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Friday, April 26, 2013

Discovering a Father's Secret Life After His Death

I recently went to see  Before and After Dinner, a wonderful documentary about actor and director Andre Gregory, which was made by his wife Cindy Kleine.  Many people will remember Andre Gregory from the film, My Dinner With Andre.  One of the themes in Before and After Dinner is that Mr. Gregory discovers information in a book that implicates his late father, a Russian Jew, as a Nazi collaborator.  Mr. Gregory begins a search to discover if his father was leading a secret life.

Unraveling the Mystery of a Father's Secret Life
Most of us can only imagine how painful it could be to try to unravel and piece together such a mystery about one's own father, and how many questions this would raise, especially after a father's death when he's no longer around to answer questions.  The film, which will be released in other cities in the US soon, is worth seeing, so I don't want to give it away.

Although most of us will never have to deal with a mystery of this magnitude about our fathers, it's not unusual for questions to arise after a father's death about some aspect of his life, and for adult children to search for answers about his life.

There's also a book that was recently published, After Visiting Friends: A Son's Story, written by Michael Hainey.  I haven't read the book, but it sounds intriguing.  According to the reviews that  I've read, the author was told when he was a child that his father died "after visiting friends," which was a euphemism for a secret aspect of his father's life.  So, Mr. Hainey sets out to discover what really happened to his father.

The Adult Child Must Be Emotionally Prepared to Discover the Father's Secret
I've worked with clients in my psychotherapy practice in NYC who had reason to believe, after their fathers died, that their fathers led secret lives that these clients felt compelled to discover.  This type of search can become an all-consuming endeavor because of the amount of effort that's often required to find out "the truth."  And, at times, even with an exhaustive search, the results of the search might be ambiguous.  Also, the child, who is now an adult, must be emotionally prepared to learn whatever there might be to discover about his or her deceased father.

Discovering a Father's Secret Life After His Death

In many cases, just knowing that there were possible secrets can be jarring for the adult child, as described by Andre Gregory in the film, Before and After Dinner, to find out that the father you thought you knew while he was alive isn't who you thought he was--or you didn't have the whole story.

Often, this type of search about one's deceased father is not only about trying to discover information about who the father really was, but also an effort to try to understand what this means with regard to the father-child relationship.

This type of search can evoke many different kinds of emotions, including sadness, anger, and feelings of betrayal and abandonment, depending upon the father's secret and why a part of the father's life was kept secret from the child.

It can cause the adult child to wonder about the meaning of a father's secret life and how it might reflect on his or her relationship with the father when the father was alive.

Ultimately, whether an adult child decides to initiate such an investigation about a father is a very personal choice.  There are some people who would rather not know.

In any case, I highly recommend the documentary, Before and After Dinner, which is both funny and poignant.

I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist.  I work with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist

To set up a consultation, call me at (212) 726-1006 or email me: josephineolivia@aol.com






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