"It All Made More Sense To Me Once I Grew Up": 29 Shocking Family Secrets People Discovered As Adults That Will Leave You Reeling

"It All Made More Sense To Me Once I Grew Up": 29 Shocking Family Secrets People Discovered As Adults That Will Leave You Reeling

Recently, we wrote about family secrets people discovered, and members of the BuzzFeed Community had some of their own secrets to share. Here's what they had to get off their chests.*

*Along with more answers from the original Reddit thread.

1."That the 'holiday' I had at my aunt's house for a month, where my mum would call me a lot of days crying, was actually me being kidnapped and taken to a secluded town in the middle of nowhere (in rural Australia where it was four hours to the closest town). My mum didn't want to call the police at first because she was close to her sister and believed she was being manipulated by another family member (who had successfully kidnapped my brother many years ago). But she eventually called the police, and I was brought back. I had a feeling something was off with the way my mum would talk on the phone ... but she didn't want to scare me at the time. I didn't find out for sure until a few years later."


2."I was told my father was arrested and sent to prison for 15 years for being a part of a boiler room fraud scheme in the late '80s and that he was charged under RICO for communications fraud and theft on A LOT of counts. I went to visit him a few times, and he would send cards on holidays and my birthday. ... I remember him using a cane the first time I saw him in prison, and he said he 'got hurt.' My 4-year-old self thought this made sense. After a year or so, he stopped writing, and I stopped visiting."

"I figured he didn't have our new address after a recent move. I finally received a call from him during my senior year of high school to reconnect. I blew him off and never really gave it a second thought. Then, I became a father a decade or so later, and I felt horrible for pushing away his last effort, so I attempted to reconnect. Turns out he'd passed. But in the process of looking him up, I came across his court records, and the truth was revealed. Turns out he was released on probation EVERY time for his multiple felonies. After violating his probation a third time via a DUI that resulted in a major bodily injury (that explains the cane), he was sentenced to five years. He served just under four. He waited 10+ years to call. I was in his local newspaper for some high school athletic achievements, and that is what reminded him I existed.

Some added background: he was a Vietnam war vet who came back with a Vietnamese wife; they had two sons together, and about ten years into the marriage, he started an affair with my mother. He told his primary family he was working out of town three days a week but was living across town with my mother. Eventually, I was conceived. My mother was addicted to painkillers, and after my birth, I was removed from her care. I was lucky to have a couple ready to foster me, but my father fought it because he would owe child support. So, I got to live the incredible experience of being an affair partner's child at his wife's house and having no clue why everyone in the house hated me. I changed my last name to my adopted family. I hope his grave is unmarked and covered by a pig farm."


  The CW
The CW

3."My aunt Rosa was the only sister not living in the US. She had a child my mom's age but no husband and was never referred to as widowed. I always suspected something dark kept her in Mexico because the subject would get changed when someone brought it up. Back in 2009, I was visiting her and asked her why she'd never moved here. Turns out she did in the '50s, but her husband was an abusive drunk. He hit her son (my cousin) when he was three and broke his nose. That was the final straw. My aunt waited for him to go to sleep, packed her bags, loaded her car, cut his throat, and ran back to Mexico."


4."For me, it was the lawsuit against my grandpa for groping my cousin. She was 15. I was 8. My parents left me alone with him after this, even though my cousin swears it happened. I didn't know the truth till I found my estranged cousin when I was 18, and my parents had the audacity to tell me that she was toxic."


5."I only discovered a few years ago that the commune my parents were in in the 1970s was more like a sex cult than a commune. There was one leader, and everyone gave all their money to him; he set all the rules and made very arbitrary decisions. Like making my parents marry even though, as my mom said (which sort of traumatized 14-year-old me), 'we weren't even sleeping together that week!' Some seriously weird shit went down. It wasn't a commune; it was a cult. I asked my mom bluntly about it a few years ago, and she agreed."


  Sony Pictures Releasing
Sony Pictures Releasing

6."My great-grandmother and her family were sex workers. Her mother and aunt ran a 'boarding house' for 'professional women' and the men they would 'entertain.' They also were part of a team smuggling liquor across the border into the US during prohibition. I had guessed at some point that the 'boarding house' was actually a brothel, which was confirmed to me once I was older."

"I always thought it was a kind of cool story full of drama and intrigue, but what I hadn't realized in my youth was that my great-grandmother likely faced a lot of sexual and emotional abuse, causing trauma that she then passed on by being a pretty abusive wife and mother. My grandfather was an amazing man who was able to break the cycle with help from my grandmother and her side of the family, but his sisters weren't so lucky, and to this day, the family dynamics on their part are extremely toxic. It all made more sense to me once I grew up."


