Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

Your Turn: “My Boyfriend Never Talks About His Dead Brother”

In a feature I call “Your Turn,” in which you, the readers, get to answer the question, I’m presenting the following letter without commentary from me:

I’ve been dating my boyfriend for almost a year now, and I feel as though we are getting very close and he could be a person I could see myself spending the rest of my life with. On our first date we were talking about our families, siblings, etc. He told me at the time that he was an only child. Then a couple dates later we were sitting around and he apologized for lying on our first date and told me in fact that he had a brother. Unfortunately, his brother committed suicide about 8 years ago, and my boyfriend was 18 at the time. He said he didn’t like bringing that sort of thing up on a first date, and I completely understand that.

Since then, he may have mentioned his brother in any sort of context maybe once or twice. I feel like I am missing a big chunk of who my boyfriend was and is by not knowing really anything about his brother. I have talked to my boyfriend about a lot of emotionally-charged things (having an abortion, my dad’s affairs) because I feel like it has really shaped who I am and he should know me and all my baggage. However, I tend to be a person who just lets things out if I want to talk about them, and he is more reserved about his emotions. Should I ever bring this up? I have told him the whole “you can talk to be about anything” and he knows that. I know some people may want to talk about their past but need some gentle prodding in the right direction. Any advice about this situation would be much appreciated; I have never had a loss like this in my family and don’t know how to relate and approach this. — Caring Girlfriend

97 comments… add one
  • avatar

    kerrycontrary August 8, 2011, 8:49 am

    The week before I started grad school my roomate’s brother unexpectedly committed suicide, in front of his kids and girlfriend. It was a complete shock as he hadn’t suffered from depression or exhibited any of the typical signs. I lived with my roomate for the next two years so I’ll give you my perspective on how to approach someone like this. Let them bring the subject up. Let them talk about it when they want to. But never ever push them because suicide is usually a surprise and there are a whole host of problems that come along with someone close to you committing suicide. I would ask her how her mom was doing, or how a holiday went since these can be the saddest times. My roomate (and friend obviously) was open about this, but I would never push someone to talk about an immediate family member that committed suicide. Have you met your boyfriend’s parents yet? Because I think that maybe they would be more apt to mentioning your bf’s brother.

    Your boyfriend may just not deal with things by talking about them, a lot of men are this way. Plus this happened 8 years ago. Your boyfriend may have seen a therapist, talked about it, or worked out his feelings some other way back then. In fact, your boyfriend may just be plain pissed off and still angry that he left his family with such a mess and so much pain. Although the pain will never go away I would not “gently prod” him into expressing his feelings on this subject.

    The only thing I would look out for is that there is a whole host of emotions that accompagny a family member committing suicide that may rear their ugly heads 10-15 years down the line. I would keep an eye out for any signs of depression or mental angst.

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  • avatar

    Guy Friday August 8, 2011, 8:55 am

    Honestly, until the time when both of you are starting to look toward a life together — and that may be now, or it may be down the road sometime — I think this is a topic you should just leave alone. I don’t know that I read into this situation that he’s never going to talk to you about it, and I think, as you haven’t mentioned a lot of contact with his family, he may just be waiting until he’s at that stage of “starting to think about spending the rest of his life with you” before he really gets into that kind of detail.

    Once that time comes, however, I think a simple and gentle conversation with your boyfriend in which you express to him your concern and emphasize that you’re not trying to force him to discuss it with you, but that you do want to make sure you are fully available to him if/when he wants to talk about it, is the appropriate measure. After that, let the ball be in his court; if he wants to talk about it with you, he will, and if he doesn’t . . . well, I may be in the minority of people who don’t necessarily consider it to be a deal-breaker, but I suppose you would then have to decide if his not shedding light on that one topic would be something you could live with long-term.

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    • avatar

      Katie August 8, 2011, 12:29 pm

      I agree completely! Why do some of us girls always think we have to completely gut a guy before we “know” him? If he is happier not talking about it thats his choice.

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      • avatar

        MonMon August 8, 2011, 3:45 pm

        Almost 3 years into my relationship and I am STILL trying to be okay with my boyfriend not liking to “open up” about difficult things (childhood family issues, etc) because his method of getting over things is to NOT discuss them, which is the complete opposite of how I deal with things. Ahh, it can be frustrating at times and I even tend to take it personally on occasion, but I’ve learned that some people (more often men) can not be pushed into divulging what they’d rather not talk about.

        My advice to the LW is to let her boyfriend be; he already knows, without her saying so, that she is there for him if he needs to talk, and prodding him may not be the best idea.

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        Katie August 8, 2011, 7:35 pm

        did you accidentally post this as a response to my comment? it seems we somewhat agree. Just wondering if you were making a comment about my post or not??

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  • avatar

    Diana August 8, 2011, 8:57 am

    LW,

    You sound like a wonderful girlfriend. It’s lovely how respectful you are of your boyfriend’s loss and yet how eager you are to know him fully, even about the dark times in his life. That said, now that you’ve told him sincerely that he can talk to you about anything, the best thing you can do for him is set the conditions for him to confide in you about this, should he wish to, in his own time. And to my mind, the optimal way to encourage someone to feel comfortable opening up is to be understanding that just because you are largely an open book doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with having a different mode of being. People process traumatic events differently. I get that you don’t want to see your boyfriend repressing the pain, but you can’t be sure that he failed to confront this matter before you came into the picture. Continue to be respectful, supportive, and non-judgmental, as you have done, and a fuller connection with your boyfriend will manifest naturally.

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  • avatar

    parrt August 8, 2011, 9:05 am

    Nosy girl friend, butt out.

    if somebody doesn’t want to talk about their dead relatives, let them rest in peace.

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    • avatar

      LTC039 August 8, 2011, 9:38 am

      She’s not being nosy, she, naturally, wants to know about her boyfriend’s past. She hasn’t asked yet bc, obviously, she’s not sure if it would be right, that’s why she wrote into DW.

      Your comments are always so unnecessary.

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      • avatar

        Fancy Pants August 13, 2011, 1:12 am

        I’m pretty sure parrt is just a troll deep down.

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    • avatar

      Amber August 8, 2011, 11:47 am

      I agree. He obviously just doesn’t want to talk about it, so leave the poor guy alone.

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      • avatar

        Katie August 8, 2011, 12:34 pm

        yeah I feel bad for the guy too. She needs to stay out of it if thats his choice.

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  • avatar

    cdobbs August 8, 2011, 9:10 am

    Why would you want him to talk about that? It was 8 years ago and its obviously a painful subject. I guess I just don’t get why you would want him to talk about that, except for your own morbid curiosity. He told you about it already, just let it go.

