will that be okay for you?  There are pros and cons for either decision, the key is to weigh them based on your own situation.

Should I tell others?

If you have learned information, you may need to share it for certain practical or legal reasons.  In other cases you may feel a weight on your shoulders about whether you should share this information.  If you are struggling with this issue of telling others I highly recommend watching Stories We Tell and reading After Visiting Friends, as both Polley and Hainey grapple with this decision.  If you do decide to offer the information to others, you can approach it as just that: an offer.  You always have the option to share that you have learned something about your loved one that had been kept a secret and ask the other person if they want you to share.  It may be hard to imagine someone declining that, but if you are honest that it may be difficult information to hear some people may pass on learning the secret.

If I will tell others, who specifically?

This comes up most frequently around telling a spouse, parents and children.  There is a fear of shattering the image someone had of their loved one.  There is no easy answer and each situation will be different, based on both circumstances and people.  But again here you can defer to giving someone the option to learn the information.  Also, if multiple people already know the secret it may be helpful to discuss together, as conflict can arise when families disagree about when and how to share a secret with others.

If I won’t tell others, how will this impact me?

Again, it is very hard to predict the future, but there are a couple of things that it is important to keep in mind.  First, it can be hard to carry a secret alone.  How do you think this might impact you?  If you decide to keep it private, can you share with a therapist, spiritual advisor or trusted friend?  Second, you may have learned something that has made you angry at your loved one.  Will you be able to manage these emotions when others around you are talking about the person without the information you have?

So what can you do?

Again, there are no easy answers here.  But there are a few things you can do if you are dealing with a secret in your family.

Be prepared for a range of emotions.

Depending on what the secret is, you may feel any number of emotions ranging from anger, guilt, blame, shame, or confusion.  All of these are normal grief emotions, and they are also all emotions that will need to be dealt with and processed over time.

Consider new and creative ways to process emotions.

These new emotions may throw your grief process for a loop.  You thought you were moving along and suddenly, bam, you are spiraled into a puddle of confusion.  Consider talking to a therapist, journaling, writing a letter to your loved one, creating art, joining a support group, or finding other ways to deal with these new and complex feelings.

Navigate a new relationship with your loved one.

I would love to say that learning a secret shouldn’t change any of your wonderful memories of your loved one, or it shouldn’t make you question things about the person and your relationship with them. But that would be crazy-talk.  The reality is that, depending on the nature of the secret, you will likely go back and question many things about your loved one.  This is an important part of coping with a secret – though it would be convenient to pretend nothing has changed, those emotions will creep up eventually so it is best to acknowledge them.  In the spirit of modern grief theory, we continue relationships with our loved ones, even when they are gone.  Had you learned the secret when the person was alive it would (in some cases) have been a long process of sorting through the emotions and navigating the relationship, this is likely true in death as well.  The fact that the person is not here to discuss the secret can make this more complex, but consider trying things like writing a letter in their voice, imagining what they would have said to you, or speaking with their close friends who knew about the secret to gain insight and perspective.  Again, Stories We Tell and After Visiting Friends offer great insight into this process.

Don’t forget the good stuff.

We recently wrote a post on how our “lens” can impact what we find (or don’t find) in the world around us.  When we learn a devastating secret, we can become so focused on it that we begin to ignore all the wonderful things about the person we lost.  It is important to recognize that one secret does not erase all the other things you did know about the person.  A good writing, journaling or art exercise may be compiling all the wonderful things about that person and your relationship with them.  This is as much a part of their story (if not far more) than the secret.

Share.

This isn’t for everyone, but for some it helps.  Take a cue from Michael Hainey and Sarah Polley, who wrote and created film to process their family secret.   Not only does it have personal therapeutic benefit to tell our own stories, but it can help others to feel less alone when they are going through something similar.  And perhaps, as Polley so clearly shows us in Stories We Tell, the past and our memories of those we have lost are always changing, always evolving.  As we grow and change our relationship with the memory of our loved one changes in deep, meaningful and sometimes unexpected ways.

Last, but not least, remember secrets are not all bad.

Though Hainey and Polley both struggle with complicated emotions around the secrets of their parents, something interesting happens at the end of both narratives.  Sarah’s father says of the secret and their family’s story, “How ironic it was that the final revalation and its aftermath had brought Sarah and I closer together”.  On the last page of his memoir, sitting with his mother, he describes the scene saying, “She goes silent, and in that moment I see her anew.  Here I am — a son who went looking for his father, and found his mother”.  The emotions of grief are unbelievably complicated on their own, secrets can take us down a path that means weeks, months or years of processing even more complex emotions.  But amidst all the anger, pain, confusion, blame, guilt and whatever else is brought up, there is a chance that unexpected and beautiful things will emerge.

Struggled with learning a secret after a death of a loved one?  Share your story in the comments below. 

Let’s be grief friends.

