02/22/2012 03:22 am ET

The Detritus of Divorce

When I think about the detritus post-divorce, I'm not talking about couples haggling over household property, the spat over who gets the cat, and the painful tug-of-war when a marriage goes south.

I'm thinking about parents of the divorcing couple who are left with the (for lack of a better word) memorabilia. The accumulation of stuff that must be hidden from view or ditched to prove one's loyalty to one's own.

Maybe it seems trivial to be talking about tangible remainders, but these things can present a problem. Dare we mention their names, but what do you do with the perfume she gave you for Mother's Day that is your signature scent? Or the book he so thoughtfully picked up at the secondhand shop because he knows you're interested in antique Porsches? Or the Hermes scarf you never in a thousand years would ever buy for yourself? Or the magnificent cut-glass bowl the kids gave you when everything was just hunky-dory to thank you for watching the grandkids when they went to Germany for their tenth anniversary?

And what about the framed photographs and, geez, the wedding album where you look so terrific? Do you, as one grandmother did, cut out the heads of the offending in-laws to "protect" her grandchildren from the sight of happier days?

Are you supposed to toss the lot with the loss of family? (Okay, some parents don't call it a loss. They call it a blessing. They knew from the get-go the marriage wouldn't work. Still there are all those "things" you have to deal with.)

And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. (King James Bible, Mathew 5:29)

Maybe I'm making too much of these inconsequential items when you consider the real fallout when a son or daughter gets divorced. Sadly, many grandparents are denied access to their grandchildren. That's not the detritus of divorce. That's a bloody disaster.

I'm also mindful of the parents whose adult children are not married but in committed relationships. These breakups can be just as devastating for parents. Just the other day I was talking to some parents who were bemoaning the end of their son's eight-year relationship with a girl they "adore." (Notice the present tense.) The wife cried, "I was closer to Sara than her own mother."

On the one hand, these parents understood why their son decided to finally end the relationship, but on the other, they couldn't get past the fact that "Over means it's over, Mom and Dad."

Were they expected to delete all those vacation videos?

I guess that's what's expected -- delete, delete, delete.

So I never wear the freshwater pearl necklace my ex-daughter-in-law gave me for my birthday. (It's still in my jewelry box.) And the little china doll a son's former girlfriend gave me when she came for a visit -- it's off to Goodwill. As for that fabulous Hermes scarf ... I am definitely not going to sell on eBay. (Although I wonder how much I could get for it.)