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    • avatar

      Desiree August 8, 2011, 9:15 am

      I understand your perspective, but it’s a bit shortsighted. The brother’s suicide is probably the single most influential event in the boyfriend’s life, however depressing that may be. It *did* leave a mark; it must have. I think it is reasonable for the LW to know exactly how it impacted him. Does she need to know RIGHT NOW? Probably not. Before they marry? Definitely.

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      • EscapeHatches

        EscapeHatch August 8, 2011, 10:46 am

        My fiance’s brother was killed in a car accident about 10 years ago. He rarely brings it up, and other than the major details (he was on a motorcycle, had a small amount of alcohol in his system, minor details about the funeral, when it happened) we haven’t discussed it. In part, this is because he’s healed from this, as much as one can. It’s possible it’s not something that crosses his mind all that often, anymore. It would be good to find out, surreptitiously -perhaps from a family member when you get to know them- any significant dates so you can remember to be sensitive (birthday, day he died) around those dates. Beyond that, let him talk to you as he needs to. If you must broach the conversation, a simple “if you ever want to talk about [David] please know I’m here and I want to listen.” If he doesn’t take you up on the offer, it’s nothing personal. This is a moment to stand beside him, holding his hand, looking forward, not in front of him, forcing him to look back if he doesn’t need to. Good luck!

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  • avatar

    Desiree August 8, 2011, 9:13 am

    Also, if the LW is considering marrying this guy some time down the line, I think she has more of a direct interest in knowing how this event impacts him as a person. Considering he was an 18-year-old male when it happened, I doubt he has received any therapy or counseling for it (though I may be completely wrong). The not-talking-about-it issue is also a substantial male trait. My longtime boyfriend doesn’t have something nearly this traumatic in his past, and he still is a big clam when it comes to talking about painful events, etc. Make no mistake, though, LW: you need to know more about this before you walk down the aisle with this man. Whether he admits it to himself or not, his brother’s suicide must have left a deep impression, and you need to know what he took away from that. Also, it is useful to know whether the brother’s suicide resulted from underlying mental illness. If your children together displayed a similar mental illness, would your boyfriend support psychiatric treatment for them (it might seem like a no-brainer, but I have seen this cause huge problems in my family)? Having said that, I don’t think you should necessarily pry *now*. But definitely if/when it becomes clear that you and your boyfriend are considering marriage.

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    • avatar

      SGMcG August 8, 2011, 12:44 pm

      I am sorry, but I am personally disgusted by your comment. Pointing out that his brother’s suicide may be a result of mental illness that may have potential heridary traits stinks of selfishness. Pushing for mental treatment of potential children who may display similar symptoms of his suicidal brother – why don’t you just rub it in the guy’s face that he could have done something to stop the suicide in the first place? A painful event is nothing compared to remaining behind after a suicide takes place. When a suicide happens, your mind always starts to reel about the potential what ifs, but when you really get down to it, there’s really nothing or no one to give you justifiable reason – and you’re just left mourning. How can you expect someone to talk about an even so horrific it doesn’t really make sense? Sure, there are always signs to be seen or things that could have been done, yet when a suicidal person has made up their mind to end their life, you just have to hold fast and try to convince them otherwise. Sometimes it works, other times it doesn’t. Yet don’t punish those left behind by constantly reminding them of their failure to stop what happened, because it’s really not their fault.

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    • avatar

      parrt August 8, 2011, 1:09 pm

      you are: selfish, paranoid, insecure

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    • avatar

      spark August 8, 2011, 6:37 pm

      I’m sad to say it, everyone, but I very much agree with Desiree. It sucks, but what she says is true.

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    • avatar

      VioletLover August 8, 2011, 8:52 pm

      For what’s it worth, I agree with you. Yes, it’s painful, and horribly sad. But things like that can have a serious impact on other people’s lives. If the LW is to become part of the family someday, the suicide could have an effect on her or any possible children.

      My boyfriend’s father was a serious alcoholic. A lot of the men in his family were/are bad alcoholics, to be honest. And his father’s drinking, and some things it caused, affected my boyfriend. I have a right to know about the situation. How will my boyfriend handle the alcohol talk with any children we have? How does his family’s alcoholism affect gatherings? Would he be okay with me vetoing alone-time with the grandparents because of grandpa’s affair with Johnnie Walker? And so on.

      Suicide, mental illness, things like alcoholism, all of these are very serious problems that can and do have effects on other people. If the brother committed suicide because of a mental illness, there’s a chance it could pop up again, in the LW’s boyfriend, or children he might have, or even the parents. No, it’s not guaranteed to do so, but I think people have the right to know what they’re getting into.

      All that said, the LW needs to tread lightly, here, and treat the situation with the delicacy it deserves.

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  • avatar

    lovingmykids August 8, 2011, 9:25 am

    My boyfriend of 2.5 years also lost a brother to suicide years ago. He had mentioned it when we first met, but didn’t give many details, including how he handled it at the time or how he felt about it years later. I never pushed it because I understand that it can’t be easy losing a loved one in that way. My man is also very reserved, but after nearly 2 years together he finally brought it up himself, explained how hard it was on him, that he even spent a couple days in the hospital after it happened for stress related ailments. He is a man who shows no weakness, is always strong, it took a lot for him to confide that he was in intense pain & vulnerable. I never asked why he decided to tell me when he did, I left him get it off of his chest & didn’t ask many questions, afraid I may go in a direction he wasn’t comfortable with.
    My suggestion is to give him time, don’t question the tragic event. Let him decide what he’s comfortable sharing, and when he’s ready to share it. I can understand that you see it as one of those things that shaped who he is today, but sometimes all of the dirty little details really don’t matter. I’m sure its taken a lot for him to heal, don’t make him feel he needs to tear open that scar because you feel he’s not giving his all to you if he doesn’t. I wish you luck!

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    • avatar

      LW August 8, 2011, 12:47 pm

      Thank you. Hearing from someone else who has been in a similar situation is extremely helpful, and the fact that it took your boyfriend a very long time to open up makes me feel as though I am on the right track.

      I have NEVER brought this up, and I guess I just wrote in to make sure that there wasn’t something that I should say. I think the reason I started questioning my decision to leave him be was due to a miscommunication problem we had a while ago. My boyfriend was going through a rather stressful situation, and he talking about it. I interpreted that as not WANTING to talk about it, and so I didn’t bring it up. However later he told me that he felt I was not there emotionally for him because I wasn’t asking enough questions/expressing enough interest about the situation. I just wanted to make sure I wasn’t hurting him in the same way by not approaching this topic as well. I do not want to play therapist. I just want to make sure I am there for him, and it seems my current technique of not bringing it up is the very best way to do so.