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25 Comments on "Learning A Secret After A Death"

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  1. Charmaine Tunn  September 13, 2020 at 9:19 pm Reply

    My son’s secret was that he had been using illicit drugs for years, and died of drug toxicity at the age of 34. I had NO idea; I guess I had my head in the sand. He was still my loving beautiful son, my only child, but very dysfunctional in his day to day life. He lived over 1000 kms away from me. I knew something was wrong as he just couldn’t keep his head above water financially and seemed often to be unwell.

    Instead of looking deeper, I chose to believe that he was lazy, a late bloomer, and a ‘defective’ person.

    He had sworn all his friends, many of whom I knew personally, and loved, to secrecy, and no one, even close family members told me. I have gone through literal hell for the 16 months since he died. It seems that he had been using for years, at least 5. I have terrible trouble wondering why he didn’t ask me for help, why I never sat him down and simply asked him what was wrong; never asked how he was dealing with the death of a close friend, and/or the loss of his partner.

    He didn’t drink alcohol and told me many times that he didn’t see the attraction in drugs. He was so critical of me if I smoked or drank; this sidetracked me completely.

    When I heard he had died, I thought it was suicide because I had written him a harsh email in the days before. His best friend rang me the next morning and told me about the drugs.

    The autopsy report, which I didn’t receive for 12 months, said he died of drug toxicity but he had been suffering, again unknown to me, an arrhythmia for at least 12 months before he died. This too was caused by drug use, and could have caused his death (they couldn’t tell). So his use was so bad it affected his heart!

    I can’t get past all the signs I missed, all the help I could have given, all the unkind thoughts about him, and words to him.

    I am going to try writing myself a letter, the kind of letter I might write to a friend who felt the same guilt and regrets as I do. I hope it helps me.

  2. Gary B  September 12, 2020 at 12:32 pm Reply

    Forever the only thing twisting in my winds is “did she know she was dying”? We had our retirement planned and ready to go right after our 2nd daughters wedding in June 2018. Just 8 months prior we had our first daughters wedding and we had already bought our beautiful retirement home in Buffalo suburb that we let them use to save money for a new home. We were in no rush and we would be up after our daughters June wedding. Well in February my wife after being in so much pain after returning from short hospital stay rolled over in bed and said “thats it lets get out of here” a rental and to our home that was empty because our daughter and SOL only stayed in for 5 months. That was totally unlike her but I said if you are ready lets go and we left mid March. By mid May her signs were worsening with fatigue and her walking visibly worse. She went to a neurology practice and had MRI done as I was told of her neck. When she was done she came out and said they found nothing (but MRI`s take a week or 2-yet she told me they found nothing?). The doctors visits and hospital stay found nothing- I and my family totally missed the signs-how could this have happened? She had an MRI of the neck and CT scan of her brain-nothing showed? She was using a cane more and then became reclusive not wanting to visit our grandchildren or go out at all- she seemed strange but none of us could pinpoint it- its her bad back- shes depressed because just months earlier her sister died from cancer- shes also depressed because he job let her go after a leave due to back and pains issues. We felt all those combined had affected her. We drove 6 hours two days before our daughters wedding and had a stop off Dr appointment already planned and after a few minutes the Dr came out and said I called the ER and for us to get there asap-she thought she was having a stroke. It turned out that late night she was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer that had spread to the brain (20 tumors!) I was told she had 2 months! Thats exactly what she got and after 38 years of marriage-44 years in love since HS it was all gone in what felt like a flash! We all felt afterwards that she had to have known something- a call on the MRI result I never found out about? Something and it was if she was trying to fake not feeling well just to try and get to her daughters wedding-that is all she wanted to do. In fact when oncologist said immediate surgery was needed for a shunt she looked up and said I have my daughters wedding to get to and he said that was not happening and that the fact was if she had made it there she would have collapsed. So for all intents it appears she was trying to get there dodging this horrible pain. We wonder what did she know? Dod she know anything? Something had to have come back from that MRI. I tried a year later to get records of it and was told that due to HIPPA laws since I was not designated to be allowed to know the results-they could not tell or let me know. That to me was very unusual as through our lives we always both allowed the other to know the results-this one time that had changed? It still keeps me up at night 2 years later-was she just bravely carrying on so as not to ruin our retirement or my life-she was unselfish in all ways like that. Well thats all I got because no secrets were uncovered and in fact most of the stuff we moved here with is still in boxes. My life has been put on hold as I now live in the tomb that was to have been our Golden Years home! I think often and long and discuss with my siblings still today – what did she know? I guess I will only find out when my time comes.

  3. Trinity  September 11, 2020 at 4:48 pm Reply

    This story arrives at a perfect time in the midst of an already complex disenfranchised grief. Here is my story.

    I dated a man and fell in love about 15 years ago. Things seemed great. Long story short, we went through a few years of alternating between dating and being friends with the dating only occurring in stints of a few months at a time. At the time, he said he loved me but feared commitment and appeared to avoid dating seriously (if at all) in general.

