Every family has secrets. I like the story John Bradshaw shared in his book, “Family Secrets”. He would steal dimes from his father, going on a binge buying candy. When his father questioned why his dimes were missing, he did not own up to his behavior. The loss of the dimes remained a secret. From this experience, he had to live with the shame and guilt of not being honest with his family.
This happens! As children, we test the limits. I remember when my daughter stole money from her father’s coat pocket and earrings from his store. She thought she was rich and very proud of herself. What she did not know is that secrets have a way of being exposed. When the secret of her thefts was uncovered, she learned a valuable lesson! Lies have a way of coming out! She did not like the trouble she found herself in.
Devastating family secrets range from hiding family members mental illnesses, alcoholism, incest or sexual and domestic violence. Another secret that remains prevalent is hiding the paternity from children who are born of affairs, underage mothers or other misconducts. This happens more often than what we care to admit. However, when one is the product of these secrets the desire to know the truth is overwhelming and controls our thoughts and behaviors, creating a deep toxic shame of not belonging.
When the secret of my mother’s affair with my father came out there was a momentary sense of relief. However, it was not enough to just know my father's name. I needed more understanding as to why I was judged as "unworthy". Why was the innocence of a child not honored by the adults in the family.
Researching the family through ancestry websites I came to a greater understanding of what the family had to endure and how they remained strong in their beliefs. Their experiences led to the need to hide the bastard child from others. This hurts, knowing that through the behaviors of my parents, I was not wanted and needed to remain a secret from other people. It was not until learning my father wanted me, and did not share the same beliefs of his parents, did the path towards healing begin.
Secrets once exposed shock us and shake us to our core. Once my book was completed I thought my work was done. However, I was wrong! Another shock came through DNA testing with Ancestry.com that I had a sister. Another daughter from my mother we never knew about.
The shock of this secret had shaken my tenuous foundation. I have to once again figure out what my role is within the family. To make it even more complicated, my sister is bi-racial. When my mother's family found out she had a black child, the family shunned our mother, leaving her to take care of three young children on her own. Making a difficult decision, she gave our younger sister over to the authorities as she could not take care of the three of us on her own.
Because of the judgement and prejudice of family, we lost out on our sister. After the death of our mother, the secret of our bi-racial sister was "swept under the carpet". Even though it has been difficult I am glad the family secrets are now being exposed so true healing can begin. True relationship among siblings can now take place.
In time, I hope others will understand the devastation of such secrets. They define us. If there is abuse and lack of support for the child, Complex PTSD occurs along with the toxic shame that defines our lives. We are not at fault. How we heal and deal with the secrets is to have the truth exposed.