Family Ghosts: Just Let Them go

Photo by Steinar Engeland. From

Do you have family ghosts?

No, I don’t mean literal ghosts. I mean family members that used to be around, used act like you were important to them, and then for one reason or another, they ghosted you.

My parents divorced when I was in third grade. My biological father’s family didn’t noticeably treat my sister and I any different until we were older. When we were kids my aunts and cousins seemed loving, affectionate, and as if they cared about us. They would send birthday cards, call, want to have meals together, spend holidays together.

When my grandfather died during my senior year in high school, some of my cousins seemed jealous of how close my grandfather and I were. When I went to college and started traveling around the world, my aunts began acting differently towards me, which I interpreted as jealousy: none of them had ever traveled or gone to college. Maybe it was something else entirely, I don’t know.

Not long after, my grandmother moved to be near one of my aunts and shortly later she died of a heart attack. I believe my grandma had been suffering from some kind of mental illness or early dementia, as once out of the blue she wrote a mean, seven-page letter to my then 15-year-old sister about how she had allegedly found a birth control pill in her house, how my mother was always “mean as a snake,” and other strange things. When she moved she did not give us her address or phone number.

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After my grandmother’s funeral, the family completely ghosted us. We never received anything of our grandmother’s, not even photographs. They never called or wrote to us, never remembered birthdays or invited us to family events. If we happened to randomly run into each other it was always an awkward encounter; they never gave us hugs, asked about our lives or asked for contact information. That was really hard. It made me feel like all the time we had spent together in the past was all just a sham. When I was younger it really bothered me. I always wondered if I had done something to tarnish our relationship. Had I angered them somehow? What was wrong with me, that they didn’t love me?

Even now, it hurts. I recently ran into two of my aunts while shopping at Wal-Mart. They acted as though they did not know me until I made the first move and greeted them. After that, they made excuses about needing to find baking soda and exited quickly.

I have made up my mind not to care about it any longer. I will no longer let it hurt me. The people who love and care about me are here now and will be in my future, let my ghosts be apart of my past.






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