NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- It's no secret that in many families, there are deep, dark secrets that are painful – even scandalous.
But as CBS 2's Maurice DuBois reported, experts say telling a secret can lead to healing and growth. We spoke to some people with a hidden past, and now they are exposing those family secrets.
Judy Foster was one of those people. She kept a secret for nearly four decades.
"It is such a heavy burden," she said.
Year after year, she told no one.
"I just buried it so deep," she said.
At the age of 16, Foster became pregnant and was forced to make tough decisions at that tender age.
"It was the hardest thing I had ever done – first, to make the decision not to get married, and then to give up the baby," she said.
Foster did not even tell her husband when she married him several years later. She said keeping the secret took a huge toll.
"The weight is just humongous," she said. "I don't know how else to describe it -- like a heavy cloud."
Sheila Hageman knows exactly what that is like.
"I didn't want to be judged," she said.
The suburban mother from Connecticut spent her early 20s earning a living as an exotic dancer.
"It was scary, but is amazing how quickly you get used to it," she said.
But she kept that part of her life hidden.
"I kept myself away from people," she said. "I didn't make friends. I didn't have hardly any female friends."
But experts say being honest is exactly what will free you. Still, you need to proceed with caution.
"You start to gain support," said Dr. Imber Black. "You pick the person who you know that's going to be on your side the most before you tell the hardest person."
In Hageman's case, with the help of a therapist, she told her husband before they married.
"At the time, I think I accepted that that's what she did in the past," said her husband, Nick Terzi.
But the story was different for Foster.
"I just I would never tell him," she said.
After two decades, she still hadn't told her husband, and when she did, she blurted it out during an argument. Her husband was shocked and angry.
"I said, 'Why didn't you tell me sooner?'" said George Foster. "What else are you keeping from me?"
But telling the secret ultimately led them to search for Foster's daughter, and resulted in a joyful reunion.
"Oh God, it was so beautiful. I can't tell you, it was just so beautiful," Judy Foster said.
Foster said telling her secret has changed her life forever, for the better.
"It has freed up my soul, my heart; opened up my heart," she said. "The healing has been a true blessing for me, and I count my blessings every day."
Experts say it is not a good idea to reveal secrets during the holidays, since emotions are already intense.
Have you revealed any deep, dark secrets, and how did you feel after doing so? Leave your comments below...
for more features.