Speaking about a death in the family is never easy. Most people are not sure how to approach the topic without making someone feel uncomfortable or sad.
Waiting until you are more comfortable and trust the person you are speaking to is a way to make things a little bit easier.
Redditor Far_Actuary_5965 encountered this very issue with their mom. So they turned to the “Am I The A**hole” (AITA) subReddit for moral judgment.
“AITA for denying my sister’s existence?”
The Original Poster (OP) explained:
“So my older sister died of cancer 3 years ago. I‘ve always found it really difficult to talk about it, so whenever people ask me if I have any siblings, I solely mention my younger brother.”
“Sometimes if I get to know them, I can tell them about her, but I’m just not comfortable with people asking questions and then me having to inform them that she’s dead.”
“A few days ago, my mom and I went out to eat and we started talking about my sister.”
“I mentioned to my mom that I only tell people that I have a brother, and she EXPLODED on me.”
“She scolded me that just because my sister was dead doesn’t mean that she wasn’t my sister and that not telling people about her is ‘denying her existence.’ All I could do was sit there with my face frozen because if I defended myself to her she would get madder.”
“I’ve been beating myself up about this for the past few days. AITA for not telling people that I have a dead sister?”
Redditors gave their opinions on the situation by declaring:
- NTA – Not The A**hole
- YTA – You’re The A**hole
- NAH – No A**holes Here
- ESH – Everyone Sucks Here
Most Redditors agreed there are no a**holes in this situation.
“NAH. Not everyone needs to have that information. Especially if in passing. I can see why your mom feels that way, but honestly we all process and handle our grief differently.”
“You are not denying your sisters existence. You’re simply choosing who in your life you allow to know that part of your life.” ~ XVX_Vandal_XVX
“Most people can’t deal with it. My father died when I was a child, and mentioning it as an adult still gets pity face and awkward silences as people try to figure out what to do with that info.” ~ Glittering_knave
“I agree, NAH”
“My dad lost his sister when he was in his twenties (he’s a senior now) and when people ask him about his family, he also leaves out lumping her in, even if he just answers with a head count of the amount of siblings he has. I don’t think he finds it as awkward or upsetting to talk about as OP (or he hides it well) but I do know he is very aware that it is awkward to a person you only just met when you explain that you have a dead sibling unless the timing is right.”
“If you lead with this, it can come off like it’s part of your identity and that you haven’t processed the death well.”
“The only thing I can fault the mother for is for not recognizing that it’s not easy for some people to talk about death. It’s not easy for some people to talk about their own grief and it’s not easy for some to listen to it when they are not prepared.”
“But she lost her (this an assumption) adult daughter relatively recently, so I understand why she had the reaction she had. She could only be the AH herself if she stayed mad despite knowing how OP feels.”
“OP, when she’s calm you should sit her down and explain that you are not erasing your sister, only saving talking about her for when it’s appropriate. Waiting until her death is relevant gives you time to prepare talking about her and gives people a chance to be prepared to listen.”
“There’s nothing wrong with finding her death difficult to talk about. I think most people expect someone in your position to find a death like this (so recent and with someone so close to you) difficult to talk about.” ~ Jesoko
Some shared how they deal with this situation.
“What would your next sentence be if the person had a living sister? Acknowledge the sister, and then move on.”
“‘Sorry to hear that your sister died. Are you close with your brother?’ ‘That sucks. Cancer is terrible. Do you have any pets?'”
“IMO, treat it as a single piece of information, do not do pity face, and move on in the conversation. Don’t make the sister the focus of the conversation anymore than you would make any other piece of information about them.”
“If the person that you are talking to wants to bring up the sister again, they will.” ~ Glittering_knave
“From my own experience having a long-dead father, when I’ve been getting to know someone new and it’s starting to seem like family might be a recurring topic between us I try to slip a mention of ‘my late father’ into the conversation without giving a pause before delving into a very Not Sad topic.”
“Like if we’re joking about family or whatever I might bring up the time ‘my late father’ accidentally lobbed a snowball through the kitchen window and hit grandma square in the face and how it’s still talked about in whispers to this day.”
“This story gets bonus points because there’s the implication that grandma’s wrath after the Snowball Incident directly contributed to dad’s death lol. It’s a little harder to get mopey or depressed in that sort of convo I’ve found.”
“Plus it usually spares me the even more awkward (but sometimes morbidly entertaining) questions later on like ‘so what’s your father do?’ ‘Um, mostly he just decomposes these days. At least I think so, I haven’t checked in a while.'” ~ scheru
“That is a really good way to handle it. Matter of fact, because it is fact, and then don’t give people to freeze up about it.”
“My more awkward convos around it involve people that don’t get that he person I call ‘dad’ is my step dad, and trying to convince me that I am wrong, and when I assume that my aunt’s new boyfriend (for example) already knew. Yeah, that was a fun Christmas.” ~ Glittering_knave
Waiting until you’re comfortable enough to talk about it seems like the right thing to do.