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      • avatar

        LW August 8, 2011, 12:49 pm

        ***My boyfriend was going through a rather stressful situation, and he WASN’T talking about it….

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      • avatar

        moonflowers August 8, 2011, 1:54 pm

        I don’t think you’re fully responsible for “hurting” him by not comforting him when he *didn’t* tell you or indicate in any way that he wanted your support. You’re not responsible for other people’s feelings, and you’re not a mind reader either.

        Even if guys have trouble showing weakness, your bf at least needs to be able to communicate what he wants to you, when he wants it. Otherwise he can easily grow resentful over time, even though it’s not your fault because you don’t know what he wants.

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      • avatar

        Yammy August 8, 2011, 2:12 pm

        Goodness, he shouldn’t expect you to be a mind reader. Perhaps you should let him know that you’re unsure about whether or not he wants you to bring his brother up and go from there? I think him getting upset with you in the past muddies the waters a bit. I think the only way to know what he wants from you is to ask him. You guys should work out some sort of way for you to know when he wants to talk with you about the tough stuff, so that you can support him without worrying about being intrusive.

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        lovingmykids August 8, 2011, 2:36 pm

        Glad to hear my comment was helpful. Honestly, there were a few times in the first two years that I had considered asking him about his brother, even if it was only to tell him I was there for him if he did want to talk about it. I’m not sure what kept me from asking, but I’m glad to allowed him to do it in his own time in his own way. Let your man take the lead on this one too, we’re fortunate enough not to have had this experience personally, we can’t completely put ourselves in their shoes. Best wishes!

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      • avatar

        Betty Boop August 8, 2011, 5:56 pm

        Looking at your comment here, have you considered going to him and saying, essentially, this? That you are willing to listen and discuss it as much (or as little) as he wants? I don’t know that you need to say anything, but if it’s weighing on you it cannot be resolved if you don’t communicate with your boyfriend.

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  • avatar

    Lindsay August 8, 2011, 9:27 am

    Just knowing her boyfriend as he is now, I think, constitutes a large portion of how the suicide has affected him. To say that she doesn’t fully know him because he hasn’t explicitly talked the situation seems a little silly to me. This might have been a good letter for the guys’ to answer because we’re all answering from the side of females who feel a lot better when opening up.

    If the LW and her boyfriend should talk about what to do if their children are mentally ill, probably everyone should do that. Mental illness can appear in people who don’t have relatives who have committed suicide. Also, I really hope that if the LW goes down that road, she doesn’t imply that their children are going to be screwed up now.

    Anyway, I think that if the boyfriend isn’t showing any signs of being distressed by not talking about it, she shouldn’t push it. In the eight years before he met her, he may have dealt with it on his own or with someone else. I don’t think it would hurt at some point for her to ask what his brother was like (in a kind, curious way), but pushing him to tell how it has changed his life probably will not have the desired results.

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  • avatar

    silver_dragon_girl August 8, 2011, 9:34 am

    I understand your curiosity and concern, LW, but I think in this case you should just leave it be. If your boyfriend brings it up again you could- gently- ask something like, “Were the two of you close?” I definitely don’t recommend bringing it up, however. It must be a terribly painful topic for your boyfriend. Maybe he has dealt with it in his own way and doesn’t need- or want- to talk about it. I think he’ll probably bring it up again when and if he’s ready.

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    • avatar

      Amber August 8, 2011, 9:45 am

      I agree a simple open ended question like that is a good way to start a conversation with him if he brings it up again. If he wants to talk about it he will or he can change the subject. i agree that the LW bringing it up herself is a bad idea. he’ll talk about it when he is ready. all you can do is let him know that you’re there for him.

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    • avatar

      Quakergirl August 8, 2011, 9:47 am

      Agreed. It’s been 8 years, so it isn’t as though he’s going through it right now and would want/need to talk it out. He’s probably dealt with it in some capacity since then. He may even have already seen a counselor or therapist. And if he hasn’t, LW, you cannot be that therapist. If he actually needs someone to talk to about it because he hasn’t dealt with it, then he needs more help than you can give him, but you can’t force him to get it. He has to want it on his own.

      And if he’s put it in his past as much as he can, then you bringing it up is probably not going to help him or give you the insight you want. There’s a time and a place to talk about it, and as silver_dragon_girl said, let him be the one to pick it. You’ve told him you’re willing to talk about anything, and if he hasn’t brought it up, then he probably isn’t willing to talk about this with you yet. That doesn’t mean you have poor communication, or he doesn’t trust you, but he just really may not want to talk about it. Let him come to you, and the conversations you ultimately have will be much more beneficial to both of you.

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  • avatar

    Princess Bananahammock August 8, 2011, 9:50 am

    Leave it be, LW. If he wanted to talk about it, he would. The fact that he doesn’t talk about much doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with him. But, now you know something about your boyfriend. He isn’t the type to necessarily talk about his feelings or what’s on his mind (as I’m sure this crosses his mind often). You should try to accept him for who he is. You can also look for non-verbal or indirect clues as to when something is bothering him and then ask him if there is something on his mind if you want him to let you in more. My fiance, for example, becomes a total space cadet when something is really bothering him (I’ll find non-food items that he’s left in the freezer, etc.). When asked in an open-ended way if something is bothering him, he’ll share.

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  • avatar

    AnitaBath August 8, 2011, 9:58 am

    Let it alone. If he wants to talk about it, he’ll talk about it. If he doesn’t want to talk about it (which it sounds like he doesn’t), your persistence will only make matters much, much worse.

    I had a boyfriend who would always say things like, “You never talk about your parents divorce. Why don’t you talk about your mother’s affair? You know you can talk about it, right? I just feel like you’re not telling me something. Just talk to me about it. If you’re not talking about it, it must still bother you.”

    NO. You know what bothers me? When you go on about shit like this. All you’re doing is making me not want to talk about it even more! It made me want to pull out my hair, and it made me not want to talk about anything with him.

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    • avatar

      melikeycheesecake August 8, 2011, 10:16 am

      Totally Agree!

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    • cmary

      CMF August 8, 2011, 2:20 pm

      I’d say leave it alone, too. I think keeping something private is much different than keeping something secret. Everyone is entitled to privacy. Might be that he knows the felings left behind don’t make sense. I don’t talk about my mom’s death much- a very different situation. But I’d hate to hear someone else tell me I’m as guilty as I feel for not being able to cure her cancer myself. I know it doesn’t make sense. But there it is. People’s brains are tricky places to visit. If he’s not sharing, I think you have to respect that.

