Should I tell my old friend her Dad is dying? (Long post)

posted 2 months ago in Relationships
  • poll: Would you tell her?
    Yes : (11 votes)
    16 %
    No : (56 votes)
    84 %
  • Post # 31
    2582 posts
    Sugar bee

    Another vote for respecting his wishes.

    I say this as someone who is estranged from a parent. I realize the situation is a bit different since I’m the one who cut contact, and that we don’t know the full story here (e.g. whether she had valid reasons for cutting contact), but I’m going to put myself in this man’s shoes anyway. If I were dying, I wouldn’t want to deal with my mom trying to find a way back into my life at an already stressful and sad time. She had my first 18 years to treat me well and she couldn’t do that, why would I owe her another chance? She’s had the time we’ve already been estranged to take accountability for her actions and take steps to change her toxic behaviors, and she hasn’t, so how meaningful would it be to get that only because she knew I was dying? 

    I also want to correct the misconception that reconciliation (as in rekindling a relationship) is the only way to avoid bitterness. That’s not the case. You can accept and even forgive past hurt, and yet not want to reenter a relationship that has caused you hurt in the past (and likely one that you believe would continue to hurt you if you rekindled it). That is perfectly healthy. Acceptance doesn’t mean that what happened was okay, and it doesn’t mean you have to want to hug the person who hurt you.  The Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu have written about this. While we may see stories sometimes of people who become friends with the person who killed their relative and think that is the only “evolved” response, most people won’t react like that to a traumatic event/series of events. For many people the aim is just to accept that it happened, and be able to move on with one’s life without harboring ill will towards the person who caused us pain. Forcing a reconciliation, especially if the person hasn’t really changed and is not actually apologetic for their behavior (and let’s assume they are not since they have not taken initiative to express that so far) will likey just put salt in an old wound. 

    I say this because I suspect some of the people commenting in favor of telling the friend may not have experienced this kind of deep hurt from a family member in their lives, and therefore the idea of genuinely not wanting to rekindle a familial relationship may be incomprehensible. They may think that anytime someone chooses to be estranged from someone it is an example of “holding a grudge” or “bitterness.” That’s simply not true. And if you haven’t been driven to the point of cutting contact with a family member, I think that must be very difficult to understand.

    (Then again, I think many of these people would understand this concept if you replaced an abusive familial relationship for an abusive ex-spouse. That goes to show how deeply ingrained the idea is that our family is inalienable. Why is it any different if the people who abuse us are related to us by blood? Try telling me it’s because there was once so much love there or that there were good times too and you’ll see how quickly the argument breaks down.)

    Post # 32
    7021 posts
    Busy Beekeeper
    • Wedding: September 2015

    Please do not tell her.

    1. He could have a good reason not to tell her. I hate to bring this up, but people get NASTY about the money they “deserve” after a person dies.  Maybe he wants to leave everything to his wife and doesn’t want her to deal with the aftermath.

    2. Maybe he wants to be the one to tell her near the end. Don’t take that opporunity away from him if he changes his mind.

    It is not abnormal for people to never reconcile, especially before someone passes.  My grandmother never reconciled with her daughter.  She did not want her to know.  Death is the time you reflect on who is truly there for you in your life.  It is not a time for reconciliation.

    I think people already described that you truly don’t know if a nice reconciliation would happen anyways.  He should not have to suffer more if it doesn’t.

    This man trusts you. Please just be trustworthy to him.  Your friend is not currently a trusted person in your life, anyways.

    Post # 33
    7021 posts
    Busy Beekeeper
    • Wedding: September 2015

    browneyedgirl24 :  I second all of this.  My husband and I are estranged from his mother by our own merit… If my husband was passing away or something life threatening happened to him, her being in our lives would make things a million times more stressful, emotionally difficult, and would cause our entire family to suffer.

    ETA – He ALWAYS receives guilt trips from family members about crap she’s going through, the cancer his stepdad has, and just how “family shouldn’t be like this and not talking.”  And my husband has yet to reach out because it’s not worth the well-being and emotional health of our family.

    Post # 34
    2617 posts
    Sugar bee

    You need to respect his wishes.  This is not a choice he is making lightly, and it is not your place to decide for him that he needs a forced attempt at reconciliation.

    Sometimes, cutting off all contact is the healthiest option.  Trying to force a relationship to develop again, for the sake of some sentimental idea of seeing people “hug it out” can actually cause a lot of emotional damage.