7."My mum passed away never knowing that it was my sibling who'd turned her in to local authorities after a decade on the run. She ended up only serving nine months of a 22-year sentence because she'd been living a quiet life during that time. This meant we could leave an abusive household to move in with her once she was out. Living with her was only mildly better in the end, but my sibling's actions might have saved our lives. I found out after I was married and moved out of state. I'd thought it was suspicious [that she was arrested] so soon after we'd discovered where she was living, but outright denial meant I gave up wondering as a teen."


8."I grew up with a single mother and no contact with relatives. I was told nothing about why it was only my brother, myself, and whatever random man my mother was involved with at the time. We moved constantly, and she seemed to have no friends either. If I asked any questions about why we didn't have relatives or why we were moving again, I would get frozen out, and she would not speak to me or look at me for months at a time, so I learned to stop asking. When I moved out at 16, I started trying to look for anything in libraries that might help me find out what the real story was about any family I might have."

"This was long before DNA or the internet, and it was very hard even to get a copy of my birth certificate, which I finally did. Cut to much later in life when I had my DNA done on one of those sites and found some relatives. The whole story came out that my Mom was about to lose custody of me and my younger brother for abuse when she and my father got divorced (we were just toddlers, and I remembered nothing about it). She decided rather than lose custody, she would pay my father back for leaving her and just disappear with us. That was why we constantly moved and didn't seem to have relatives. She always used whatever boyfriend's last name she had hooked up with when registering us for school, and when the schools couldn't track down our records from the last school we had been in, we would disappear and move again. Apparently, my father had tried to find us many times, but it was fairly easy to disappear back then. I found out so much more, but all the truth came out, and buried memories came back to me. I am 67 now and still get flashbacks to suddenly understanding now some strange thing that happened back then. I never know what to say when people ask why I don't have any relatives."


Scene from "Mamma Mia!" with Amanda Seyfried's character saying, "I don't want my children growing up not knowing who their father is! Because it's just, it's crap!"
Universal Pictures

9."My siblings and I could never figure out when we'd get together with my mom's family why my one aunt was always resentful about my other aunt who had a child out of wedlock. After about fifty years, we finally found out with the passing of my mom. My resentful aunt had a child and was forced to give it up. The reason she had to give up the baby was because she became pregnant by my father — he, my mom, grandparents, and aunt kept it all secret. My brother and I were in between the other baby. Sadly, we connected with the brother and were in the process of meeting when he died of a heart attack. It is so weird that my mom forgave everyone and acted like nothing was ever wrong. I feel so sorry for my mom, who has lived with this for so long. Even on her deathbed, she kept the secret."


10."My sister has a different dad. That one just took thinking twice about some math that they'd been normalizing to us since we were tiny. We just didn't think about it! Yeah, she's the only brunette in a family of blondes, but that's my sister! If anyone asks, my mom fell pregnant at 16, a few months before meeting my 23-year-old father. We're unsure if our dad knew, but he's not the kind of magnanimous benefactor who would keep a kid that's not his. I respect my mother's decision because that kept my sister glued to our side during custody battles, the loss of our mom, adulthood...She secured a childhood for my sister under heinous circumstances."


11."I didn't know my dad for close to 40 years. Folks would tell me very little about him, and if I asked for any more details, I was always told to 'let sleeping dogs lie.' At one point, I even asked if he knew where we lived, and they said if he did know, 'we'd move again.' After my grandmother died, I got more information and was able to find my dad, except he had died 15 years before. His family was certainly shocked to learn about me. My dad's family told me his parents would have loved me, especially my Abuelo, with whom I share a birthday ... I've never forgiven my mom for this."


Rebecca Breeds in a long-sleeve top looks intently at Michael C. Hall, who faces her. Another man in a suit is blurred in the background

12."I had a great uncle on my mom's side who I just loved. He and his wife (they had no children) lived in the US (my family is Canadian), but they'd come to visit often. He'd spend most of their visits playing with me, telling me stories of where he'd traveled and bedtime stories from different countries from memory. My great-uncle died suddenly when I was eight. I was always told it was a heart attack. His wife, who was European, moved back to Europe but kept in touch with my grandparents. Fast forward a couple of decades, and my mom inherited my great-uncle's personal papers from her father (my great-uncle's brother). It turns out my great-uncle joined US Intelligence in the 1940s and was working for the CIA on an 'assignment' when he died. No idea if his wife knew."