    I had questioned it at the time because when we began dating, he made a joke about our relationship being fine if I liked men who looked like cancer patients. When asked if he was, he said no, but that he had recently decided to shave his head because of early hair loss and had lost some weight. Other than that, being tired (he said he didn’t sleep well), and the sudden breaks in our dating, there was nothing to indicate that it was more than humor and possibly a self-esteem issue with his appearance as a slender guy.

    Over the course of the dating, we developed a bond and though he was a somewhat private person, he really shared some things with me that were difficult for him and that he typically would not disclose to people. I couldn’t seem to pull away from the love I felt at the time even though it seemed impossible with his commitment issues and I was so broken-hearted. When I finally got exhausted, gave up, and moved on with my life, he and I remained friends. At first, we continued to talk on the phone and on computer chats, social media, and emails. Over time, we stopped talking on the phone and after I left social media in recent years, it became only emails. The last couple of years he had gotten really quiet but still wrote or responded periodically and had responded briefly to the last email correspondence that I had initiated. We rarely discussed our dating lives with others and he would sometimes indicate that he was not dating.

    Anyone reading this might wonder why all of this is on this comment board, but the reason I am writing this (admittedly, in my own grief-stricken, confused, and lost state) is that I happened to be checking out the newspaper and saw his obituary on the date it was published. We are not at a typical age to die so I was absolutely stunned even though he had made some comments over the years that had seemed to hint at illness that he never actually just shared. I had been very emotional, out of sorts, and ill the date that he passed away (up late at night and ill throughout that night and the next day) so when we talk about grief making us feel crazy, I get it.

    What I didn’t expect that day of shock seeing the obit was the rabbit hole that I would go down to deal with the emotions that I didn’t expect to arise. I have learned that with an ex, we store away a lot of emotional stuff when we move on, especially if we can become friends. I’ve learned or read that we had to have healed in order to move on (which I did a decade ago with a great guy). But… it doesn’t feel like I healed. All of the grief of that relationship’s confusion and heartbreaking conclusion came back out of the shadows of time. I felt the need to know what happened, to piece him and our past relationship (romantic and friendship) together and scrutinize if it was as real as I believed, and suddenly wanted to know all about the pieces of his life that I didn’t know (and I was kind of surprised how much I really did know in retrospect). I had lots of our history through correspondence and journaling but I didn’t really have shared contacts to know what happened – and I’m not sure anyone else knew either outside of his family.

    I have learned that he died of known illness and I was destroyed that he didn’t tell me he was ill and that there had been signs since any of our relationship began. I was gutted by the idea that his last real overture to me was to tell me he loved me and ask if I thought I’d give us another chance, that he was aging and realized he would die someday without anything to show for it. He died never married and childless as he had considered at that time. It feels so sad to me even though I try to rationalize that he probably wanted it that way. There are just so many signs of what may have been going on and why he might have wanted to maintain a link to me all of these years and I had thought that I had long ago moved past the heart connection beyond a humorous and supportive friendship from a distance.

    I have felt angry, confused, sad, hurt, and I have even felt gratitude that he never told me he was dying. It has, at the same time, made me wonder how many other secrets he may have kept from me, to question our relationship back then and our friendship later, what he may have been going through as he was dying (he seems to have disconnected from almost everyone by 2018 except for one friend a year ago). I wonder if I mattered because to me, we mattered and he mattered. I haven’t figured out where to put this grief. I threw myself into grief projects reconstructing us and him, grieving, and trying to move forward but then a day goes great and the next day, I peel myself out of bed and try to get through the day with constant reminders of him even though I hadn’t seen him in years. It feels like a soul connection as crazy as that may sound. I try to hold to those things that feel like comfort and try to heal from the discoveries that are still painful triggers.

    As readers may see, my grief is only a few months old and I’m still mired in it. I guess I write this on a selfish level to help myself because this grief has felt so isolating and misunderstood and even guilty – but also very much because I want others who feel this way to know that they are not alone – you are not alone… and to thank WYG for posting a poignant and on-point article at the perfect needed time for so many of us who are suffering through this healing just trying to get through since that’s the only way out. Someday, I hope we are through and out while taking the best of it with us. I feel for so many of you with more traumatic stories. Take care, everyone, and healing to you all!

  4. Wanda  September 11, 2020 at 4:17 pm Reply

    After my partner died his daughter from a previous marriage tried to convince me that he had abused her as a child not once but several times and some of her friends too. We were married for 30 years and kept no secrets from each other; I had all the passwords for his computer and, in searching for financial information, found absolutely nothing to indicate this kind of relationship or an interest in pedophilia. We were never apart, so there were no opportunities. His daughter took the divorce from her mother very hard and was subsequently in therapy with a psychologist who was part of the 1980s ritual sexual abuse pandemic (and it was a pandemic of hysteria that is still with us in the form of QAnon). Before her therapy began she would visit us occasionally and nothing like this ever came up with us together or in talking to my partner alone. I am convinced that she is mistaken but she won’t hear it and keeps trying to talk to me. I finally told her that I wasn’t there at the time and she should talk to her mother about it. I think her mother totally disbelieves this story so she is trying to poison my life and my memories. It’s a sad situation that hurts me even though I don’t give her any credence.

