10/19/2022 | By Amy Dickinson

Mom considers sharing past trauma with her grown children – even though the abusers were the kids’ own grandparents. Should she share, or should she hold her tongue? See what advice columnist Amy Dickinson says in this edition of Ask Amy.

Dear Amy: 

My son and daughter are now middle-aged, and my parents have been gone for more than 20 years.

I’ve not told my children the whole truth about my parents. It was awful growing up in a house full of alcohol, anger, and abuse.

The reason I’ve not told them was that I didn’t want to injure their memories of their grandma and grandpa.

My parents treated their grandchildren with love, as opposed to how my siblings and I were treated by them as they raised us.

I’ve grown and changed over the years to overcome a sad childhood, and both of my children have worked through whatever they suffered at my ineptness, most likely through therapy.

My daughter and I are close, while my son, with whom I used to be very close, started treating me dismissively once he went off on his own.

I’ve wondered whether sharing past trauma with them both and telling the true story of my upbringing, including traumatic events they have no clue happened to me and my siblings, would be all right this late in the game.

They are highly moral, responsible adults, in solid marriages.

I almost feel like I’ve answered my own question, but what does Amy think?

Mom Missing My Son

Related Article: Therapy Can Help, Even 62 Years Later

Dear Mom: 

I don’t suggest initiating a discussion about this with your children unless there is some meaningful context, and until you are prepared for a wide spectrum of responses, ranging from compassion toward you – to blaming you for disparaging their grandparents after their death.

It would be wisest to start by discussing your childhood trauma with your siblings. They are your peers and fellow survivors. They might have made disclosure choices with their own families that would influence you.

sharing past trauma

Understand that your children might view this as a bombshell and not quite know what to do with your revelations.

Do approach this frankly as a successful survivor, responding honestly to questions: “What was Grandpa like when you were young?”

“It was rough for us. I’m glad that he was a much kinder grandfather.”

I do suggest initiating an open and frank conversation about alcohol abuse in your childhood.

Alcoholism can manifest as a family disorder, and your children should be aware of the alcoholism in their family.

Trying to repair the relationship with your son should be a priority. I don’t believe you would necessarily build a bridge by talking about your childhood experiences, but by encouraging him to talk about his own, and then taking it from there.

You mention that your children may have sought therapy. A therapist would help you to work through this process, now.

In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers – ranging from sharing past trauma to grandparenting to DNA surprises. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. 

© 2022 by Amy Dickinson

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