Wedding Woes

What do I do about my dead husband's secret family?

Dear Prudence,

My husband and I were married seven years before he unexpectedly died. He was from overseas and told me he didn’t have much in the way of family since his parents died. He lied.

Months after the funeral, I finally mustered up enough courage to go through his old boxes. In a box of books, I found photos, letters, and documents. My husband had been married and then divorced in his home country. Worse, there were pictures of him with his five children. The man that I loved, that was trying to build a family with, left his five young kids behind without a look back. He never breathed a word about them to me. He certainly never financially supported them.

The entire foundations of my world have been shaken. I haven’t told anyone yet. I don’t know how—not without answers. Is it wrong to go looking for his family? The oldest two children should be adults, and I have names and locations from some of the documents. I tell myself I could offer financial assistance, but I wonder if I am being selfish here. Please advise.

— Questions

Re: What do I do about my dead husband's secret family?

  • Can you talk to a counselor and an attorney?  I don't think the LW is selfish and they're probably feeling a sense of guilt despite not having any information about what was going on .  But given what was uncovered, consider a private investigator because I'm willing to be that more will be uncovered. 
  • ((BIG OOFFF)).  Part of this letter is hitting very, very close to home for me.

    My H is 10 years older than me and was married/divorced twice before he met me.  He had two daughters with each ex-wife, so 4 daughters total.  They are all adults now.  He's been estranged from his oldest two daughters for around 30 years.  His 1st ex would not let him see them after they got divorced, but I don't think he fought that either.  I don't know if he's in touch with the younger two daughters.  I suspect he isn't.  He's never said much about his ex-wives or children and never wants to talk about them.

    At least I know of everyone's existence!  Though I've never met or communicated with any of them.  If my H pre-deceases me, I've sometimes wondered if I should try to find them and let them know.  It would be far easier for me not to bother, but then I feel like they have a right to know and I'd be kind of an AH if I didn't at least notify them.  But Prudie and @Casadena are making good points.  He hasn't been present for most of their lives anyway.  I'd probably just be opening up old wounds and complicated feelings, if I got in touch.   It all might be a moot point anyway, if I pre-decease him.   
    Wedding Countdown Ticker
  • I don't think it's selfish, but I don't think it's a good idea either. LW has no idea what went down when he left them. Maybe run of the mill went out for a gallon of milk and never came back. But maybe there's a lot more. Reaching out could bring up a lot of old stuff for the family, and LW might find that they're not receptive. 

    I'm also not in love with the idea of offering financial assistance. I guess LW knows enough to know that they could use it, but it just feels like this icky guilt money thing. 
  • Without knowing the circumstances behind the reason why when he left he left after the divorce the answer is really in a gray area.  It could have been a "Don't let the door hit ya..." or any number of reasons that the split took place.  It may have been he moved that far away because it was the fresh start he needed to be the man the LW knew.  

    The only real reason to reach out would be if the cause of death is something that'd be relevant to the kids (i.e. congenital defect type issue that they either could have/be a carrier of)..  Or just for the closure that he'd passed away.
  • This would be devastating to see/hear! Poor LW.  But no, don’t go searching for this family. 

  • I think this is about OP’s guilt not about the family he abandoned and also her grief at discovering he wasn’t the man she thought he was. If she wants to make sure it’s possible for them to find out, she could publish an in memorium notice on his year anniversary in a local paper that will also put it online. So if they ever google him they might find it. 
  • I agree with all opinions that you do not need to contact your husband's family. This is not your family and you are not responsible for them. You might never know about them at all. You do not know how these children will behave towards you.
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