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Emily V. Gordon Headshot

What Should You Do With Your Marriage Stuff, Post-Marriage?

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I visited a friend recently whose divorce was finalized about four months ago. Her new apartment was gleaming, and like herself, a work in progress. She said she felt like she had everything sorted out, finally, except one thing: wedding stuff. She opened a closet to reveal a wedding dress, monogrammed towels, an engraved cake slicer, and tons of framed pictures, all stashed away like a dirty secret. "What" she said exasperatedly, "am I supposed to do with all this?"

Dealing with wedding stuff is a bit of a double-edged sword -- it seems that divorcees are expected to either burn it all on the front lawn, tears silently coursing down their faces, or keep the stuff, shrine-like, concealed somewhere in their homes. Years down the line you may still be reserving a closet for stuff that belonged to a former life out of duty more than respect, because throwing it out feels like something a scorned ex would do. Once you've processed your divorce and feel like you're actually healing, the stuff remains. What are you supposed to do with it?

I'd like to offer up an idea.

Keeping physical items from the past is important -- we keep old toys, grandparents' jewelry, yearbooks, dance recital programs, and we assign meaning to them. Those items become the memories, and that's a very healthy thing to do. The problems occur when we have too many of those sentimental items, and they start weighing us down. You see the obvious point I'm making here -- those items can sometimes act as our baggage of past relationships, of past lives that we can't seem to let go of. My suggestion is to hold a funeral.

Pick two items out of however many you have leftover from your previous marriage, and before you think about it too much, donate the rest. Take away the meaning in all of it and place it all in the two items you have chosen. Dresses can live another life at a women's shelter, cake slicers can make someone happy at a thrift store. Get rid of everything but those two items.

One item you will keep in your home as your memento, and one item, you will bury... but not before you write a eulogy. Think about how eulogies or obituaries are written -- they are full of praise for the deceased, with a sprinkling of understanding that the deceased has passed on to a better place. That's what you need to write.

As sincerely as you can, thank your marriage for the gifts it gave you, and name those gifts. Then thank your marriage for ending, and list off the reasons why your divorce has been good for you. If you need help with either, ask a friend or a therapist for their perspective. Once you've written this out, sincerely, find some sort of box to put your item in, take it to a lovely field, and dig a hole. If the spirit moves you, say the eulogy out loud. Take it seriously, because what you're doing is paying your marriage the respect it deserves while also ushering it out of your life.

You might even find that you don't need to keep your own memento.

Side note: This should not be attempted until some time has passed after your divorce, and time for you to heal and process what you've been through. Do not attempt this until you are ready to say goodbye.