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  • avatar

    LolaBeans August 8, 2011, 9:59 am

    No.. I think leaving it alone for right now is best. Why would you want to push him into talking about it?
    My boyfriend’s parents got divorced when he was 8, he’s 25 now and he talks about it occassionally; how he had to go to court with his mom and speak, what impact it had on his brother and himself. but this is a divorce.. not a suicide.. and he still finds it painful to discuss. he won’t divulge all details either…. i mean.. just tread carefully and let him bring it up.
    i understand you want to know more about your boyfriend… but i think looking at how he turned out and how he is today shows how he handled it.

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  • avatar

    Valerie August 8, 2011, 10:05 am

    I totally agree with everyone who has said that it’s probably best to let your boyfriend come to you and bring up his brother when he’s ready. My fiance Chris’ father passed away from a long battle with cancer a little over a year before we met and started dating. I knew from the very beginning that Chris’ father had died from cancer, but for a long time, that was all I knew about him. I could tell that, just from Chris’ reluctance to talk about his father, that he wasn’t ready to discuss it, so I just left it alone, knowing that Chris would talk about it when he was ready. As we continued dating and our relationship became more serious, Chris started to open up more about his dad, and when we went to visit his mom Chris shared with me some photos and home movies. It took almost two years of dating, us moving in together and talking about marriage before my fiance was ready to tell me the story about his father’s battle with cancer.

    I know this is different from a brother who committed suicide, because unlike someone who died from cancer, there might be different emotions involved, such as anger. LW, have you ever visited your boyfriend’s parents? If there are still remnants of your boyfriend’s brother around, such as pictures or some of his old things, that might be a good place to start. Maybe ask about a picture the next time you visit. If you notice that all evidence that your boyfriend even had a brother has been erased, that might be a good indicator that there are still some very heavy emotions concerning your boyfriend’s brother’s death within your boyfriend’s family. Either way, I would suggest treading lightly and letting your boyfriend come to you in time.

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  • Heather

    Heather August 8, 2011, 10:31 am

    I’m not going to rip on the LW for her desire to know about the situation. It’s a something that impacted him greatly, and played a large role in shaping him (for better or for worse).

    Having said that, if he doesn’t want to discuss it, it’s up to him. Sometimes things happen to us, and while they really hurt us, we are better left to deal with it the way we choose. That doesn’t always involve opening up and pouring it out of our hearts, especially if it was a long time ago.

    If you have told him that he can talk to you about anything, you should say that knowing that he might not talk to you about EVERYTHING. And to be the best SO you can be, it’s about accepting his choice not to discuss it.

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  • avatar

    lexington August 8, 2011, 10:34 am

    As someone who’s been in a fairly similary place: leave it the hell alone. I found my 12 year old brother’s body 4 years ago, and you know what? I don’t talk about it or him to my fiance. He has asked about it in the past but I asked him to leave it alone and he has. Do I think he doesn’t know me because of this? No. Your boyfriend is implicitly telling you he doesn’t want to talk about it by not talking about it. Not everything needs to be sshared or intimately dissected by our significant others. If he feels the need to talk about it, he will.

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    • avatar

      anonymous August 8, 2011, 12:07 pm

      I am SO SORRY for your loss. What a tragedy. It makes sense to me that someone in that situation wouldn’t want to relive it. Best wishes to you & your family.

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        lexington August 8, 2011, 12:15 pm

        Thanks 🙂 Yeah it’s a pretty difficult subject and it would bug me if my fiance wanted to talk about it just so he could feel better about himself. I have to admit that this letter got a little under my skin.

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  • Kate B.

    Kate B August 8, 2011, 10:39 am

    I tend to keep things to myself, as well, so I can understand the boyfriend’s need to reveal things in his own time. Let him bring it up if he wants to. If he doesn’t, then I’m afraid you will have to leave it alone. If you push him to talk about it, he may resent it – and you.

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  • Budj

    Budjer August 8, 2011, 9:55 am

    A lot of guys aren’t forthcoming with things like that…so don’t take it personally. That said…you may never get more than a random comment about how his brother used to like x or y when he sees something that reminds him of his brother and you need to be ok with that. But if that is all you get I think that that is him trying to open up to you about that relationship in his own way.

    Additionally, just because you benefit and bond by sharing your lifes details with him does not mean he feels or should feel compelled to do the same. I don’t want to speak for all guys, but for me, I focus on the present moment and when I have life experiences that affect me in a big way I usually focus on what I learned from them and move on and don’t feel the need to re-hash it with anyone. This suicide happened 8 years before he met you and he has probably dealt with the most important aspects of getting over it before you came into his life. This is evidenced by you not mentioning that he has any hang ups that could be related to it…if he doesn’t feel the need to talk about it then don’t push it and don’t worry about it.

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  • avatar

    Jena August 8, 2011, 10:59 am

    I can understand not talking about it, and it doesn’t necessarily mean he hasn’t dealt with it. My dad passed away a few years ago and when people I ask, I say so, but that’s about it. I don’t like talking about it unless I’m in a mood to talk/reminisce/be sad, so when someone prods at it I get really dismissive and shut down and stop talking.

    I’d just let him bring it up if he wants to, don’t push it.

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  • avatar

    LTC039 August 8, 2011, 9:59 am

    LW some of these comments are little too harsh. It’s perfectly ok & natural to want to know something about your boyfriend’s past, especially since it’s a pretty big deal. My boyfriend, I know from comments he’s made, had a pretty crappy childhood (both his parents had addictions to substances) & for a while, I never outright asked him anything, even when he’d say something about them, I wouldn’t ask, just listen. Now, it’s been 3 yrs, & I have asked him & tells me what he wants to tell me. I believe it’s all about timing. I don’t think you should outright ask him out of nowhere, but if he brings it up in some context, try inquiring & see how he reacts. I feel, eventually, he will feel comfortable enough with you to tell you, but it will take a while. He may have already gone through that w/ an ex girlfriend… You just have to be patient, for now, just give it up, eventually he’ll bring it up.

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    • avatar

      LTC039 August 9, 2011, 9:24 am

      I love how I get so many thumbs down & not one person explains themselves. Typical.

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  • avatar

    Sue Jones August 8, 2011, 11:03 am

    This is an extremely painful subject and I would respect that if he does not want to talk about it, to leave it alone. Some people just function better when they compartmentalize difficult things and you need to respect that. I know 2 men who have lost brothers as children and they do not talk much about it much. Leave the door open and let it be.

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      anonymous August 8, 2011, 12:09 pm

      My dad’s mother died of brain malaria on his eleventh birthday. To this day, he rarely talks about her, and really never said anything about how her death affected him as a kid. He’s only shared the bare facts of her death. While I’ve always felt that I’m missing something from his emotional life, that is HIS choice whether to share or not. So I have to respect that.

