This letter is from a recent Dear Prudence column:
You can read Prudie’s response here.
What would you say? Should the LW tell the grandparents the truth? Should she tell her son the truth? Tell her son only when his grandparents die? Tell him when he’s old enough to understand but ask him not to tell his grandparents? Should she just keep it a secret forever? This is such a moral dilemma. On one hand, the LW’s husband was her son’s father in every sense but biologically. He was the dad. The grandparents were and are her sons’ true grandparents. They’ve already suffered what must have been a deep and immense loss when their son died. Why bring them more pain by telling them that the boy they believe to be their grandson and the closest link they have to their dead son, a son they only recently made peace with after a long estrangement, is not biologically related to them? But on the other hand, if the boy were to ever learn the truth, which could happen whether the LW wants him to know or not — his biological father is presumably still living and knows about him, after all; maybe one day he’ll demand to know the son he initially wanted nothing to do with — won’t he resent his mother for essentially lying to him all his life? But if she tells him the truth when he’s old enough to understand, how can she possibly expect him to keep the secret from his grandparents?
I think I’d advise the LW to come clean. Tell the grandparents the truth — or at least the truth about their grandson not being their biological descendent. Explain that their son was his father in the most important sense of the word and raised him as his own until the day he died. They don’t need to know about the affair, and they don’t need to know anything about the biological father. It can be as simple as, “This was a decision your son and I made and I’d like to keep the details private, but the important thing is that you know he loved his son very much, regardless of how he was conceived, and if you would like to continue having a relationship with your grandson, we would welcome that.”