Has someone you trust told you a secret about your deceased loved one that has added immeasurably to your grief? Where you going through his/her papers and found some information about the past that has stunned you? Has evidence of physical or emotional infidelity turned up upon reading old emails?

It is not unusual for a family member to discover something, either positive or negative, about a deceased loved one that was never previously known. In either case, the discovery can bring anger, a feeling of broken trust, or added sadness because the deceased was not forthcoming. Here is a way you can reframe the impact of this event and find peace as you begin the process of coping with loss and reinvesting in life.

1. Regardless of the nature of your relationship with your loved one before death it is quite normal not to know everything about him/her. It seems as though everyone has secrets, big or small. Think of the personal things that you have held back for reasons of shame, guilt, or fear. It is common to discover new things about the deceased. Most often they are good deeds done for others. In some instances, sordid experiences in a secret life, unpaid bills, money hidden away, or broken obligations are exposed.

2. Why is it that our loved ones do not share all of themselves with us? No one can give you the precise answer. We can only speculate. It could be they are ashamed or fear they will lose you if they tell. It could be human weakness, greed or lust. It might even be poor self-esteem or fear of an angry reaction and retaliation. The list could go on and on. We all have failing moments and many have difficulty admitting their faults.

3. The point to contemplate is that their behavior, in that instance or instances, is not who they are. You and I have done things that we are sorry we have done, but they do not define us as a person. We are more than that behavior. Allow yourself to separate the person from the stamp of negative behavior you have uncovered and forged in your mind. It is okay to grieve this secret as a secondary loss, which is sometimes as big a loss as the beloved.

4. Try to place yourself in the shoes of your loved one in an attempt to determine the why of the behavior. Was he/she under some unknown pressure? At the time of the indiscretion was your relationship in jeopardy? Were they in physical or emotional pain that could have influenced decision making? Was their deep fear of something? Were they poorly informed about choices? What were their limitations?

5. Having looked at all the possibilities (and most importantly discuss them with a confidant) for why the secret was kept, there is only one course of action you can take: choose to forgive. This will take time, since it is one thing to intellectually choose forgiveness and quite another thing to forgive deep in your heart. However, it has been demonstrated over and over again that to replay the secret event in your thoughts will result in great unnecessary suffering both physically and emotionally.

Make a commitment to switch your attention to the good things about your loved one whenever you are besieged with thoughts about the secret. Focus on the multiplicity of good deeds and characteristics. Yes, the feelings of betrayal will still linger. Yet, over time you can reduce the intensity of those thoughts by realizing we are all imperfect and make mistakes.

In particular, remember the secret is more about your beloved and his/her real or imagined needs, than it is about you. We are all beings full of mystery; it is part of our identity and therefore part of our relationships. Now that death has intervened, refuse to add to your suffering. Talk to him/her about it in the silence of your heart or out loud in the comfort of a quiet room in your home. And then, never forget, by forgiving you free yourself, eliminate self-imposed inner turmoil, and regain your personal power.

Author's Bio: 

Dr. LaGrand is a grief counselor and the author of eight books, the most recent, Love Lives On: Learning from the Extraordinary Encounters of the Bereaved. He is known world-wide for his research on the Extraordinary Experiences of the bereaved (after-death communication phenomena) and is one of the founders of Hospice of the St. Lawrence Valley, Inc. His monthly ezine-free website is www.extraordinarygriefexperiences.com.