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    SGMcG August 8, 2011, 11:03 am

    We had a member of our church choir, a college singer/music scholar, who recently committed suicide this past April. Although we as a choir have tried to continue artistically, his presence is still so greatly missed that our choir director has stated that everyone should have the summer off and our gallery choir has since only done the occasional mass service rather than the weekly usual. With his family, the loss is more deeply felt since his brothers are too busy trying to reassure their children about the loss of their uncle and his parents are just trying to put on a brave face. The hardest thing for all of us to cope with is that life has to go on without him and that memories can keep on being shared, but there is a finite amount to discuss till you can’t talk about it anymore – no new memories with him will ever be made again.

    For a young man to lose his brother in such a tragic way, have you considered that your boyfriend doesn’t want to talk about it because after he talks about it, there’s nothing left to say anymore? He can talk about his memories with his brother and after all the stories are done, his brother can then be a mere footnote in his life. That’s not something a survivor of suicide wishes to feel about the one they lost – because that person, in their pain, is really so much more than a memory. Your boyfriend will be able to have these life experiences with you that his brother will never have, and that realization is painful to relive everytime you ask him about his brother. Your boyfriend needs to continue to move on from his brother’s suicide, yet insisting that he talks about his feelings, much like it was probably insisted upon him the day of the funeral, is very insensitive of you. For even though his brother is no longer alive through his own hand, the man still has a brother. Let him approach you about stories as he can share them, but please don’t force it on him to share.

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    • bittergaymark

      bittergaymark August 8, 2011, 11:53 am

      This is a sad, sad story. I hate hearing stories like this. Because I almost always can guess exactly WHY the person killed themselves. And it always amazes me how nobody else can see it. Obviously, I could be wrong here. But usually, anybody strongly involved with the church/choir singer/musical scholar killing himself is all too often somebody who can’t deal with the fact that they are gay. Or worse — they CAN deal with it, but know that their family cannot.

      The blood of these suicides is on the hands of the far right and MOST religions.

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        SGMcG August 8, 2011, 12:32 pm

        Honestly, we don’t know WHY he killed himself, but we did know why he joined our choir. He was of the Methodist faith and he joined our Catholic choir because we did a lot more medival musical canon than other churches in our area – so singing with us would have made him a better sight reader. We all took his death very hard, especially our choir director (who is gay) – he still keeps in touch with his mom.

        And BGM, although it is true that MOST religions (the Catholic faith included) have not made it easy for LGBT individuals, there are also a lot of supportive straights among those faiths who push for LGBT equality BECAUSE they feel that is what the nature of their faith would want them to do.

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        Katie August 8, 2011, 2:38 pm

        so true! my church is evangelical christian and we openly accept gays and all memebers of the LGBT community into our church without wanting to “change” anyone. This makes me think that bittergaymark is taking his own bad experiences of a church and assuming that ALL churches must be the same LOL.

        @bittergaymark: the reason there are soooo many churches and soooo many religions/belief systems is because they arent all the same 😉

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        Kate August 8, 2011, 2:44 pm

        Wow, usually evangelical churches are the worst of all.

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        Katie August 8, 2011, 3:11 pm

        that must be why the baptist churches nearby picketed my church for danating water to the gay pride parade

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        Kate August 8, 2011, 3:16 pm

        Your church must be different. I would say it’s well known evangelical Christians generally aren’t tolerant of homosexuality.

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        Katie August 8, 2011, 3:34 pm

        yeah I agree. that being said.. I still feel it would be a streatch for bittergaymark to blame his death on the church.

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        Kate August 8, 2011, 3:35 pm

        agreed.

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      • bittergaymark

        bittergaymark August 8, 2011, 8:54 pm

        None of you have ANY idea of how many young gay Christians have killed themselves over the years, do you? Try to do a little research. Historically, the christian faith has been about as open and accepting to the LGBT populations as Nazi Germany was to the Jews. The just aren’t as well organized about it. Seriously. It makes my blood boil.

        The ignorance on these boards is staggering. Hey, I am thrilled that Katie’s church is so accepting. However, it remains tragic that that also makes it so unique. And the fact that the choir director was so upset by it makes me even more certain that I am right. The SKY HIGH suicide rate among gay or questioning youth is staggering and the blood is and shall remain on MANY hands until people changed their fucked up attitudes about it.

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        Nadine August 9, 2011, 8:48 am

        I often find the way you speak very hard to take, as it seems to largely denigrate people who are truly asking advice. In my opinion you are doing the same thing here. Regardless, I agree with you.
        The bible is a huge step back for EVERYONE’S rights, and we need to stop making excuses for it.

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        LTC039 August 9, 2011, 8:24 am

        Mark,

        I highly recommend this documentary “For The Bible Tells Me So”…It’s about homosexuality & the way many Christians over the years have interpreted the Bible to condem homosexuals (& other things such as race; slavery, but the main focus is homosexuality). You are right, unfortunately. There have been many gay youth suicides associated with religion because their parents are so blinded by the teachings of their church that they disown their own children (but that is NOT a teaching of Jesus Christ). It is not the religion that condems, it is the people that abuse the power. Please go see the documentary, it is amazing.

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        LTC039 August 9, 2011, 9:22 am

        It’s not the Bible. It’s the PEOPLE that interpret the Bible in their own way & twist it to accomodate to their beliefs. The Bible is not meant to be taken literally, & many people know that, however, there are far more people that do not understand that & take it literally. It’s funny because right before (or after not 100% sure) where it says “a man who lies with another man is an abomination” it also says that eating pork is abomination & keeping all your riches & not donating it all to the poor is an abomination. How many priests do you see driving fancy cars, eating fancy dinners etc… Many of the hardcore christian & baptist priests dedicate entire sermons to how homosexuality comes from the devil, but then they drive away in their nice cars. How much of their money goes to the poor? Zero.
        Again, it is NOT the religion or the Bible…it is human kind. & that doesn’t just occur in Religion, it occurs anywhere where there are positions of power, government being a very obvious one.

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        robottapocalypse August 10, 2011, 1:43 am

        Mark,
        I revel in your anger over this issue in the face of the excuses presented by people who believe the incredible over the credible. It is invigoratingly bitter, like strong gay coffee.

        Many of the people standing up for their texts to your distaste obviously have not read their text, nor the preceding text in which homosexuality is clearly defined as wrong. Leviticus is pretty obvious about it, but like Genesis, Leviticus was written by creatures half a chromosome from chimps, and it shows. Those same chromosomes make DNA tests so much easier than they were when conservatives killed scientists for witchcraft as well as gays for homosexuality. Give it 300 more years and they may evolve.

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        Katie August 8, 2011, 3:36 pm

        my church has over 12,000 members. hopefully there is a new wave of churches being more accepting in the days to come.