  5. LM  August 1, 2020 at 9:22 pm Reply

    My husband and I were married ten years when he died suddenly from a heart attack, but we had known each other as good friends for more than twenty years. After his death, I started going through boxes he had in storage when we moved in together. I found letters and other proof that he had two gay relationships before we were together but while we knew each other. I knew he had relationships during that time, but had no idea they were with men. I felt hurt that he never trusted me enough to tell me the truth, and it has also made me question everything about the relationship he and i had. Apparently, his brother and sister knew. They have never said anything about it, and I have not let them know that I now know. They have both told me that he was happier with me than they had ever seen him. I am just so confused.

    • Maria  September 11, 2020 at 7:14 pm Reply

      My son died in April 2020 covid, age 38 after his flat burnt down, he had a mortgage, he was uninsured. He lived in London, I live in Australia. The last year of his life he was very sick and couldn’t work. He had just finally got a job, he had been previously a very successful solicitor. However he started suffering with depression early 2017 and his life started to deteriorate, he self medicated with drugs, which of course he then became addicted. I was very supportive in getting him help and some one he could count on, because he lost most of his friends. His financial situation is bad. My husband and I supported him 2019 with over $100,000 which was meant to be like an investment in his house. However cause he allowed his insurance to lapse, that is now pretty much gone. I know he did not anticipate his flat burning down and just before this happened he felt he was back on track with the new job. Because of the fire he was left with nothing, he had to run out with nothing but the clothes on his back. The circumstances meant he spent a night on the street before I could organise an airb&b. This is when I think he contracted covid. I have secrets about the money that was loaned to him, and other secrets, that his siblings are not aware off and I know he would want them to know, some have already crept out, because if asked directly I find it hard to straight out lie. I struggle with how much to tell. If I tell I feel I’m betraying his privacy and if I don’t tell his brothers and sisters everything and later find out, they will be upset I didn’t tell them, which has already been the case with the drug addiction issue, which was the reason he got really sick in the first place and nearly died then. He became septic from iv drug use and got a heart infection. That was my son, my funny, witty, caring intelligent, accomplished son, with whom I had traveled and spent a lot of time with.

  6. Louise  June 6, 2020 at 6:02 am Reply

    My partner died just over 6 weeks ago. He died suddenly in his sleep. We had only been together 2 years and initially he did everything he could to get us together, telling me I was everything he wanted and more. He told me he loved me early on and I believed him. I had been in an abusive and violent relationship for many years and suddenly I felt like this was my happy time. I fell in love with him too.
    We moved in together and that’s kind of when I think things changed. He still told me every day that he loved me but something wasn’t feeling right. He was over secretive with his phone, everything had a password and I just had an overwhelming feeling all the time that I shouldn’t trust him. He was still in this weird relationship with his ex too which I put up with because they had a child but he would keep that a secret from me too. I knew they spoke and constantly text each other but he would deny it. I’d ask him time and time again why he needed to do it but I’m ever got an answer.
    One night he stayed up. He did used to drink and when he came to bed he thought I was asleep and left his phone in the bed while he went to the bathroom. Shortly after he left the room it lit up with a message from a girl he had been sending inappropriate flirty messages too. I know that she wasn’t an Isolated case either. I was broken, completely broken but again he said the right things and promised to put it right. He didn’t really, 2 days later he was back hiding his phone.
    Then there was the fateful night. Ironically we had a lovely few days before he died. Even taking about marriage and again on his last afternoon he told me he would never leave me. My stomach used to tighten because I wanted to believe him but felt so unsure and confused. That night he died in his sleep. I found him and fought so hard to save him. Maybe he did love me and the stress of knowing what he was doing and what that was doing to me was too much. We will never know. After this death I hit rock bottom. I was lost and had so many questions that can never be answered. Then if I didn’t feel bad enough I had his parents sending me messages telling me that I meant nothing and that he’d told them all these things about me that aren’t true and that he was going to leave me. I didn’t even know that he had that much to do with his family as he had only seen them twice in the whole time we were together.
    I feel betrayed, confused, anxious and I can’t seem to pick myself up. I just wished I knew the truth. Was what he said to me true or was he lying to me all along? I have no idea how I can move on from all this. Losing him to death is bad enough but losing him with all this doubt about how he felt makes it so much worse.

