The agreements have been made and the ink is now dry. You are officially divorced. This can leave you with questions as to what to do with all of the “marriage stuff” you have collected over the years. First, this answer can and will be different for everyone. There is no right or wrong way to go about this, but I do have a few suggestions if you are stuck!
The most important thing to remember is that you need to give yourself closure. You are the only one who knows what that looks like for you and how to go about doing it. This will also depend on your feelings toward your ex and the divorce itself. If the divorce was mutually wanted and very amicable, you may have a very different closure process than someone who is angry and scorned by the divorce. Give yourself the freedom and grace to do what is needed to help you move forward, not what other’s think is best.
I came into the divorce process very hurt and betrayed by an unfaithful ex. While I had visions of taking everything I had that reminded me of him and setting it on fire on the front lawn, I knew that felt like a rash decision to me. I tend to be a thinker and like to process my thoughts and feelings at great length. I decided not to make any decisions on what to do with all of the things, big ticket item or not, until I could fully process how I felt. I then looked at each situation and decided what would be best for me and me alone. I’m sure others might not agree with all of my choices, but my point here is that you have to live with those choices and gain happiness. Do what feels right for YOU!
I started with a big one…the wedding dress.
This was actually the easiest one for me. It symbolized everything that became a lie. It represented broken vows, broken dreams, and a broken heart. I knew without a doubt that I didn’t want to even look at it again, let alone ever put it on. It was a clear decision. I wanted it gone. Luckily, there are several ways to repurpose a wedding dress. I didn’t even want to be bothered trying to haggle with someone to sell it, but that option is there. I wanted to see some good come out of it, so I explored the donation route. While there are places that take wedding dress donations, I had a bad feeling of passing on a “failed” wedding dress to a doe-eyed bride. I chose to donate my dress to my community’s high school graduation dress trade program. Our local high school has a tradition where the girls wear white dresses to graduation instead of the traditional cap and gown. My dress was pretty simple and I love the thought of someone getting to feel special on their graduation day in a dress that I once loved.
Next came the ring. I must say that I sat on this decision for a long time. I loved my ring, but I think I loved what it was supposed to mean even more. So much so that I wore it for several months after I found out about the affair. It felt as if taking it off made it real. The marriage was over, but it was hard to take the final step to remove the symbol. A ring is small and was easily tucked away in my jewelry box. There it sat- for a long time. I took it out from time to time and put it on. It made me sad to do so and I would quickly tuck it back into the box. As time went on, I thought of it less and less. I felt less when I saw it. I no longer had a need to put it back on. My life had changed and my views about the ring changed. It was during that time when I was working hard as a single mom to renovate a neglected house that I realized that my ring could become a symbol of strength. That day, I went granite shopping for kitchen counter tops. I picked the most perfect piece of granite in my eyes. It was strong, beautiful, and also imperfect. It has graining and color variations, while showing uniqueness and interest. I decided then and there to part with my sad stone and replace it with my stone of strength and stability in my new home. As I walked out of the jewelry store after selling my ring, I felt as if weight had been lifted and I was one step closer to gaining closure to the divorce.
Photos tend to be a weak spot for me. I always loved looking through photo albums of our family as a kid and love how photos capture life moments for all time. Maybe this is why my approach to the wedding and family photos was a little different. As I packed up our house to move shortly after being faced with the divorce, I remember stacking all of the wedding and family photos on the dining room table and thinking, “now what?”.
It hurt to look at them, yet they were the timeline of my life and the life of my children. Good or bad, those moments made me who I am today. I also knew that this was bigger than just my feelings. These were the photos and memories of my children. I did not want to discard them out of anger and betrayal. They were so young at the time. I knew that someday they would have questions and want to see these pictures. I found the right size box to pack them all in with nothing else that I would have to unearth. I clearly marked the box and then used a lot of duck tape to close that box. The memories are there if needed. They are secure in the box and can’t get to me. I know where they are, but I never think of them. If needed, I can dust off that box that sits in the furthest and darkest corner of the basement closet. Until then, it’s as if they are gone.
Up until now, I have described a very methodical and often long process of deciding what to do with the memories of my marriage. This method made me feel confident in my choices and left no regrets. That being said, I did allow myself a few cathartic outlets that I found to be very liberating! As I said, I took my time with the big items. I waited until I was ready and felt the time was right. Some other things were much easier to part with in a therapeutic way! I took all of the cards he gave me that I had been saving for years and put each one through a shredder! It was like watching all the lies literately get ripped to shreds. Next, I took all the Christmas bulbs that said “Our 1st Christmas Together” or the one we bought in Hawaii on our honeymoon and put them in a garbage bag. I knew I would NEVER be putting them on my tree and defiantly didn’t want that reminder as I was decorating for my favorite time of year. I took that garbage bag out to the driveway and stomped all over it. It was beyond satisfying to feel each bulb smashing beneath me. These things are very simple, even comical looking back, but if you are harboring anger, resentment, or bitterness, give yourself the grace to have a cathartic release. It will feel SO much better then gently placing the bag in the trash!!
I’m not saying I did it the best way, but I did everything in a way that worked for me. I suggest you go with your gut and realize that you know what will give you closure and what will keep you stuck. Allow yourself to feel the feelings before making decisions and you will know what is right. If you are wavering, put it aside and come back to it with a clear mind another time. There is no rush. When the time is right, you will allow yourself to be free.