Should I Confront My Grandfather?

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

From the U.S.: My grandfather sexually abused my uncle and aunt. My uncle sexually abused my mother in return. My grandfather spent their childhood turning them against one another; this my mom wouldn’t let us stay with them by ourselves after a certain age. My mother suffered from DID and her therapist thinks my aunt does as well, along with bipolar disorder. My mother got better, but recently my aunt attempted suicide. She is still in the hospital. She confided in me about what happened when she was younger. Now, my grandparents keep asking what they can do to help. My family are master secret keepers and I want to break the cycle. Is it wrong of me to confront my grandfather about his behavior when they were children? No one else has, and it pains me to know that he has not been held accountable for his actions. I’ve gone through the steps of anger/denial/forgiveness already, but part of me knows that if he really wants to help, then we should not ignore his actions given the situation.

A: What a tragic and difficult history! I’m so sorry this has shadowed your family for so long. Secrets like these do perpetuate the problems. I can’t make a judgment about whether it is right or wrong to confront your grandfather on the basis of a short email. It’s a complicated question.

If you decide to wade in, do ask your mother and aunt why they have continued in their silence. I’m guessing that both have been in therapy and have talked about this. They may have reasons that are important for you to understand. It may be more helpful for you to help them talk to grandpa than for you to take on the job on your own.

Confrontations like these can be very, very difficult. Sometimes offenders deny; sometimes they go on the attack. Sometimes they break down. To take care of all involved, do consider talking it over with your mom’s therapist so you are well-prepared for what may happen during the conversation and to know what kind of follow-through will be needed.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

Photo

 

 

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 9 May 2014

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2014). Should I Confront My Grandfather?. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 25, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2014/05/09/should-i-confront-my-grandfather/