    • Maria  September 11, 2020 at 7:25 pm Reply

      I’m really sorry for what you’re going through, and honestly I guess you will never know if he really loved you. I feel you need to follow your gut feeling, which you know what that is, even if you’re not there yet. You probably don’t want to believe your gut feeling because it is too painful, and I understand that. Coming to terms with and facing the truth will set you free. I’m sorry if feel I’m being harsh, I have been there many years ago and it was devastating. However I had to face the truth and let go to save myself.

  7. RDC  May 27, 2020 at 4:06 pm Reply

    My husband died five years ago. I knew for years he was hiding something. He kept his truck locked and didn’t give me a key. He kept his wallet in his truck and put up a sun shade even though it was parked under the carport. He also never let me see the briefcase he used to pay the bills out of. I confronted him about two different things that he finally came clean about but I didn’t push the others for fear of damaging my marriage. After he died I discovered that he had thousands of dollars in credit card debt. I also discovered a storage unit he had told his daughter about but not me. Among the things in the packed unit I discovered that he had been married twice not once before as he had told me.
    The first woman he always said they had just lived together. I also found inappropriate movies he had been watching during a difficult time romantically in our marriage. Five years later I am still trying to clean out my garage and go through the stuff. I feel betrayed that he lied to me for 17 years. I still can’t resolve the anger. All the stress from the debt caused his heart attack that eventually killed him. Even when I bought him things he had duplicates of in the storage unit he still couldn’t come clean. He was my first and only love. Now I don’t think I could trust anyone again.

  8. Edna  March 24, 2020 at 4:53 am Reply

    I felt totally alone until I read the post from April 2018 My husband recently died. He always treated me like a Queen. He showered me with gifts, flowers took me on romantic trips. My friends thought I was the luckiest wife ever. After his death I discovered it was all a lie. He had been living life I knew nothing about. He was seeing prostitutes both men and women; he was on many dating/hookup sites, posting pictures of himself face and private parts, he was going to illegal businesses paying for his fantasies ( he wasted to be the submissive wear women’s panties – be punished -spanked sometime with more than one person female and male). The list goes on and on. My world came crashing down around me. I can’t understand why he did not just leave me and live his life. I am talking to a counselor. I am desperately trying to put the pieces of me back together.

  9. Elisabeth Weakley  March 23, 2020 at 10:39 am Reply

    My husband died in November of 2018, we were about 6 months from celebrating our 50th wedding anniversary. While clearing out many of his items I found pictures of him with a Japanese woman, several of the same person and 2 or3 others with different women. It was when he was stationed in Japan and we were not yet married or engaged but we were moving along the path to that end. What concerns me most is that I am deeply afraid that he felt trapped into our relationship and that he could not find a way to end it. I know that this may seem more that slightly insane on my part but I am having a truly difficult time getting through so much grief, his death whether he was sincere in his affections for these women or me, just the fact that he kept the pictures is deeply troubling to me. Perhaps I am being overly concerned about this, but I have gone through an array of emotions that leave me feeling depleted of any feeling of having been truly loved. Thank you for allowing me to express these feelings.

  10. LizAnne Kubicki  December 3, 2019 at 5:54 am Reply

    Great topic. My father died when I was 9 years old. He was with another woman at the time. My mother was widowed and deeply ashamed. That’s how it was in those days. We moved away and never told people. It was a family secret. I had a very difficult time understanding it because I had loved my father, but we were not to mourn or discuss him. It has definitely affected all my relationships throughout my life and I am 53 years old.

  11. W I L L I A M S D H A CKGHOST @ Gee-Mail  November 10, 2019 at 2:51 am Reply

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  12. W I L L I A M S D H A CKGHOST @ Gee-Mail  November 10, 2019 at 2:47 am Reply

    Need help on how to catch a cheating spouse by getting solid cheating proof? Who can help? Above can

  13. jean callahan  October 23, 2019 at 5:23 pm Reply

    I have not seen this topic addressed before and I am so grateful WYG did. My partner died 3 years ago from idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis at the age of 69. I took him to the emergency room one night and two months later he died, never having been home again. (He had survived a serious heart condition for decades but somehow his lung disease went undiagnosed.) During the two months he was hospitalized, he made a couple of requests of me. One was that I burn his papers (stored in the attic) without reading them. He was a writer and kept journals and wrote lots of letters over the course of his life. I was concerned by his request and asked him several times if he was absolutely sure that his what what he wanted. He was.

    After he died I, of course, longed to go through his papers. I had only been with him for 11 years of his interesting life. The idea that I would never have another conversation with him, never hear another of his stories, never be able to discover more about him, what he thought or felt, was devastating. His one surviving close relative, his estranged older brother who did show up at the end, is weirdly devoid of memories or insight about his younger brother. This brother expressed interest in the papers should I ever decide to look at them. But so far I have kept what I consider a promise, except that I haven’t burned the papers; they are still moldering in the attic. Early on, I asked my brother what he thought I should do, and he firmly opposed my looking at the papers; he said I might be hurt by what I found and that that may have been the reason for the request. Part of me thinks it would be insane NOT to delve into these pieces of someone I so loved and miss, but part of me thinks honoring his request is a greater act of love. And then there is the self-protective part of it. My partner had four marriages before he met me. I accepted that about him–it was part of who he was. But it would still be painful to perhaps be confronted with his passion for other women.

