Dear Readers: Often, readers reply to dilemmas posed in my column in ways that are helpful, useful, and inspiring. Today’s column is devoted to some of these replies. As always, I’m grateful for readers who share their own stories.
Dear Amy: “Tell or Not Tell” wondered about disclosing the sexual abuse she had survived as a child to the man she was dating.
I had been divorced for five years when I went on a first date with a man I had just met.
On our way to the restaurant, we were stuck in traffic behind a car with a bumper sticker that said “Help Stamp Out Child Abuse.”
“Why would someone put a bumper sticker like that on their car?” he asked.
I thought for a moment before answering and said, “I suppose the car belongs to someone like me who was molested as a child.”
My date didn’t ask for any more details at that moment because he was trying not to wreck the car.
I knew from his instantly shocked reaction that this was a man with whom my children would be safe, and he has been — for 37 years now.
So I vote that this woman should tell him and see what happens.
What he says and does next will tell her exactly what she needs to know.
– Found a Good One
Dear Found: This brings tears to my eyes. Thank you.
Dear Amy: Responding to questions about DNA disclosures, my wife found out that her father was not her biological parent when she had her DNA analyzed by a family historical research company.
It came as quite a shock. Both her mother and father have been dead for some time.
My wife has been more hurt from finding out this way, as opposed to being told by her mother.
Her two brothers also took DNA tests and they all discovered that her older brother was also fathered by another man.
I’ve told my wife it is possible that her mother did not know exactly who had fathered her children, so it’s best not to be too judgmental about all of this.
To me it sounds like she was a very unhappy woman, and she may have been looking for love in all the wrong places.
Your advice to inform people about DNA findings is solid, and my spouse wholeheartedly agrees.
– Embracing Answers
Dear Embracing: DNA discoveries are forcing many families to re-imagine their histories.
Dear Amy: A reader named “Selfish” wondered when it might be too late to send or receive a letter of condolence after a death in the family.
When our youngest son was killed five weeks before his 19th birthday, we received hundreds of notes and sympathy cards.
While we greatly appreciated all of the condolences we received at the time of our son’s death, the note we got six months later was the one that stood out the most to us.
We felt extra supported to know that someone else remembered that while the world moved on, our life had been turned upside down and that we continued to be devastated and grieve the loss of our child.
For those who grieve, any time would be considered “timely” to know that others are remembering them in their loss.
Dear Supported: I hope your testimony will inspire people to reach out to those who grieve – no matter how much time has passed.
Dear Amy: Your column frequently reflects the many ways in which families are made, and how to discuss DNA disclosures, sperm and egg donation, and adoption within the family.
We adopted a child 26 years ago.
Ours was an open adoption and our unfailing motto was that no child can have too much love.
From the beginning of our time together, when our daughter was a baby, we used pictures to tell our beautiful daughter her origin story.
As she matured, the story matured.
I hope this idea is helpful to some of your readers who don’t feel able to tell their child they weren’t conceived biologically.
Our daughter recently got married and as she exchanged vows with her husband, her father and I, her brothers, her birth grandparents, birth mother, birth mother’s siblings and children formed the circle of love that surrounded her.
The bride was radiant. She knows who she is.
– Proud Parent
Dear Proud: “She knows who she is.” Beautiful. Tackling ever-changing questions about identity is one of the burdens of being human. Your loving, open, and honest attitude has made this much easier for everyone in your wide family circle.
©2022 Amy Dickinson.