Should You Share Dysfunctional Family History?



There are two kinds of family stories. One is the collection of warm and fuzzy memories that happened during summer vacations, holidays, and family dinners. The other group is the difficult memories that involve scary situations and possibly abuse. Should you share your dysfunctional family history with other family members? It depends.

Is the person ready to hear that story?
Most people do not want to hear that a beloved family member did something horrible – especially if the target was another beloved family member. It can be difficult to find the right time to share that type of family history. Don’t blurt it out with no warning to a random relative. It will not go well.

It might be okay to share difficult stories with a relative who appears to be digging around to discover what really happened. Relatives who directly ask you what you know are ready to hear those stories. Be prepared for a lot of emotion.

Does the person need to know that story?
Will the relative you share that difficult story with benefit from knowing it? For example, lets say you know family stories about a relative or ancestor who was an alcoholic. Maybe you have stories about that person becoming violent with family members. The majority of your family tree probably doesn’t need that information.

However, the knowledge could be beneficial to descendants of that relative. It has been said that addiction, or addictive tendencies, seem to be something that can be passed down from one generation to the next. Those scary stories could be a warning to younger generations to watch themselves for signs of addiction.

Will sharing that story improve relationships?
Sometimes, sharing difficult family history can help improve strained relationships between family members. A person’s behavior is often shaped by the bad experiences they lived through. Relatives who don’t know what happened may have difficulty understanding why a relative acts the way they do.

In these cases, sharing unpleasant family history may smooth things over. For example, you could explain that a grandmother lived through extreme poverty. That could help younger relatives understand why she is hesitant to throw things away. Or, it could explain why she buys them so many toys.

Do you have to be the one to share that story?
Family history stories belong to the entire family. That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to share every single story with everyone. A story that includes something scary that happened might not be yours to tell. Allow the family member who experienced it to share it when they are ready.

Related Articles at FamilyTree.com:

* Reasons Why Knowing Your Family History is Important

* Ways to Prevent Your Family from Trashing Your Family History

* Things to Know About a Family History of Cancer

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