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        robottapocalypse August 10, 2011, 7:51 pm

        Hopefully a new wave of labs make churches obsolete.

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        Fancy Pants August 13, 2011, 1:21 am

        What is your church’s name, Katie? Is it one specific parish location or is it a bigger thing?

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        El August 8, 2011, 3:46 pm

        Wait-did people actually take the water? I would have been extremely suspicious of any Evangelical group handing out food or beverages at a gay pride parade. Its kind of like the KKK holding a bake sale at the Million Man March.

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        Kate August 8, 2011, 3:48 pm

        That’s why I asked if her church was different. It sounded out of character for them.

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        Katie August 8, 2011, 5:01 pm

        wow! yes it was helathy drinking water. no my church was not trying to poison a mass group of people. crazy! my chruch actually gets a lot of respect because it donated the most out of any church in the united states to the tsunami in india. and they keep breaking records on the amount any church has donated to international non-religious relief funds. my church stands up for equal rights in the community accross the board. Not all churches are bad you know.

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      • bittergaymark

        bittergaymark August 8, 2011, 8:56 pm

        True. Sad but true… Bottom line, even if her particular church is open and accepting, sadly her faith — as the leaders of that faith — remains anything but.

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      • katie

        katie August 8, 2011, 10:04 pm

        i have to agree with BGM on this one… i went to a christian school, and they were some of the most hypocritcal, judgemental, closed minded, evil and malicious people i have ever met in my life. i honestly really did try to avoid people who identified as “christian” for a long time… i have recently been given a better opinion of them, which is good, through a coffee shop i work at which is inside of a christian church. those people are really wonderful people.

        i think that part of the thing is that at DW, everyone here is really open and accepting, and therefore would only go to a church and surround themselves with equally open and accepting people. there are some non crazy religious people out there, but they are, as BGM said, the exeption, not the rule.

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        Nadine August 9, 2011, 8:56 am

        “i think that part of the thing is that at DW, everyone here is really open and accepting, and therefore would only go to a church and surround themselves with equally open and accepting people”

        I like this!

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        Valerie August 8, 2011, 5:02 pm

        I’m Presbyterian, and the Presbyterian Church (USA) recently voted to allow the ordination of openly gay/LGBT ministers. There’s an interesting article about it that you can read here: http://www.ebar.com/news/article.php?sec=news&article=5859

        Going along with with SCMcG said, this change is due in part to advocacy organizations within the Presbyterian Church that fought to make these positive changes.

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        Jena August 8, 2011, 4:40 pm

        Whoa, whole lot of speculation on your part and kind of uncalled for.

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    oldie August 8, 2011, 11:27 am

    I don’t think LW exhibits nosiness so much as a misplaced desire to play therapist to her boyfriend. This event is 8 years in his past and he has been through his grief and healing. It is not unnatural that he doesn’t want to bring up these past events so that his girlfriend can help him through it.

    I also don’t think she needs to understand about his brother to understand him. She should get to understand him fully the same way she would if he never had a brother, by interacting with him in a variety of situations. She sees him standing before her and interacts with him daily. Even if something about his brother’s life and death possibly ‘explains’ why he is as he is, he still is that way. She either likes him as he is, or she doesn’t. If she doesn’t, it’s not her responsibility to fix him, nor is she likely capable of that. The only indication she gives for thinking that the brother’s death may be an ongoing problem is that he doesn’t want to talk about it. Dating is not psychoanalysis.

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    Renee August 8, 2011, 12:56 pm

    Maybe there isn’t much to say? I have a deceased brother, and I forewarn friends/boyfriends because there is a huge picture of him in my parent’s livingroom. I never really talk about him, maybe visit the cementary twice a year.

    He told you he has a brother and he is deceased. That’s it, there nothing more to say, because that’s all it is. If someone kept asking questions, I would be creeped out!

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    MiMi August 8, 2011, 12:56 pm

    LW, while I’m sure you have broached this subject (repeatedly) with love in your heart, please realize that it is not your job to winkle your boyfriend’s deepest thoughts and feelings on his brother’s suicide out of him. This is your agenda for him, not his agenda for himself. Respect him enough to let him decide when and what he will share with you on this painful topic. He may have said all he’s ever going to say about it already; can you accept that?

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    Rei August 8, 2011, 1:05 pm

    Okay, LW. I’ll give you some reasons why your boyfriend may not talk much about his brother, approaching from the perspective of also having lost a sibling. Some people just don’t talk about such things much, and that’s up to them. But, there’s often more than that: the reactions from people whenever you DO try to talk about your sibling often dissuade you from ever talking about them again. For example, whenever people ask about (let’s call her) SisterRei1 (I have two sisters), they almost always just want to know how she died. Hardly anyone asks about her life. And after I tell them how she died, they keep pressing for more details. It’s like, her death isn’t the most important thing. No one ever asks, “What were her interests?” or, “What was she like as a child?” Maybe you could get your boyfriend to open up more if you asked about his brother, not his brother’s suicide and how it affected him. You already know he died; you don’t need every gory detail. Another reason he may not talk much about it is, what I like to call, “The Standard Pity Response (where they give you that sad look and say, “I’m so sorry”).” For example, when I try to tell a relevant story that involves SisterRei1, the entire mood is suddenly gone from the situation and everyone gives me the SPR. And I just want to grab them and scream, “This is a HAPPY story! I don’t want a giant hug ‘n’ cry fest right now! Just because she’s dead doesn’t make memories of her less funny!” But I don’t do that because I know they’re just trying to be nice, so I just don’t tell stories involving her very often instead. Perhaps you, LW, could try not consoling him the few times he does talk about his brother unless it’s obvious he needs it, i.e. crying or something.
    And remember, even then he still may not want to talk about it, so don’t try and push him for your sake.

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      LW August 8, 2011, 1:28 pm

      Thank you for this, it gives me a lot of excellent perspective. I guess I should have clarified more specifically above but I was struggling not with bringing up his brother’s DEATH, but simply the brother in any sort of capacity. I really do not need to know the how/why details of his death…

      More I feel cautious asking questions about my bf’s childhood because his brother was obviously a big part of that. For example, if I say “When I was little my sister and I liked to do X… [story].” I am unsure whether or not to follow it up with, “Did you and your brother also do X?” Is that appropriate given the context? I try when talking about my own childhood to not ask any direct questions about him and his brother, allowing him to be as vague or specific as possible, but I don’t want to seem like I don’t care about his childhood/teenage years either. We have been dating for just over a year, if that gives you any context.

