At age 37, actor Jack Nicholson learned that the person he had known as his life as his sister was actually his mother, and his “mother” was actually his grandmother. By the time he learned the truth, both had died without ever telling him the truth.
Closer to home, a Quebec born friend who was 21 years old, suddenly learned she was actually 23 years old. Her baptismal certificate had been forged by the village priest to hide her premarital conception. In our practice we have had DNA cases disclosing the existence of long hidden children and recently a case where the deceased made a deathbed confession to his wife and family about his second wife and 12-year-old daughter. It is a rare family with no skeletons in their closest. There are a myriad of reasons why people decide to hide details of a shameful incident, illicit relationship or other personal issue.
Many families have secrets and their nature varies considerably. They may involve infidelity, mental illness, sexual orientation, illegitimacy, substance abuse, physical or psychological abuse or any other of the myriad of human potential frailties. The non-disclosure sometimes takes on an energy of its own. Those kept in the dark may sense something unusual but not be able to put their finger on it. Some secrets go to the grave, while others are ultimately disclosed. Family members may lose their filters with dementia, or simply decide to unburden themselves at last. Historical secrets are still emerging today–for example, President Jefferson’s impregnation of a black servant. A descendent recently came forward to break that secret, now centuries old. https://disinherited.com/family-law-matters/dirty-little-family-secrets/