    I have no idea what the right answer is and so I take no action. Maybe letting mold and insects destroy the records is what I’ve decided.

    1
    • Daniel Roots  November 10, 2019 at 2:46 am Reply

      The only and real deal is “W I L L I A M S D H A C K G H O S T @ G M A I L” who can help you remotely track your cheating spouse device in just one swipe that’s all you need.

  14. Michelle  October 17, 2019 at 1:59 am Reply

    My brother hid that he was gay. I mean he told me everything always and we were literally best friends 33 years until his sudden death about 1 month ago. I found the proof when I was going through his stuff.

  15. Lee  January 11, 2019 at 9:34 pm Reply

    My husband died 6 1/2 years ago. Around a year ago I found out he had a child with another woman. I’m appalled that he was able to ignore his own child, regardless of the situation. What makes matters worse, my sister in law whom which I am very close kept it from me. I know it wasn’t her secret to tell when he was alive, but she kept it from me for six years after his death. I’m exhausted trying to keep up the facade I always have with my daughter at how wonderful her father was. He was unfaithful (not just this time], not kind, hurtful and (obviously) a liar. I’m pretty confident he didn’t tell me or anyone as he didn’t want to ruin his image as a good husband and loving father to our daughter. People knowing he completely ignored another child would’ve horrified him and showed true colors. And now I wonder… was my whole life A lie… we were together 13 years when he died. The child he had with another is only a little over to years younger than our child together. Its tiring when dealing with a teenage daughter who thinks her father was Jesus here on earth and wish’s I was the one that died… if she only knew.. ?

    2
  16. Miss P Alam  December 15, 2018 at 4:58 am Reply

    I discovered after my husband of 20 years, and four children had been living a double life. He had another wife and child.

    I have been a mess since. My children are 20, 19, 16 (daughters) , my little boy 11. My husband died two years ago.

    My daughter who was 14 then, discovered daddy had been having what she thought at the time was an affair. The lady was on holiday with us! The children were asked indirectly to keep the secret and any photos they had come by from mum , right up until his death.

    My children are so hurt and confused.

    1
  17. Jean  April 17, 2018 at 1:23 pm Reply

    This is a response to PEA. First of all, I am SO sorry that you are going through this and that you discovered your husband’s behavior in such a way. How devastating! I applaud you with your determination to get on and hope you know that living well is not just the best revenge, but what you absolutely deserve. How to get there is more problematic! I read something about this topic (discovering an affair after the death of a spouse) which said something like grief is a choice and at some point you will decide not to be sad anymore. Again, nice observation but where is the road map? I’ve concluded that it is listening to what you need and want and going after it-in all realms. In other words, being selfish, in the best possible way.
    I had a similar experience when my husband died 3 years ago. What I thought was a “flirtation”, I learned, was a many years affair with a neighbor and fake friend. I also learned that, during the time he was diagnosed with terminal cancer, he was pursuing an inappropriate relationship with a woman much younger, who was not interested in anything other than a collegial friendship, and reconnecting with an old love. Like your husband, he was focused inward during this time, although he did try to be strong for our family. I knew his precious energy was being sapped by his focus on these other relationships but couldn’t get the resolution I needed for something that comes close to closure. Now, I am still unable to resolve my feelings or answer my questions and wonder all the time if he ever really loved me. I am seriously destroyed but trying so hard to find joy and meaning in my life. There are glimmers and I’m trying to replicate them. For some reason, I am feeling that time is going by so quickly. I don’t want my husband’s affair(s) to define me or my outlook. Whenever I feel those bitter feelings, I just stop and acknowledge them and create a mental image of putting them on an ice floe and watching them float away. Sometimes, the mistress is on that ice floe too!
    I’m not sure any of this is helpful to you but I wanted to let you know that you are not alone and that I truly hope you can reclaim your happiness and yourself. Cheers!