    Post # 35
    6657 posts
    Bee Keeper
    • Wedding: September 2016

    I think you should respect his request not to say anything. The worst case and most likely scenario (if you did say something and Megan returned) would be her making the final weeks or months of her father’s life a misery and that would be your fault. If she has been a hot mess for all of this time, it’s very likely that even when she’s trying not to be, she is still a toxic energy void and a cyclone of drama and if you told her and she did come back around and she’s still hanging around with Rachel, she’s definitely not going to return to a stressful situation without the person who has made her feel a sense of security with her terrible choices in the last decade. So then you would be responsible for bringing both Megan and Rachel back into a dying man’s orbit when what he most needs is peace and to live out the rest of his days with his wishes being respected. Not everyone needs the clarifying conversation. Sometimes, people choose to move on and let go of the hope that the other person will change- maybe that is what Megan’s father has done as it relates to her.

    As for Megan, when you choose to live life as a shit, sometimes, people are going to flush you. It sounds like Megan inherited some of her mother’s messy ways (and maybe there are underlying reasons for that that you aren’t aware of). If and when Megan decides to make different choices in her life, she will have to deal with the fallout from her behavior – including the fact that her father died without her there (and her absence probably made the entire process easier for him). He is fortunate in that he has two surrogate daughter figures in you and Annie who have been there to care for him and check on him and you will both be there to mourn him after his death.

    Post # 36
    1687 posts
    Bumble bee

    browneyedgirl24 :  I don’t think the OP just tell the daughter immediately, but I am in favor of the OP letting the father know she can’t keep this secret if it is weighing on her. I have been estranged from an abusive parent so I understand what people are saying. I would have wanted to know if my father was dying so I could make my own choice without having it made for me. 

    The problem here though is everyone is looking at this through the lens of someone who has cut off a toxic family member in order to protect themselves and stating they would not want contact from the estranged person even if they were dying. That’s completely fair. However, that is NOT the circumstance here. The father didn’t cut his daughter off. They do not, as far as the OP knows, have a lengthy history of abuse or neglect, though it’s possible something is going on that the OP doesn’t know about. This makes the dynamic different. The daughter is the one who cut off contact. While I understand that her father is angry and hurt and doesn’t want a pity reconciliation, it isn’t the same situation as someone who has finally cut off a toxic person for their own happiness. 

    Telling someone their parent is dying is not forcing a reconciliation, it’s just passing along information and the daughter can choose if she wants to continue to be estranged or not. If she reaches out to her father, he can choose whether or not he wants to speak with her. No one is forcing a Hallmark moment, no one is inviting the father and daughter over for dinner without telling the other. 

    Like another person, I know 3 people right now who aren’t talking to their close family members for essentially no reason other than holding a grudge. These people all have this idea that they will reconcile when they are ready but don’t put forth any effort because it’s awkward now. It’s their choice and they must deal with the consequences, but not everyone cuts off contact wanting it to be forever. 

    Like I said before, it’s morally sound to do either. I would never want to keep a secret like this though. I don’t want to be a part of preventing someone from knowing that their own father is dying. Even if they don’t talk to them by choice, even if the dying person doesn’t want them to know. I think it’s pretty messed up to be part of stealing ANY final opportunity to reach out. The father has a limited time on this earth, yes it’s sad that he doesn’t want his daughter to know about his terminal illness but if you don’t keep this secret what’s the worst that can happen? His daughter doesn’t reach out? That sucks but it doesn’t really change anything and the situation is already painful for him. His daughter reaches out and he doesn’t want to talk to her? That sucks and it will be an uncomfortable afternoon when he has to field her phone call or tell his wife he doesn’t want to come to the door. None of that is great stuff. However, the daughter potentially has many years to feel the impact of never saying goodbye to her father, a man she was previously close to and loved very much. A man she might still love very much, even if she is not speaking with him now. Personally I am not comfortable contributing to that, though others might be.

    I am of the belief that people can keep their own secrets but once they start involving other people, others are not obligated to keep their secrets. I would say that about this situation, I would say that about finding out a friend is cheating on their husband, I would say that about a friend saying they were self-harming or were being abused. A parent dying is not a small thing and nothing to mess with. 

    Post # 37
    12656 posts
    Honey Beekeeper

    strawberrysakura :  PPs do make a few valid points in favor of not getting involved, but that said I agree with everything you just wrote. The difference for me as well is that there is no likely or known history of abuse and there are no second chances. The worst thing that will happen is the father will say he’s not interested. 

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