What do we do with the memories and photos after divorce? This is a topic about divorce that I have not heard people talk about. But it has been one of the hardest things for me as I have healed from my divorce.
I have tried to write this post for over a year. But after numerous attempts – I think I am now able to write it. Perhaps because I have had more time to heal- or perhaps just more time to reflect on the subject.
When my daughter went away to college . I missed her like crazy. I still do! One normally usually uses photos and memories to help you adjust. To remind you of the happier times, when you were together . I would look at the pictures of her entire childhood (my marriage) and be confused by the conflicting emotions. I could rarely look at the photos. I think this made my adjustment to being an empty nester even more challenging.
I was married 20 years and although I am happily divorced. It is still confusing to look at pictures from my marriage. My marriage was dysfunctional pretty much from the start. But I think it is healthy, that I can now acknowledge, the fact -that not all of the 20 years were bad. There were some good moments.
I am happier divorced than I was married and I believe my ex is too- but I don’t have contact with him. I say this because it is important to emphasize- I am not sitting here wishing to be back with him. That is not the case- but it does not make these memories any less confusing. I suspect I am not the only divorcée who experiences this phenomenon.
My divorce has muddied the waters of my memories. I find it painful to look at pictures. It is hard to reconcile the good memories with the bad. Do you have pictures that you see that just remind you of a perfect day? I have that too- but then it’s difficult to wrap my brain around the fact – that although there was a heck of a lot of bad, there were also some good times . Both can exist. It is okay to acknowledge it.
To put this into perspective. I was with him longer than I lived with my parents (18 years). One kind of feels like they just have to forget all parts of your marriage. And if you have kids they also experience these conflicting emotions. I suspect if I ask my daughter, she would tell me, that she also does not enjoy looking at pictures of her childhood. Not because every part of it was bad. But because that family no longer exists.
I know that my daughter is glad that we ended our dysfunctional marriage. And I am so happy to see that she appears to be breaking the cycle and has a healthy relationship with her husband.
As more time passes- I find that I can look at some of these photos, and think that was a nice day. It’s not healthy to pretend that 20 years of my life didn’t exist. Although I think sometimes it is easier to forget. But for my mental well being, I try to look at photos – and see it for what it really was. It is as if my blinders of emotion have finally been removed and I can now objectively see things as they were. No hate, no bitterness clouding things. It really is liberating.
Generally I keep these pictures stuffed away in a closet. But Facebook has a way of constantly showing me my past. I generally just scroll on past- but I will sometimes pause and reflect. I do notice that now, I can look at them and think about the day. I kind of use the photos as a gauge on my healing. Good news! I am doing really good.
I can now see pictures and laugh and think omg- I have to show Kelly it is hilarious- or I think of the story behind the picture and wonder does Kelly remember this too? I can’t throw away all my pictures or cut My ex out of them. One day my daughter will want to have these pictures from her childhood. In the meantime my job is to keep them safe.
I also try to capture as many amazing photos from this chapter of my life. It helps me to stay grounded having lots of photos of my post divorce journey. I am really proud of the person I have become. My marriage brought out the worst side of me. It would be unfair of me to discuss my ex here. But I think he would agree that our marriage did not bring out the best in him either.
On my recent trip to Hawaii I made sure to capture many photos of my trip. Kelly has avoided the camera on most of my previous 2 trips. I explained to Kelly that although she may not enjoy looking at pictures of herself. I need to be able to have current photos of her when we are apart. It helps me to see her smiling face. I am reminded of the fun we have together. Kelly is an amazing daughter and she let me get many pictures. This will make it easier as I anxiously await seeing her again. Soon I hope.