Monday, 30 April 2018

Memories Matter — Resist the Urge to Purge After Divorce

My ex-husband and I got engaged on Valentine’s Day. It may be a relationship cliché, but for me it was the perfect opening scene to what I thought would be our fairy tale movie ending.
My family has never done very much in honor of the Hallmark holiday, but his always goes all out. The children in the family receive special gift bags full of items designed to say, “I love you” in a way that is meaningful to a young heart. It’s a tradition, along with many others, that I continue to honor with our children.

One of their favorite stories is about me giving their Dad, a true fishing fanatic, a chocolate bass for Valentine’s Day one year. Unfortunately, by the time he got around to eating it there wasn’t much left but a fin wrapped in foil (Hi. My name is Theresa, and I have a chocolate addiction.)

What they love most about the story I think is it reminds them that their parents did have many wonderful moments that continue to be inside family jokes. Moments from the past woven into our current story remind all of us that the divorce wasn’t an ending — it was the beginning of a new family script.

My children have family pictures in their rooms that assure them they were created out of love. I still hang the personalized ornaments on the Christmas tree that show the four of us as sleigh riding penguins or happy little elves. I feel it’s important to remind them we are always going to be a family ‘til death do us part; we just define it differently now.
After divorce, many feel the urge to purge (or at least hide) objects in the house that serve as reminders of the marriage. Not me.

Happy memories serve as an anchor — they tether us to the past in a positive way. For those who insist that is easier said than done, of course it is. Very little in life worth pursuing is easy. But, at some point, in the healing process, you have to come to terms with the fact it wasn’t all bad or you certainly would have said I don’t instead of I do. We all decide what to remember and what to forget. I choose to remember the good and allow the bad to dissolve.
I surround myself and my children with objects that tell a story. It’s my story. It’s their story. 
At times, it’s a living, breathing Lifetime movie complete with props. Just because some of the characters have moved on to other roles, I’m still here. So are they. I see no need to erase the background and disrupt the set.

I confess that I am a hoarder of past relationship artifacts in general. I still have a valentine someone gave me in the second grade. I save significant emails, texts, cards, trinkets and other material memoirs. I immortalize them in albums or photo boxes. I don’t feel like I need anyone to stage an intervention though.

Perhaps there is a part of me that feels like if the objects disappear, so will the positive memories. Just because you can’t model a live broadcast of a healthy, happy marriage for your child, that doesn’t mean you can’t find creative ways to show them that at some point one existed. That too is a part of the story of us. All of us. They are not just children of a divorce, but also of a love story. A marriage. A family.

I think it’s important to make peace with all of your memories because they will be triggered by a multitude of things — certain songs, places visited, items you purchased together or favorite family movies. Free will means we all have the power to infuse our own meaning into any day.

Each year, if I can find one, I buy a chocolate fish for the kids to give their Dad on Valentine’s Day. It reminds all of us to keep swimming, and that the shore is always in sight. Positive memories, especially for children, function as a lighthouse to guide them home even when they have to navigate two addresses. Memories matter. Choose the ones that make you smile.

Do you share positive or funny stories from your marriage — or is everything you talk about negative? Which objects in your home remind you of a happy time? For Valentine’s Day, celebrate love by challenging yourself to remember at least one moment you treasure and honor that. Share it here-or perhaps privately with your family, friends or children. Maybe write it down. Life is a basically a series of moments. Which ones are you focusing on?


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