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        Rei August 8, 2011, 2:25 pm

        Okay. It’s good that you want to know about his brother the person, not his brother the dead guy. I’d say a question like that is appropriate. The most important thing, I think, is to not treat it like a minefield. Ask about his childhood in the same way that you’d ask anyone else. Of course, it is entirely possible that he may not answer, or he may say something like, “I don’t want to talk about it.” If there’s one thing I’ve learned from the grief counseling group my mom used to run, it’s that people tend to deal with this stuff in about four ways: don’t talk about anything involving the person ever, only talk about anything involving the person to those who knew him/her or if someone is extremely close, talk to anyone with ears about the person and anything involving them, or hole up and quit living entirely. So who knows. You may never really get anything out of him.
        I’ll give you some hope, though: I didn’t really talk about my sister to my boyfriend until a couple months ago and we’ve been dating for about 2 and a half years, and that amount of time seems pretty common for a person to open up.

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        LW August 8, 2011, 2:47 pm

        Thanks. I do really feel like in the past if I mentioned anything involving his brother I would treat it (not on purpose) like a minefield so I really shied away from it. At this point though, I feel like no matter what his reaction would be to me asking about whether he and his brother liked to go fishing (or whatever it is), I could react appropriately and not awkwardly. I just want to make sure that he knows I am interested and care about his past, without intruding on anything he would rather not talk about.

        The information about the grief counseling group is helpful as well, as well as knowing that it did take you a really long time to feel comfortable opening up about that. It would not surprise me if it took him just as long to open up, and I am more than content to wait and talk about everything else under the sun with him until (if ever) he wants to discuss anything about his brother.

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        ktfran August 8, 2011, 5:26 pm

        LW,

        Another way you can ask about his past is “did you like to fish when you were younger”. If he wants to tell a story about that includes his brother, great. If not, that’s ok too. I think asking more general questions about his younger days may be better than asking specically about him and his brother.

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      Princess Bananahammock August 8, 2011, 1:32 pm

      Like a million times over. My dad died in a very strange way (like a Rube Goldberg problem) and it bothers me that people just want to know HOW he died, and the circumstances just lead to more probing questions on the details. The other thing that drives me crazy is when people ask “were you close?” Well, geez, either we were close and I’m heartbroken, or we weren’t and I’m riddled with regret. Either way, the death of an immediate family member sucks and there are a million and one reasons someone wouldn’t want to talk about it.

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        Rei August 8, 2011, 2:28 pm

        i never got why people would ask, “Were you close?” I do not understand it at all.
        Sometimes I just want to be a complete smartass, though, when people prod about my sister’s death and just say, “She had an acute case of dying in the body area.” But, as it turns out, most people are not okay with stuff like that.

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    AKchic August 8, 2011, 1:15 pm

    There may still be a lot of anger and resentment towards his dead brother for committing suicide in the first place, which is why he doesn’t talk about him. It could also be that they never were really close, they hated eachother and that he’s actually GLAD that his brother is gone, and he feels a bit guilty about that.
    Or, he is mourning in his own way, and is the “strong and silent” type and just wants to mourn on his own without help. Maybe he has even moved on and feels that it’s best to let sleeping dogs lie. If you push, who knows what you’ll open up.

    He will open up when he is ready, not because you are pushing him because YOU are ready to hear all about it and want to know all about HIS feelings on the subject. That could very well make him feel things he’s not ready to feel or rehash yet and could send him into a depression or even change his feelings about you.

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      Katie August 8, 2011, 2:43 pm

      completely agree!!

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      Princess Bananahammock August 8, 2011, 6:27 pm

      I’m not sure about the “glad” part, but a friend of mine recently committed suicide. I saw a grief counselor and she said she always refers to suicide as “the final f*ck you.” There is so much anger for those left behind – a really complicated set of emotions.

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        Quakergirl August 8, 2011, 6:42 pm

        That’s such a good description of it. Wow. My uncle committed suicide a few years ago when I was in college and that’s exactly what it felt like– especially for my aunt and cousins. I’ve managed to put it behind me and realize that his decision wasn’t about anyone but himself, but the older of his two children is still very, very messed up about it and extremely angry with him and with her mother for not seeing it coming/somehow not preventing it.

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    Riefer August 8, 2011, 1:34 pm

    My dad’s mother died in childbirth when my dad was 12. Shortly thereafter his father hung himself in their attic, leaving 8 kids behind (of whom my dad was the oldest). He has very very rarely spoken about it. I’ve asked my mom about it a few times, and he’s said very little about it to her as well. It’s hard to gauge what kind of effect it had on him, or whether it would have been better if she’d pushed him to tell her about it.

    One time he did actually speak to me about it, very briefly. It was right after his 35th birthday. We were alone, and he just came out and said, “Up until now I was always afraid that I would kill myself when I turned 35, because that’s what my dad did”. That’s the only time he ever mentioned it to me in my entire life. I wish I had talked to him more about it when he brought it up, but I was kind of young for that still (around 17-18) so I didn’t know what to do.

    Anyway, my point is that even though he didn’t talk about it, he seems to have had a fairly normal life. He did have a bit of a mid-life crisis when he was 32 or 33, which ended after he turned 35, probably because of the fear of committing suicide. *Maybe* if my mom had known about his fears, she could have helped him through the crisis better; as it was, they were lucky not to get divorced.

    I agree in general with what most others have said – don’t push it right now. The fact that you’ve shared things with him tells him that he can talk to you about this, when and if he’s ever ready. But I would say that if he does start acting strange or not like himself, like my dad did, maybe that would be the time to push a bit more and try to find out why so that you can help him through it.

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      Katie August 8, 2011, 2:45 pm

      wow thank you for sharing

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    AndreaMarie August 8, 2011, 2:43 pm

    Maybe I’m wrong but from what I read into this letter is its not so much that LW wants her BF to share the entire story of the suicide and how it’s affected him, more that she is unsure what boundries his level of uncomfortableness with the situation draw on what she can/can not share about her past. For example, she’s already pointed out that she’s a sharer of her past hurts and very open and forthcoming in talking about her past. Maybe her desire to share more about herself (ie. her relationship with her siblings, childhood) it’s what’s driving her to come to some sort of an understanding on her BF’s stance on talking about his brother. Maybe she feels that if she brings up things about her sibling that her BF might snap and get upset and want to shut down any conversation relvolving around that topic. Or maybe he wants her to bring something like that up, so he can share stories about him and his borther as children. I think LW is just confused on how to draw this tragedy into their discussions/worlds/lives.

    I agree with the others, don’t outright ask him about the suicide and how he felt/dealt with it. Maybe bring up something you did with a sibling and ask him about what he and his brother did. This puts the ball in his court and his reaction will show you where he stands emotional on the subject and his willingness to talk about it.