  18. Jean  April 17, 2018 at 1:23 pm Reply

    This is a response to PEA. First of all, I am SO sorry that you are going through this and that you discovered your husband’s behavior in such a way. How devastating! I applaud you with your determination to get on and hope you know that living well is not just the best revenge, but what you absolutely deserve. How to get there is more problematic! I read something about this topic (discovering an affair after the death of a spouse) which said something like grief is a choice and at some point you will decide not to be sad anymore. Again, nice observation but where is the road map? I’ve concluded that it is listening to what you need and want and going after it-in all realms. In other words, being selfish, in the best possible way.
    I had a similar experience when my husband died 3 years ago. What I thought was a “flirtation”, I learned, was a many years affair with a neighbor and fake friend. I also learned that, during the time he was diagnosed with terminal cancer, he was pursuing an inappropriate relationship with a woman much younger, who was not interested in anything other than a collegial friendship, and reconnecting with an old love. Like your husband, he was focused inward during this time, although he did try to be strong for our family. I knew his precious energy was being sapped by his focus on these other relationships but couldn’t get the resolution I needed for something that comes close to closure. Now, I am still unable to resolve my feelings or answer my questions and wonder all the time if he ever really loved me. I am seriously destroyed but trying so hard to find joy and meaning in my life. There are glimmers and I’m trying to replicate them. For some reason, I am feeling that time is going by so quickly. I don’t want my husband’s affair(s) to define me or my outlook. Whenever I feel those bitter feelings, I just stop and acknowledge them and create a mental image of putting them on an ice floe and watching them float away. Sometimes, the mistress is on that ice floe too!
    I’m not sure any of this is helpful to you but I wanted to let you know that you are not alone and that I truly hope you can reclaim your happiness and yourself. Cheers!

  19. Pea  April 2, 2018 at 10:32 pm Reply

    My husband of 15 years was diagnosed with metastatic sarcoma and died exactly seven weeks later.
    He made it look like a storybook marriage to his social media world, but knew that I was beyond unhappy with his impulsive spending and selfish attitude, as well as his not addressing (what he described as) his low libido.
    When he was diagnosed, everything came to a halt, and I went into extreme caretaker mode, trying to put the bad stuff behind us and focus on giving him whatever he needed in those way-too-rapid last few weeks. I gave him everything I could, and he had a very loving and peaceful death, surrounded by family. I spent the next year trying to hold on to these ‘romantic’ memories and denying myself the anger that I knew was just below the surface because, for all that I tried to do for him, we never once, in those seven last weeks, talked about the important things we should have(reflecting on the past years, what he hoped for my future, the things that most couples have a heart to heart on during this time), as I tried to take cues from him and didn’t want to push him into a conversation about it. He was, essentially, his selfish self to the end.
    So, in trying to focus on the long-ago good times we’d started with, I grieved him, as his family did.
    14 months later, as I was going through his home office in preparation for selling the house, I found out something that left me completely, utterly reeling: for years and years, on every (frequent) business trip throughout the US and Canada, he’d been seeing prostitutes. Mr “I have no libido” was denying me (what he could have had at home, and not too shabbily, I will add), while racking up his work Amex card to the tune of $25K just to feed his narcissistic addiction(which we had to pay back over 2 years when he got ‘downsized’)
    Complete shock to me, as he was never, ever a flirty person, or someone I could ever imagine would have the ability to carry out that secret life while crowing to the outside world about how wonderful his wife was, etc. The more I searched, the more layers I found: from his well-thought-out reviews on escort websites, to his emails with them for appointments, to the not one, but four different dating/hook-up sites he’d switched to when he had to stop spending money or it would be noticed.
    I was devastated, and completely alone, as he was so charming to the outside world that it was clear I’d look like a scorned shrew if I told anyone, so I held it from everyone except my best friend and my grief counselor.
    The experience brought me to the brink of suicide, trying to pretend everything was fine while packing up a house full of now-tarnished memories, not wanting to let on to my (adult) son the reason I was almost catatonic for weeks, just going through the motions to get out of that house that I now couldn’t stand to live in.
    It’s been ten months since the discovery, and I’m doing exponentially better, mostly due to being a super-resilient person, and I guess in part driven by the anger that makes me want to ‘live well as the best revenge’, for what it’s worth.
    The hardest thing is that he could profess to loving me, but in reality care so very little for me that he would do this, expose me to God knows what STD’s, and completely dishonor our marriage, let alone not tell me what he’d done during his dying days.
    The biggest devastation was not having the ability to confront him, and gain closure. He denied me that, and it feels like he won in his little secret game; I will never, ever forgive him for that.
    I’m stronger now, but also much harder hearted, and much less able to trust.
    Do I question whether I would rather not have known all of this? Sometimes.
    It is what it was.