13."I found out that my great-grandmother was a mail-order bride. Growing up, when my dad would tell me stories about her, he just said that she was 'essentially a mail-order bride.' I took that to mean that maybe she found a guy through a pen pal or something. Nope! I found out later she went through a company that connected mail-order brides to single men. Unfortunately, both her husbands were assholes. It sounded really ugly."


14."My mother wasn't my grandfather's child. She didn't find out until I shared my 23andMe results with her. If she weren't an affair baby, I'd have been about 1/4 Italian. Instead, I'm 1/4 Latvian and absolutely 0% Italian. Grandma just so happened to be 'very good friends' with a Latvian man who had been one of her patients. What really sucked was when my mom told one of my aunts, she found out that not only did everyone else know, but they'd agreed not to tell my mother for going on 60 years now."


Scene from "The Umbrella Academy" showing characters Klaus Hargreeves (upper) looking concerned and Luther Hargreeves (lower) sitting with a worried expression

15."I was in a cult. I didn't know the word for it [at the time], but I would constantly sit in church and just wonder if it was all made up by someone who enjoyed controlling other people. After some research (that I was told never to do!), my suspicions were confirmed."

"It’s a huge relief because I’m gay, and that wasn’t allowed."


16.My grandmother started getting dementia about 10 years ago, [and we found out that] neither of my mother’s siblings are my grandfather's children. She had a 15-year affair, and my 'oops baby' mother is his only legitimate child. Granny also offed that same grandfather. There’s no way to prove it, though, and at this point, it was over 20 years ago. He fell out of bed and broke his hip, and instead of calling for help, she unplugged all the phones and left him on the floor for three days. She 'found' him when the neighbor came by to take him fishing or something, but by that point, he was delirious and half unconscious. He died a couple of days later from a massive stroke."

"When I was an adult, my mother had drunk a few glasses (she never drinks) and told me that her mother hated him because he was in the military, and they had to move away from her affair partner for several years. She took it out on my mother until my grandfather found out, and then she started taking it out on him."


17."My now-dead father-in-law had multiple affairs during his marriage to my mother-in-law. It was a known family secret that all the men had second and even third families. My husband said his dad never had a second family, but there are photos of 'extended cousins' who look eerily like my husband and his brothers."


18."My grandmother (dad's mother) lied to my dad and his sister for decades about who their real fathers were. They believed their father had died when my dad was in his twenties and my aunt was in her teens — until 23andMe tests came back and showed they were only HALF siblings. My dad was rightfully angry and confronted my grandmother about it. It turns out the man she was married to was sterile, and her doctor (back in the '50s and '60s) told her if she wanted kids, she'd need to 'seek other options.' So she did — with her then-boss and another random man. She refuses to apologize to my dad and aunt for lying to them, even after her husband's death ages ago."

"To make it even worse, my dad discovered his actual father was still alive but suffering from terrible dementia at nearly 100 years old; my dad made the difficult choice not to pursue a relationship with him so as not to further confuse him in his last years. So heartbreaking. Ironically, my dad used to tease my aunt about her not being his 'real' sister — if only he knew!"


Tom Holland having an intense conversation with a bearded man wearing glasses and a hat in a dimly lit industrial setting

19."My cousin who was super ill actually had a sickness that was preventable with medicine. ... [He] died because the woman my uncle married was a religious nut. ... [This was] confirmed later when I was an adult. I remember getting told off as a kid because I asked, 'Isn't there medicine for what he has?'"


20."My dad told me this full story on a camping trip recently. ... Basically, when my grandma and grandpa were still married and had my dad's older sister, my grandpa was very, very religious, but my grandma wasn't as invested. I'm not sure whether it was a splinter group of their church or an entirely different thing, but my grandpa eventually joined this hyper-religious, cult-like group (my dad just referred to it as a flat-out cult), which was led by a woman about the same age as my grandma and grandpa. My grandma knew this group was sketchy af, but this was the early '70s, so she felt like she had to go along with my grandpa's devotion to the group. The group was meeting one night at my grandma and grandpa's house, and somehow, possibly over the course of just that night, or maybe it had been ongoing, the leader convinced my grandpa to kill, or at least attack, my grandma, who at that time was pregnant with my dad."

"So my grandpa went with it. He chased her out of the house with a kitchen knife, all in front of my aunt, who was luckily too young to remember any of this. Needless to say, that was the end of the marriage and the end of my horrible person of a grandpa being involved in his kids' lives."


