Post # 1
Cousin A and Cousin B were in a serious car accident together. They are both in their early 30’s. Cousin A dies on the scene, and Cousin B is in critical condition. Cousin B was in a coma for about 1-2 months following the accident. Gradually, he started to wake up, wiggling his fingers and toes. A couple weeks later, he could track things with his eyes. Fast forward several months and many surgeries later, and he’s in a rehabilitation hospital and doing significantly better. He’s talking, eating real food, reading books to his kids, cooking, etc. He’s still wheelchair bound, but is working on walking with the assistance of his therapists. Mentally, he is 100% there.
Several months ago, when Cousin B still wasn’t doing so well (still not talking or asking questions), his sister told everyone to NOT tell him that Cousin A had passed away. Ok, I understand this, he needs to focus on healing. Fast forward to now. His sister (and the rest of his immediate family) is still telling people not to tell him about Cousin A. She says that if he asks about him, to “change the subject.” It’s been almost a year since the accident. Given that he is totally alert and oriented, I think he’s probably figured it out on his own. And if he hasn’t (and keeping in mind that he is a full grown adult), do you think he deserves to know?
Post # 2
Absolutely he deserves to know! How long does she think she can keep this up for?
Post # 3
I think you need to respect the wishes of his wife. As she is the one in charge of his car, it is really her call. It will be for him to take up with her when the time comes.
Post # 4
He deserves to know but I can’t imagine that he hasn’t figured it out. He knows they were in an accident together and that cousin A hasn’t been to visit him since.
Post # 6
ladycirtolthiel: I’m sure he’s aware. I understand why family would want to hide it from him but I feel it’s completely misguided–they’re only extending and complicating his timeline for grieving. I would think he absolutely deserves to know but broaching that subject would be an incredibly delicate undertaking.
Post # 7
ladycirtolthiel: First off, my sympathies to you and your family–this was obviously a terrible tragedy.
As to your question, the broad, abstract thinker in me says “of course he has the right to know and his family’s misguided course of action in deliberately concealing this for so long will probably add to what he needs to process when he does inevitably find out.”
The practical part of me that I usually prefer to ignore says “this isn’t your circus–don’t go against his immediate family, at least for now.”
However, I think that it would be perfectly fine to speak with any other extended relatives who are sympathetic to your position about perhaps sitting Cousin B’s family down for a conversation about this matter (perhaps even with a counseling professional who specializes in family dynamics if you can make that work).
I also agree with the PP who says that he is probably already 95% sure that Cousin A is dead. Depending on his personality/approach to grieving, that 5% of uncertainty could be really painful for him. When he does find out definitively, I would encourage him to consult with a mental health professional if he’s not already getting that encouragement (re: the issues stemming from the accident and his injuries) from his immediate family.
Post # 8
Cousin B will find out eventually, guaranteed. And if he’s anything like me, he’d be pissed as all hell that his loved ones tried to keep something from him for so long, especially after he was out of the woods and especially when he’s asking specifically about Cousin A. I could understand not telling him in the beginning when his condition wasn’t stable, but not so much now.
I do agree with PPs that you shouldn’t take it upon yourself to tell him — but talking to the family about why it really should be done would be a good idea.
Post # 9
jcent: It’s not his wife, it’s his sister and other immediate family members. He’s not married. I’m not going to tell him, I’m just curious to see what other people think of the situation.
Post # 10
- Wedding: March 2014 - Chicago, IL
I mean, he has to wonder why Cousin A hasn’t come to visit and why everyone skirts his questions about A. But I agree with PPs that you should respect his family’s wishes and let them break the news to him when they feels like he’s ready. It would be devastating to find out (sooner or later), but I think they deserve to be thes one to tell him.
*edited because you said it’s his sister/family and not wife
Post # 11
ladycirtolthiel: oh, sorry, I misread. Either way though, immediate family members get to decide. I would suspect they have a better grasp on his emotional state than outsiders. A friend of mine’s husband had a major stroke, and there was a lot of stuff that fell apart when that happened. In my eyes, she needed to tell him, but in hers he was not ready to handle it. And since she was the one there everyday I had to trust that she was the best to judge. So I get what you are saying, but unless you are in the situation making the calls, I think it is hard to understand all the feelings that go into a situation like this. The sense of responsibility was overwhelming for my friend when this happened to her Darling Husband. I am glad you cousin is recovering though. 🙂
Post # 12
Also I should add that Cousin A is my brother.
My family hasn’t been visiting Cousin B because we wouldn’t be able to change the subject without getting upset, and that would certainly give it away. We’ve been wanting to visit very badly, and we’re worried that he’s upset with us and doesn’t know why it’s been so long. It’s very frustrating.
Again, we’re not going to take it upon ourselves to tell him.
Post # 13
He should know what happened to Cousin A. I can understand not telling him when his health was touch and go; but now that he’s stable, he should be told the truth. That said, that doesn’t mean that you need to bust in there and tell him, but I would encourage his sister to tell him the truth next time he asks about it. I would be pretty pissed that people were treating me like a child and changing the subject instead of giving me a straight answer.
This actually reminds me of a similar story with my friend’s sister. She had a baby and she accidentally smothered him while cosleeping. Nobody, aside from her parents, had even met the baby at this point. This was a year ago and they still haven’t told the old and frail grandfather that the baby is dead. They just act like everything is fine and the baby is still alive. They don’t live close, so he’s never visited to find out. I guess they’re hoping he’d pass away before he actually finds out. If that were me though, I’d be so pissed that nobody told me and made me into a fool.
ETA: So sorry for the loss of your brother.
Post # 14
What a terrible thing all around– I’m sorry for your loss, and I hope you and your family are doing alright. This is getting out of hand, and Cousin B needs to be told. It’s been a year since the accident, he’s probably wondering why you and your family haven’t been around to visit him…he’s no dummy.
My great-grandmother wasn’t told of a few deaths in the family so as not to upset her, but that’s because she was 102 years old and wasn’t doing well herself at the time. So assuming he’s not that old, and that he’s going to be living a relatively normal life soon– if I were in your shoes, I would gently tell his sister that enough is enough, and you can’t all keep pretending that this didn’t happen. It’s affecting your relationships with too many people, and it’s going to make your cousin very resentful of everyone who knew and didn’t tell him.
Post # 15
My parents were one to hide bad news as much as possible and I hated it. I think he should be told. I imagine he has someone dealing with mental health care with such a big change so that could be brought up with professional about the when and how.