    1
  20. Pea  April 2, 2018 at 10:32 pm Reply

    My husband of 15 years was diagnosed with metastatic sarcoma and died exactly seven weeks later.
    He made it look like a storybook marriage to his social media world, but knew that I was beyond unhappy with his impulsive spending and selfish attitude, as well as his not addressing (what he described as) his low libido.
    When he was diagnosed, everything came to a halt, and I went into extreme caretaker mode, trying to put the bad stuff behind us and focus on giving him whatever he needed in those way-too-rapid last few weeks. I gave him everything I could, and he had a very loving and peaceful death, surrounded by family. I spent the next year trying to hold on to these ‘romantic’ memories and denying myself the anger that I knew was just below the surface because, for all that I tried to do for him, we never once, in those seven last weeks, talked about the important things we should have(reflecting on the past years, what he hoped for my future, the things that most couples have a heart to heart on during this time), as I tried to take cues from him and didn’t want to push him into a conversation about it. He was, essentially, his selfish self to the end.
    So, in trying to focus on the long-ago good times we’d started with, I grieved him, as his family did.
    14 months later, as I was going through his home office in preparation for selling the house, I found out something that left me completely, utterly reeling: for years and years, on every (frequent) business trip throughout the US and Canada, he’d been seeing prostitutes. Mr “I have no libido” was denying me (what he could have had at home, and not too shabbily, I will add), while racking up his work Amex card to the tune of $25K just to feed his narcissistic addiction(which we had to pay back over 2 years when he got ‘downsized’)
    Complete shock to me, as he was never, ever a flirty person, or someone I could ever imagine would have the ability to carry out that secret life while crowing to the outside world about how wonderful his wife was, etc. The more I searched, the more layers I found: from his well-thought-out reviews on escort websites, to his emails with them for appointments, to the not one, but four different dating/hook-up sites he’d switched to when he had to stop spending money or it would be noticed.
    I was devastated, and completely alone, as he was so charming to the outside world that it was clear I’d look like a scorned shrew if I told anyone, so I held it from everyone except my best friend and my grief counselor.
    The experience brought me to the brink of suicide, trying to pretend everything was fine while packing up a house full of now-tarnished memories, not wanting to let on to my (adult) son the reason I was almost catatonic for weeks, just going through the motions to get out of that house that I now couldn’t stand to live in.
    It’s been ten months since the discovery, and I’m doing exponentially better, mostly due to being a super-resilient person, and I guess in part driven by the anger that makes me want to ‘live well as the best revenge’, for what it’s worth.
    The hardest thing is that he could profess to loving me, but in reality care so very little for me that he would do this, expose me to God knows what STD’s, and completely dishonor our marriage, let alone not tell me what he’d done during his dying days.
    The biggest devastation was not having the ability to confront him, and gain closure. He denied me that, and it feels like he won in his little secret game; I will never, ever forgive him for that.
    I’m stronger now, but also much harder hearted, and much less able to trust.
    Do I question whether I would rather not have known all of this? Sometimes.
    It is what it was.

    • Grace  July 30, 2019 at 6:55 am Reply

      This is a reply to the person who posted on 2/4/2018 and whose husband died of metastatic sarcoma and who then discovered he had been seeing prostitutes. I have a very similar story and I have been beyond grief with total shock. I wonder if you ever look back on your post over a year on because it is a year on for me and I would very much like to talk or correspond to you about our shared horrible experience.

  21. V  December 12, 2015 at 8:00 pm Reply

    The only secret I learned after death that shocked me was that the whole time she lived with us my mom owned a gun, bought by her first husband and I didn’t know it until I heard that my brother inherited it after her death.
    I’m still upset that she never told me she had a gun in the house all that time that was hers.

    The only documentary I watched about grief practically tore me to shreds and it was one surrounding the grief of violent death. It was called ‘The Boys of Company C’ (the documentary, not the movie; there was a movie but I’ve never watched the fictionalized version.) This was the most terribly distressing thing I’ve ever watched on cable TV – on the Military Channel. One of my friends, who works in broadcast media and does documentaries, helped make the film and he’s ungodly talented at what he does.
    The way it was done caused me to burst into tears that I couldn’t control and it’s the only time that’s happened to me in front of a person I didn’t want to see me cry. Or at least not see me fall comPLETELY to pieces like I did as soon as they started naming the people who died when the enemy shot down the plane a minute before they could clear the area to safety.
    He had no idea I was going to cry (I certainly didn’t either); his idea was to show me the consequences of battle that everyone who wants to jump right into war either doesn’t see or doesn’t want to notice. I thought we had no choice but to go to war with that Assad maniac who was having children gassed and I was furious when we did nothing at all. So Richard decided to show me a 2-hour documentary he helped make and it was about the Boys of Company C who died in Bin Dinh Province, Vietnam in 1967 when a medic plane was shot down that was trying to take injured soldiers back to sick bay.
    After having been caught in a nail formation battle strategy by the enemy, which wounded several American soldiers and sitting out the US Air Force bombing the enemy all night long – while they waited almost in the middle of the bombings – the helicopter for the wounded came in the morning and picked up 9 guys who needed to be flown out of the area to the MASH hospital. On board the helicopter were 11 people including the pilot and co-pilot.
    Before they could get clear of the area the enemy threw something at the plane that hit the tail and caused the plane to spin around and crash to the ground, killing all 11 people on board. Nothing in this documentary of the battle scene went right, all of it was brutal and by the time they were at the end of the reenactment of the last scene, I was so stressed out I burst into tears. I didn’t know I was overwhelmed until it all poured forth like a torrential downpour of grief. For people I never met, but that’s how it goes. So it goes, as Kurt Vonnegut kept saying in his book that was partially about war. He was being sarcastic, maybe; I’m implying I don’t know why it happened, it just did.

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