I didn't know that my grandmother (Dad's side) was born in Italy and moved to the US when she was 12, until 2 years after she died. Apparently, she didn't want to be thought of as an immigrant. I was rather upset about the fact that I was her granddaughter and would like to have been able to ask her questions. There were also big family secrets about the fact that most of my Dad's family had diabetes. the family knew, but we were told not to tell anyone outside "the family" .
I think that telling bad news is not a simple thing. It depends on the age of the person being told and their ability to deal with it. Is there any reason to tell a young child that their grandparent has cancer? Tell them that the family member is sick and keep it simple. As far as separations, addictions, the sort of things where people are judged, it's up to the person(s) involved. If they want to keep it private, it should be kept private.
As for health issues, again, I don't think details are needed, and I get that people don't want to worry others, but especially if the issues is one (ie cancer) that has repercussions for others. People need to know. A history of cancer, in a family for instance.
One thing I would never do, is lie. What Galina did, was totally wrong, and could rebound on her and her kids in ways she may never get over.
If asked you give the amount of information that is needed or appropriate. In a situation where it is information that the person who is ill or in the middle of the "issue", does not want discussed, you simply say you cannot discuss it.
Sometimes things should be kept private because it's no one else's business and it could effect a person's recovery or future.
Then there was a situation in the Church few years ago. I am the kids’ God-Mother, and there was a spat in the Church between me and the Priest during christening. He asked me where my cross is and was I ever baptized; it got to the “jewish issue”; when he learned “who I am in the region” he pulled back and said “no biggie, JC was also a Jew, so go ahead with the ceremony”…. Kids started asking about Christ the Jews, etc… .
The Priest (a very young man) was a cousin of a cousin of our business associate, so we took him with us to the restaurant to celebrate. We were all drinking, Galina’s husband (my associates, who is ½ jewish) started horsing around and we started toasting “Leheim”; the Priest was also “full of spirits” and instead of “Leheim” thought we’re teasing him about his drinking by saying “Lakaem” (a slang word which means “he has guzzled too much liquor”). Kids started asking what’s Leheim and Lakaem, the Priest started chatting some prayer and kept forgetting the words, they had to take him home…… etc.
I don’t know if these kids will be upset about the hidden truth……. They may get upset about the grand-parents information. About being ¼ jewish? I don’t know…. I’ve seen two outcomes…. It’s quite common in Russia to go with the “Russian heritage and hide the Jewish side”….. Some get upset about the lack of trust towards them. Some get upset because if they knew they might have made different choices, like trying to live in Israel, or feeling confident about their smarts and business abilities. Some, as soon as they learn the truth, become “more Russian than Putin” and biggest anti-Semites, some run to the Church to get christened….. (Like Irina Slutskaya)….. I think Russian parents have a little more power to convince their kids that they did it for their own good…. If one is doing something with good intentions – the responsibility for a negative out come is perceived to be “less”.
Many women, during divorce, ask their ex-husbands to write a letter of Relinquishing of Parental rights for their joint children, so that in the future the new husband can take full custody. Many Russian husbands will not accept a “husband from the past” in any aspects of the family life. Many 2nd wives, do not want children from previous marriages hanging around… It's best to make a child believe that a current spouse is genetic parent.
In the 40’s and 50’s, right after the War, many unmarried young women adopted their orphaned sisters, cousins, children of friends, pretending to be their mothers, so that the kids were not send to orphanages. We know several families my parents’ age where “de-jure mothers” were actually “de-facto sisters” or “relatives” of much younger children.
For many Russians over 30, divorce is something “shameful”, child out of wed-lock is not a desired event (loose woman), adoption is something last resort….
Do Russians like to hide family secrets? It more a matter of To Talk or Not to Talk.
There are different categories….
Misery loves company.
There are people who live very difficult lives and have little to lose from the “leak of personal information”, those are likely to tell everyone about their problems, often in hope of sympathy and to solicit help.
My miseries will get me everywhere.
There is also a belief that people are more willing to help the “Les Miserable”…. If one wants to get something, or get away with something, in Russia you get more cooperation if you give a sob story “my child sick, my husband left me, my dog ran away”….
Then there are those who live like this Russian proverb - “mne more po koleno” – the deepest ocean is only knee-deep when I walk. Every misfortune, if it does not kill you, makes you stronger. Wear your scars from Life, Love and War as Victory Medals.
Here one of the street rhymes on the subject…….
“Desyat’ zhenok brosil ya….. Devyat’ brosili menya”
“Ten wives I had to leave… Nine wives abandoned me”
Or the old song from a Russian Western cult movie “White Sun of the Desert”
“I am unlucky in finding death, I will be lucky in finding love”.
Loose Tongue is a precious find to the Enemy.
During years of USSR and KGB the less you talk – the better. Any event or occurrence in your life can be misinterpreted against you. It’s best not to tell too much to the children – they talk to friends, and friends tell their parents. Children often were a source of information about a family which authorities were interested in.
Word is Silver, Silence is Gold.
Just a common cultural belief that one appears smarter when one talks less. Listen more, talk less – you’ll be better off. Only fools talk too much – smart men gather information, not disburse it.
Quick talkers are Scoundrels.
Those who talk too much, the “quick-tongued elaborate talkers” are up to no good – they are trying to “chatter up your brains” away from a real issue, or cheat you out of something.
Information is a cause of Envy and Jinx.
Superstition: Don’t talk about your troubles or good things. The people will wish you more trouble, or jinx the good stuff. If you need to tell – tell only after the issue is settled.
