July 7, 2009

The Trouble with Skeletons

I remember an episode* of “Growing Pains” where Mike, Carol and Ben discover; through letters they find in their basement, that both their parents had been divorced. After confronting them, Jason and Maggie confess that they both had been divorced…from each other during a turbulent time early in their marriage.

Every family has skeletons in their closet. It can be divorce, illness, criminal records, anything. And those skeletons leave material footprints like photos, videos or documents. When going through your family history, especially recent history, the impulse is often to skip over or even discard those less-than-shining moments. But any story worth telling has to have drama, peril or obstacles.

When recently going through some family photos with my mother, we came across some of a relative and their former spouse. I had to stop my mother from throwing them away. We mustn’t rewrite history. We must be objective and recognize the value of lessons learned from mistakes made. I also think it is overdramatic and foolish to be embarrassed enough by your skeletons to not share and discuss them openly with your family. Your family’s younger generations are the ones who could benefit the most from past lessons. I know I've gained more respect and love for some of my family members after learning of some of their past trials while researching my family history.

I’m not saying you need to air your dirty laundry for all to see. Keep it in the family but at least share it with the family. This also serves to prevent rumors and dispel myths. Just invite those skeletons out of the closet and give them a discreet yet respectful place in your family history.

*“Growing Pains” Season 2, Episode 19: “The Awful Truth”
Original Air Date - March 17, 1987 (source: www.imdb.com)

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