DEAR AMY: My older sister's first marriage ended badly. Her husband cheated on her multiple times and stole money from our folks. When they divorced, he took the kids. I was still in high school and was not privy to the reasons. No one from our side of the family has seen my sister's children for over 20 years. I never forgot about them. With the advance of social media, I was finally able to find them. My sister has since remarried and has a son who is 10 years younger than his half-siblings. I'm very close to this nephew. He mentioned that he sometimes wishes he wasn't an only child and that he often felt lonely. I almost spilled the beans right then and there that he has two half-siblings, but I was able to hold my tongue. My sister has health issues now and is going blind. I want for our family to reconnect with my niece and nephew, and I want my sister to see her kids while she still can. I told my mom about my discovery. She told me that this may be too stressful for my sister, given her health. She asked me not to mention it to her. I'm so torn. I think my sister would love to see her long-lost kids, but at the same time she might feel ashamed and heartbroken for all the years she wasn't there for them. My husband thinks I should just leave this alone, as it is not my story to find the ending to, but I just can't seem to do so. I truly loved those kids and wish to see them and have a relationship with them. I think my younger nephew deserves to know that he has siblings. What should I do?
Sad Family Situation
DEAR SAD: Despite your mother's protective advice, I think you should take this to your sister. Let her decide what she wants to do. If she wants to try to reconcile, you could offer to help make the connection.
You should accept it as a given that nobody in your family wants your sister to feel hurt or upset, but — this might have been weighing heavily on her mind and heart. You can hope that — with your support — she would feel brave enough to attempt a reconciliation.
You all need to understand that contacting these long-lost children does NOT guarantee a happy outcome. They might not want to reconnect. You say you don't know the reason they didn't have any contact with their mother (they might not have been safe with her). If they were raised by their father, he might have created a narrative in their household that does not favor reconciliation.
You should not take this information to your young nephew. You don't mention his age, but he should not be put in charge of this challenging dilemma until he is emotionally old enough to make his own choices — and handle the consequences.
DEAR AMY: The COVID-19 pandemic is creating a mental health crisis for some people. Please remind your readers that talk therapy is useful and can be lifesaving. Therapists and social workers have quickly adopted "telehealth" virtual tools for seeing clients. Websites such as Teladoc, Amwell, MdLive, Doctor on Demand, and Psychology Today offer directories of therapists and specialties. Many insurers are temporarily waiving co-pays.
DEAR CLINICIAN: Thank you so much for offering this information. I would add that Crisis Text Line is very easy to use and could be a valuable first stop for someone in crisis. Simply text 741-741 and a volunteer social worker and crisis counselor will respond very quickly via text. This service is free and available 24/7.
DEAR AMY: I just read your response to "Wondering Wife," who had the insight that her husband might have Aspergers. I have been married to a wonderful man for almost 50 years. When the show "Big Bang Theory" first came out, I said, "I know people like that — in fact, I am married to one!" Thank you for writing that Aspergers (Autism Spectrum Disorder) is "not an illness or disease. It is simply a unique way of thinking, seeing, and interacting." I gave up "wondering" about my husband years ago. One needs to look past their actions and supposed "shortcomings" to what's in their heart.
DEAR CS: Learning more about how people with ASD perceive and react to the world, and having a label that fits — can help.