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by Abigail Van Buren

Father's Suicide Is Kept From Son

DEAR ABBY: In 1972, when I was 12, my father died by suicide. I was told it was an accident. I was given an explanation, but the facts didn't add up. I suspected it was suicide. In 1998, my brother also died by suicide. Afterward, I asked Mom if Dad had done it, too. She denied it, but I knew better.

Around the time of my brother's death, I lost my best friend/co-worker/father figure of 17 years to suicide. His son was told his dad had had a heart attack. He is now a father in his 40s, and I think he deserves to know. Should I remain silent as I have for more than 20 years? -- IN A MORAL DILEMMA

DEAR DILEMMA: Years ago, when a family member died by suicide, it was considered shameful and kept a family secret. Because depression can run in families, these kinds of secrets can be harmful. Today we know more, and there are programs available to help families who have suffered this kind of tragic loss. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-8255) offers support to surviving family members.

I do think you should talk to your friend's son. Introduce the topic by telling him what happened in your family, how much his father meant to you and your concern for him and his own family, which is why you are bringing it up now.

Read more in: Death | Mental Health | Etiquette & Ethics