Hyenas follow only the Bleeding Deer.
Don’t tell about your troubles – if you show weakness – the vultures will swarm all over you.
I think in everyday life Russians are more inclined Not To Talk. When you become close, go through few "life and death situations" together, drink with them, after few drinks - many are VERY inclined To Talk...
Last edited by Tinami Amori; 10-20-2010 at 01:13 AM.
"Cancer" is just a name for a particular kind of sickness, which differentiates it from things like "ear infection" and "cold." I always said those names, too, not to complicate things, but so the kids would learn the difference.
"The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources."-- Albert Einstein.
I personally don't have kids, but I have 2 nephews and 3 nieces...all teens.
Any family secrets they want to know, they always come to me. They know they'll get the truth.
Beware of the Black Sheep Uncle!!!
My parents think that they are protecting us when they don't tell us everything.
I just hate trying to figure out who they have told what about.
My mother didn't mean to keep anything from us but there were just too many of us. My mother always forgot who she told & who she hadn't told. (I have 3 brothers & 2 sisters, 3 SILs & 2 BILs, 3 nieces & 4 nephews, & 3 greats-nieces & 5 great-nephews.)
My 99 year old grandmother does not know that my mom passed away. And we will never tell her.
My family is pretty good about spreading the news, but my mother has a particularly bad habit of not telling us medical anything. I don't need to know the nitty gritty, but things like thyroid problems running in the family, which I didn't find out until I myself was diagnosed with a thyroid disease, is really frustrating not to know.
I think it has to do with my maternal grandmother's death from breast cancer in the early 1960s. It was pre-chemo, so she had a lot of radiation treatments and was very sick and in pain for years. My mother was 15 when her mom died, and witnessing all of that at that age had a huge effect on how she treats illness and death. She tends to keep us away from it, which got frustrating when we got older and have our own opinions. My dad had surgery on an artery in his neck last year and she was a complete wreck. The kids all handled it fine.
When my aunt first got ovarian cancer, we were never taken to visit her in the hospital. My sister and I were in high school at the time, so we could have handled it, but my mom was very "she's fine" about it all. My aunt had later recurrences that put her in the hospital intermittently, and my siblings and I visited her every day. She died last November, and I'm so glad we were able to support her when she was really sick. It would have made it worse, not better, if we were kept in the dark.
With anything else, it's like a damn partyline. "Did you hear that so-and-so did blah blah blah?" My late aunt was a huge (benevolent) gossip, I'm just trying to keep the tradition alive
My SIL went through breast cancer twice. Both times, no one was told until surgeries or chemo became imminent, and there was no avoiding it. My SIL just didn't want to deal with people asking how she felt and answering questions. In a way that was difficult, because we wanted to let her know we were thinking about her, but didn't want to upset her. We worked it out, kept her aware we cared, but respected her privacy. I think we all deal with illness and problems differently. And if it is our/your/their wish to keep it secret and feel in control (that way), it should be respected.
As a nurse who used to have to deny diagnoises to patients because of family wishes, I believe in communication being open, but there are others in my family who do not.
It used to be the thought that if you told someone that they had cancer, they would immediately give up and die. Which was one of the reasons doctors used to keep the information away from the patient, generally on the wishes of the family. But most of those patients knew it anyway, just because no one would tell them for certain.
I have sons who choose to keep things from their brothers. It gets really, really hard for me to not talk about xyz when the whole family is together. But then it is not my information to share.
- Are you/were you a practicing nurse in North America or Western Europe? or in some other geographic region, Eastern Europe, etc.... (I am sorry I did not take a note of your place of residence from previous posts).
- If you are in North-Am/Europe, is it LEGAL for relatives to request hiding a diagnosis from patients?
- Is it LEGAL to deny diagnoses to a patient if he/she requests it?
- My mother's VERY close college friends in Moscow, husband and wife, recently had a similar situation. The man was diagnosed with Cancer. The wife and family forbade the hospital staff to give out this information to the husband.
- My mother went ballistic over this situation. She nearly ended her 52-year friendship with the family, and this family is one of the last surviving from my mother’s college years.
- My mother was calling and yelling at the wife: You’re poisoned with Soviet mentality to “hide the truth”! It’s 2009 and not the “hush years of the 50’s”! You have no right to stop your husband from knowing…. He has to know, so that he can plan the last years of his life! You’re depriving his from many choices! Don’t play God! He has a right to know what’s going to happen to him! How typical “Soviet”, no respect for Individual’s Rights!.”
I am mainly interested in the legal side of “the right to know” and family’s rights “to withhold the information”.
I found out recently the family secret of one of my close friends since childhood, and neighbour for many years.
The mother confided in my mother when we were children that she had lied to him, claiming a certainly couple were his grandparents, when in fact she was a foster child. No the said mother is a frequent liar, and she may well have made that up to try and shock my own conservative mother.
Problem is said friend now has mucho angst about family and grandparents in particular, and so I feel stuck in between a rock and a hard place with this bit of information
After giving this a little bit of thought, I've realized my mom will hide things from me for a short amount of time.
Example 1: My step-grandfather died while I was still in school back in 2000. He died on Thursday morning, I was planning to go home that weekend anyway. On Thursday night, my mom called to make sure I was coming home, but nothing was said about my step-grandfather's death until I walked through the door at home.
Example 2: My grandmother died of cancer in April. She went into the hospital for the final time on a Friday morning. My mom didn't plan to tell me until Saturday. I ended up calling her on Friday night though, and found out then. My grandmother died the following Thursday.