The Winding Path

Counselling Services provided by Barb Zacharias

October 2013: Ghosts

Posted on Oct 18, 2013

An interesting thought occurred to me some time ago as I was thinking about family dynamics:

I grew up with ghosts.

Not your classic kind, of course. No wispy figures haunting the halls at night. More of the family-secret type of ghost, or the untold stories represented by unused instruments: such as the ghost of my dad’s violin or his accordion. I believe I only heard my dad play these instruments once. He had his excuses, of course, for why he didn’t play anymore; but I never heard the full story behind these instruments. The family secret of my dad’s hidden musical ability. I don’t know how he got into the violin or the accordion. He also owned a harmonica, come to think of it, and an acoustic guitar. He played mostly by ear—an ability I did not inherit. I also don’t know the stories behind the storage of these instruments—and his passion for music.

There are also the ghosts of other artifacts, including old photographs, in my parents’ home. Stories I’ve never heard. Aspects of my parents’ lives left unexplained. Items that belong to everyone and to no one. Hand-me-downs that never find a resting place, but flit from place to place until they end up in a storage box or left on a shelf. Untold stories. Once in a while an off-hand comment will pique my interest such as, ‘Oh your grandmother made that.’ I didn’t know she was adept at needlepoint. What’s the story behind that? And which side of the family? Most of us come with more than one grandmother.

Sometimes questions lead to more information, other times it shuts the conversation down. Ghosts. Family secrets. Untold stories.

Sound a bit dramatic? Maybe. Still, it got me thinking about the ways ghosts show up in our lives. Ghosts, and those pesky skeletons in the closet. Half-finished lives. Untapped potential. Incomplete stories. Unresolved issues. Mysteries. Shame. Guilt. Humiliation. Embarrassment.

Can these ghosts serve any purpose in our everyday lives? Absolutely, if we listen carefully to the messages that they bring.

What ghosts haunt your halls? Any skeletons shaking in your closets? This might be the perfect time of year for storytelling, relinquishing long-held secrets, solving family mysteries, or shedding shame and guilt for freedom and personal growth.

What’s in your closet?

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