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wundayatta's avatar

What do you think about people carrying secrets to their graves?

Asked by wundayatta (58367 points ) November 15th, 2011

I think that there are some secrets where it really doesn’t matter. They don’t affect anyone else. But I think there are other secrets that people keep out of shame, and they carry them to the grave for that reason.

My concern is that there is some information that could be very helpful to others. Say something like someone is really adopted. Or that the deceased is really the mother instead of the sister. Or that they murdered so-and-so. Or even that they had several affairs while married or just that they had this involved relationship that changed them greatly when they were just out of college.

Some of this stuff might be important to a larger society, and some just to family members or friends. There could be any number of reasons it is important or that the deceased wanted to hide it. Yet they carry it to the grave, anyway.

What do you think? Should we try to make people feel safer in telling secrets before they die? Does it not really matter? Why?

Do you have any experiences along these lines to share?

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16 Answers

blueiiznh's avatar

Yep, my Dad said that very thing to me about 4 years ago. It kinda always sits in the back of my mind wondering.
Since then, we have had some very open conversations about some things that I was floored to hear, but it really explained a lot.
So in this regard, it was helpful to understand a certain dynamic and put some things in a more clear reference, but nothing that changed my life had I never knew.

Coloma's avatar

Anytime our behavior or secrets have an impact on others they should be disclosed.
Of course this would only be an option for a fairly “enlightened” person that believes that truth trumps self centeredness and that failure to disclose potentially life altering information is the way of the child, not the adult that walks in their integrity.

The best barometer of a persons maturity and emotional health is their willingness to step up to the plate and admit to their mistakes.

CWOTUS's avatar

I’ll never tell.

zenvelo's avatar

My grandmother died without ever discussing some things with my father and aunt. After her apartment was cleaned out, questions came up for my dad because he couldn’t find hings that his mother would have kept precious- like a marriage license.

My father later did research on his own dad coming to the United States from Scotland with a 16 year detour via the Yukon. He found my grandfather had been married long before he met my grandmother.

At the time these would have been shameful if aired in public. But it caused much more upset to my father late in life because he couldn’t talk to his parents about it. One problem with keeping secrets is that the secrets get found out, yet we lose the ability to process our emotions because the person is dead.

And keeping secrets to the grave is really a rotten way to live. Better to unburden oneself in one way or another. That way you can take responsibility for your actions.

bongo's avatar

I think If the secret is in regards to a known issue and someone is holding something back causing problems then maybe thats unfair to keep secrets to the grave but sometimes that person may want to protect the other person… I think its best to tell those secrets (unless they are completely useless and would only cause unnecessary upset at the time e.g. something like ‘I killed the cat, it didn’t run away, I sat on it”)
That is why I am going to tell you all my secret I was planning to take to the grave: ok… I [REDACTED]

Judi's avatar

I don’t know if it was the delirium of her final moments or what but my mom spent about an hour building up to reveal some big secret to my sisters and I. In the end she said she was just kidding with us.
We will always wonder Whst her big secret was, but Not in a negative way.
My moms death was such a sacred time. It sounds strange, but it wasn’t sad as much as it was a spiritual transition. It felt like an honor to be there.

Sunny2's avatar

When I googled my grandmother’s name, there was reference to a name I never heard. I have no idea what it had to do with her. Does it matter? Not really, but it made me curious. I think people have a right to their secrets. I have a friend who, after marrying her current husband, found out he’d had 2 previous marriages, not just one. It’s never mentioned in the family. Now that would be objectionable to me.

Meego's avatar

My mom and dad had a secret that my sister found out which she kept a secret for 20 yrs and then she told me and I confronted my mom to confirm that it was true.

I found out it was true and that my brother is not from my father. I asked my mother if she was ever going to tell my brother. She said I should, I said “WTF!! OH HELL NO!!”

My dad passed away and never told my brother. To this day my brother is the only one that doesn’t know!! And now I think if he gets told it would devastate him.

Sometimes I wonder if he knows because he gets irritated with my mom easy. I mean he doesn’t really look like us. To me he is my brother no matter what, my father treated him like he came from him and when I asked my dad about it he got upset and told me “it doesn’t matter he is mine no matter what.”

I think telling now would be silly. Something like that you should be open about as soon as the child understands they deserve the right to choose.

My mom and dad were not right keeping it from my brother and even his real father who has no clue that he ever had a child, but what’s done is done.

Knowing my brothers attitude is the only thing that stopped me from telling him.

Sunny2's avatar

@Meego I think some things need to be kept secret. This sounds like one of them.

smilingheart1's avatar

We thought we would have sperm donor bank family at one point before the conception block was resolved and we pledged not to tell, to keep it between us alone.

flutherother's avatar

At the end of the day, and it is the end of the day, you have to respect the individual’s wishes. That is what I like about graveyards. They are so quiet.

Earthgirl's avatar

If someone tells a secret on their deathbed I think it usually is already too late to change anything in a positive way. Do you really want to drop a bombshell on people just as you are about to toss off your mortal coil? Telling a secret before you die, having the courage to divulge the truth of something that affects someone else, letting them know the real you, is really as much for you as it is for them.

If you are fine with people not really knowing you, if you want to be known as you present yourself and not as an entirely authentic person, then fine, take it to the grave. I understand that sometimes people do this out of a sense of protecting other’s feelings. It’s a tough call. Maybe the person holding the secret feels that it would be almost selfish to divulge it. It would feel good to get off their chest, but they know it might traumatize others. So they are making the call, and sometimes that involves letting other’s keep their security and sense of reality. Not upsetting the apple cart. Oftentimes they are right in their assessment.
I just thought of this clip…
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5j2F4VcBmeo

woodcutter's avatar

Sometimes keeping things to one’s self all the way out, keeps the peace. If this new found information is going to cause bad problems for those left behind then it’s better to bury it? It takes a strong discipline to be able to do that.

zenvelo's avatar

I understand @woodcutter‘s idea about keeping the peace, but to me the peace is much stringer and lasts longer if we are honest all along, and don’t keep secrets.

@Meego‘s brotehr deserves to know for his and his children’s health that he had a different biological father. The father he knew and loved has passed on, and he can be secure in that love. But if he ever finds out the truth, he will be extremely angry with the whole family (and rightly so!) for having kept this from him.

woodcutter's avatar

Some things are just better left unsaid. In a perfect world where everyone is totally understanding there would be no reasons for secrets to even exist. We all know that has never been the case, and never will.

Pele's avatar

Whatever? who cares? It’s over anyways…

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