21."When I was a kid, my parents were eager to send me upstairs to bed because they were hiding lots of things they didn't want me and others to know about. Mom drank too much. Dad was in the closet and in a long-term relationship with the man who lived in our house with us — and Dad's partner actually owned the house!"


Sandra Bullock and Trevante Rhodes are shopping in a grocery store aisle, pushing carts filled with various items and standing in front of a "Cold Beverages" sign

22."My uncle was the local drug dealer. ... When I hit 14, he mentioned to me at a family event that if I ever wanted to experiment, I just had to talk to him. He would give me reasonable access. If he found out that I was using other stuff, he'd tell my parents. Never paid for drugs all through high school, and when he came to pick me up in Year 9 one time, I got so many shocked looks."


23."That my aunt did not die of an asthma attack in her sleep but took her own life. She had been very depressed. As an adult, they admitted she purposely overdosed. As a child with asthma, I wish they had just told me the truth because before I started to suspect it was a lie, I was terrified that I was going to die too."


24."I grew up in a small, rural community where everyone knew each other, especially if they had kids the same age. My parents were close friends with all of my friends' parents and would spend nights over at their houses and stuff. It turns out they were all doing drugs and swinging."


25."One of my aunts had a bad relationship with my grandpa. Grandpa was an asshole, so it wasn't hard to believe, but she never came around family events, and it was just odd. ... It turns out that my aunt was in charge of watching her infant sister when she was 10-11 years old; the infant sister died on 'her watch,' and grandpa blamed her for it. I first heard this story when I was 18, about a year after Grandpa died. I knew something fucked up had happened, but I didn't think it was that bad."


Top image shows Robin Williams comforting Matt Damon, saying, "It's not your fault." Bottom image shows Matt Damon crying and hugging Robin Williams
Miramax Films

26."My dad died of a heart attack. His heart was bad, but he was also a functional cocaine user. ... He made good money, provided for his family, and had nice cars — it was somewhat unexpected. My sister saw on his death certificate and showed me at about 28 years old that cocaine was in his system when he died, and they found the baggie in the bathroom. His artery was already blocked 95%, and he'd had chest pains those few days and set an appointment for Monday with doctors. The story was he was peeing in the bathroom and took a puff of his cigarette, and then that blocked his heart to 100%, so I guess I somehow figured plaque dislodged from one place in the artery to that final 95% place with the puff of that cigarette."

"In reality, that last cocaine hit on Saturday constricted the artery one last time and closed it. If he hadn't done it, he'd probably have been rushed into emergency surgery and had a stent placed that Monday and be alive today.

My mom finally admitted that, yes, he did it consistently. He was a truck driver, so it energized him too to do his job better, and eventually, truck driving worsened his dependency on the drug. He had gotten a new job as a trainer right before dying and would have regular 9-5 hours; relocation was required so we'd be away from the negative influences. He was going to start getting help to quit fully and had heard about a new drug that helps with addiction."


27."That my dad is not my bio dad, and my mom was an unwed teen mom for the first year of my life. Before I get into it, my mom did what she had to do to get out of a tough situation, and I love my dad. He has never treated me differently than my siblings and told me after all this came out that I am his daughter regardless."

"I suspected it when I was younger because I didn't look like my dad, and my sister looked a lot different than me, enough that kids in school did not know we were related. I was told that I just heavily take after my mom's side of the family. I found out when my suspected bio dad reached out to me...only to then find out that I am also not related to him either after taking an ancestry test. I looked a lot like him, too, but apparently, my mom had a type (blonde hair, blue eyes, tall type). My bio dad does not know I exist, but I matched DNA to his mother and found him through that. My mom and he broke up before she knew she was pregnant and jumped into a new relationship almost immediately, so she thought I was related to the person who reached out initially. Now, I don't know if I should try to contact him or not."


28."My grandmother knew her second husband was sexually assaulting my mother as a child and did nothing until it came out to the rest of the world, too. Mom confirmed she told my grandma after the first or second time it happened, at seven years old. And this part hasn't been confirmed, but I believe there's enough evidence with how my grandmother talks about him that she never stopped loving him and only divorced him because it's what was expected of her. I don't talk to her anymore."


Top image: A woman in glasses and patterned dress sits by a window.Bottom image: A man in a dark suit smirks while sitting

29.And finally..."[I found out] that two of my dad's cousins had a kid [together]. No shit."