    He might never want to talk about the suicide, or maybe not for a very long time, but he may still want to talk about his brother.

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      LW August 9, 2011, 8:48 am

      This was exactly what I was trying to say, but you explained it so much better. I wasn’t very clear in my letter, and it does sound like I want to know the terrible details of his suicide. Really, I just want my boyfriend to know that he can talk about anything in his childhood/teenage years that may involve his brother and that I won’t react weirdly or say something that makes him uncomfortable. Thanks for your advice!

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    ApplePancakes August 8, 2011, 3:57 pm

    My older sister passed away very suddenly about 3 years ago, when I was 24, and I have to agree with the comments recommending the LW leave it up to her boyfriend to bring up the subject. In my experience, my boyfriend at the time (now my fiance), who had never met my sister, was with me when I found out, and he saw a lot of the extremely raw emotions. I spent the next few weeks grieving with my family, but after that first day, I didn’t talk to him much about it. I knew I could talk to him if I wanted, but I mostly felt like he wouldn’t understand. Most days, I just wanted to reminisce about her and I felt only family and her friends could do that with me, because they understood the very unique sense despair and happiness that those memories held. How can anyone understand unless they’ve experienced such a close loss? That was difficult, and I can’t really say if talking about it with him would have helped much at all. Being with my family helped the most. I did invite him to a therapy session with me about a year later where I went into more detail with him about how her death affected me, but even that was because it was still something that held me down like a weight, and I wanted him to understand what was happening to me, because it was affecting our relationship. The LW’s boyfriend is hopefully past that stage. In the years since, her death it is still not information I offer up freely in general conversation, but it does feel good to talk about her and all of the good things I remember. Once in a while, I’ll bring her up in a conversation with others who don’t know, and it’s enough to just to make eye contact with him and know that he knows how loaded that memory is for me. No one else needs to know, and I like it that way.

    LW, if I were you, I would let him come to you when/if he wants to talk. He knows you’re available to him, but you may be doing the best thing for him, which is just that “knowing” smile of encouragement during those sporadic moments when he does mention him. Since his brother died 8 ago, hopefully he has been able to heal from it as much as possible, and learned how to approach the rest of the world with the front of “an only child,” as he introduced himself to you, and without his brother. Regardless of how much he has or hasn’t healed, it is an extremely deep and personal situation that he needs to feel utterly safe in discussing, and only he can decide when that is. He may not want to talk about his brother’s death, but don’t forget that there was a lot more to his brother’s life than his death. I might suggest you encourage the good memories he has from his brother (maybe by bringing up memories with your own family/siblings/cousins), rather than the death, and you may learn a lot more about who your boyfriend is from that. Although, it would be presumptuous to expect him to say anything. Death is hard to understand, and I think suicide can be even harder, and he may still be trying to make sense of it. If he wants to discuss it, trust that he will when he’s ready.

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    Julie Ann August 8, 2011, 7:00 pm

    I so related to this letter. Thank you for publishing it. My younger brother died by suicide a year and a half ago. I sometimes mention that I had a younger brother and sometimes I don’t to the guys I date. Since it happened, I have only told one guy I dated for a few months how my brother died. My ability to talk about my brother depends on how I feel about him/his death at the time, and/or how emotionally intelligent the guy I’m with seems to be. In my relationships (family, friends and boyfriends), I will talk about my brother as I am able. For me, it really depends on the moment, and I have found that if I am left to discuss him on my own, that works better for me. I would caution you to not take your boyfriend’s lack of discussing this topic with you personally. You sound very emotionally available, and non-judgmental.

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      LW August 9, 2011, 8:41 am

      Thank you for this. I feel like I have been struggling with treading the line between treating him and his feelings with respect, and tiptoeing around subjects. As I said above, I really have no desire to know the exact details of what happened to his brother at the end. I more just want to make sure that he can talk about anything involving his brother (especially the good times!) with me and not feel like I am going to treat him differently/weirdly afterward. I wasn’t sure if this would involve me initiating a conversation about it or not.

      A couple people wanted to know if I have spent time with his family, and actually I eat dinner with him and his Mom about once a week because she lives next door to him. There are not really any pictures of either of her sons in the house, but she has brought my bf’s brother up a handful of times at the table and my boyfriend doesn’t really contribute to those conversations. Again, thank you so much for sharing your story and a lot of these comments have really helped me gain a better perspective.

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        Julie Ann August 9, 2011, 10:23 pm

        LW,

        I think if you model compassion, non-judgmental and fair behavior around other emotionally vulnerable topics and people in need, that will be “how” your boyfriend can “see” that he can possibly talk to you about his brother (all the good times, and the difficult times.)

        Good luck to you!

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  • katie

    katie August 8, 2011, 8:52 pm

    ok, first i think that the general rule of thumb when a tragic or life altering situation happens to someone you love is that you let THEM bring it up. nothing good comes from poking and prodding and interrogation.

    i think that the LW is missing a very important fact here: he has already told you about this. after your first date, he could have just let it be. he could have just pretended that he never had a brother. now, depending on how much you see his parents/close family friends/whatever, he might not have been able to keep up that lie for long, but the fact is that he told you. he willingly told you the truth, and even apoligized about lying to you! i think that fact alone is very important. he didn’t have to explain during an awkward car ride home about why there were two little boys in his parents family photos up the stairs, and he didnt have to redirect the conversation whenever you asked about his childhood- he just flat out told you. you are good enough to know his “darkest” secret. now, i have a dark secret of my own, LW, and i am usually like you- very candid and i speak openly about everything… but not this particular thing. only 3 people in the world know about it, and that is enough. when i told them, we talked briefly about it, but its just the fact that they KNOW. that is good enough for me. i dont have to relive it, i dont have to explain it, i dont have to talk about how it effects me. it is enough for me that they just know, and maybe that is good enough for your boyfriend, too.

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    Nadine August 9, 2011, 8:52 am

    My boyfriend’s best friend died in a car accident when they were 19. We were not together at the time, but I knew him. My boyfriend doesn’t speak of it, to this day I don’t know the details. But I am there for a hug on the anniversary, and whenever he talks about his youth he goes quiet for a minute and I just follow suit. I don’t know if this is very helpful, but just my experience. Follow his cues, don’t assume trauma, but keep an open mind. And foster good relations with his family, I would think, so conversation flows freely between you all. In this way, you are likely to learn more about the younger years of your boyfriends life, and show you are a respectful recipient of their precious memories.

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  • Skyblossom

    Skyblossom August 9, 2011, 9:17 am

    My brother-in-law’s sister died of leukemia when they were children. He never talks about her and neither does his family. Sometimes you just have to accept what they want to do and how they want to handle it. People handle grief in different ways.

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