02 May 2012

A Unique Experience: Tending to Photos After a Divorce

I thought I'd share with you the (4) photos of Danny that I saw before I met him.  These were the only ones he had on Facebook, and they were this size, too.  :)  (Neither of us really had any on-line presence at all at that time...and it really wasn't all that long ago.  Haha.  Look at us now.  Oh boy, times have changed.) 

Why so few photos?  Well, we couldn't have cared less about posting photos anywhere.  It just wasn't our thing.  And....when you are newly divorced.....you're lucky to have any pics at all without your former spouse.  For example, in the photo above, Danny was sitting next to his wife.......




 I looked at these photos of Danny a gazillion times in those first few weeks before I met Danny.  They were all I had.  Here I was, staring at these photos day & night - in love with this man that I had never met...and there was his wife!  Her hair!  It was evidence of the very sad & tragic situation he had just experienced.  Having that reminder of her was a tender & powerful thing for me.  I mean, a marriage had just ended.  Two marriages had just ended!  His & mine.  Divorce is an awful, awful thing to go through.  But here we were, in such a short time - at peace with the world.  At peace with ourselves.  At peace with what we were faced with.  At peace with the harm that had come our way. At peace with our futures, whatever they may be.  I had been feeling that miracle in my own life...but then to witness it so firsthand in another person who was also in the thick of the trial...THAT was unbelievable.  It gave so much more power to the peace I was feeling.  It made it feel more REAL.  I knew it wasn't just me - that this wasn't just a fluke.  It was just astounding to me to learn that peace was available to all - and that it was a choice we all could make, no matter what we were faced with.  And that picture of Danny, with his wife, the one who had just moved out a year earlier, was just a beautiful reminder of how real and powerful that deliverance can be, even when tragic things happen.

So what did I do with the photos with my ex-husband?  I am telling you, tending to those details is such a strange thing to do.  But when it was clear that my husband wasn't returning, I remember taking down photos throughout my apartment and replacing them with photos of my friends and family.  It felt important & good to do it.  It felt empowering to take ownership of my space.  And it made me so happy to see photos of my dear friends and family - especially since my apartment felt so very empty.  I will never forget the warmth and company I felt from those photos of sisters, parents, nieces, nephews, friends, and grandparents as I was alone in this apartment - it helped me to really appreciate the life that I still had, even without a husband.

 I really don't remember what I did with the photos of him.  I remember feeling strange about chucking them...because they were a record of about 8 years of my life.  But I also felt strange about having them in my home as they no longer had any sentimental value & I wanted to just focus on my new life and creating new memories.  So I cleared them out.  They may be stuffed in a box in our basement storage room. 
 
Though I do remember where one photo went.  I had a 20x24 Polaroid with my former husband, too.  And that bad boy, frame and all, went out to the street with a heave and a chuck, right next to the trash.  So it's either decaying in the landfill of Staten Island.  Or it's hanging on some hipster's wall in Brooklyn.  :)

What about you?  What did you do with photos after a divorce or break-up?  I'd love to hear!
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37 comments:

  1. I kind of feel silly for being the first to comment, but I was just doing my nightly check of your blog before heading to bed.

    I can't say I have any advice for photo's after a divorce, and I'm not sure if this makes me sound like a pyro, but I find it quite therapeutic to take the thing that I want to part with but yet feels like it was too much a part of my life to simply toss, and I burn it with our creme brulee torch in our backyard.

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    1. Love this, Kathryn! There is definitely a purifying aspect to fire. :)

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  2. I turned all the photos into one photo by sending them all through the shredder and then taking a picture of the shreds.

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  3. I thought you were going to be sharing "the stuff that changed you forever" on your blog to help others improve. Why the classes? I'm sure they are wonderful but won't you consider putting the information on the blog for those of us who can't take the classes? I love you guys, and I want to hear all this good information but $150.00 isn't in my budget right now.

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    1. Dear Anon - we love you too! Like Tabitha said below, that is why we have posted, and will continue to post for free. We *are* sharing "the stuff that changed us forever" on the blog. We're trying to put as much out there as we can in the hopes that it can help others, and we continue to dedicate more hours than we care to admit to this space :) But, there are some things that just can't be said in 1200 words, or are better said when you can see someone's face, hear their voice and tone, etc.

      We were invited to work with the Alt Summit channels and thought it would be a great way for us to do greater outreach and interaction with readers. But there are costs to the technology, platform, tech people to help run the class, etc. It takes money to run and is a risk on our part. The cost isn't meant to exclude, and I certainly hope you don't feel that way, but it can provide some people with a more intimate setting if they desire.

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  4. I ended an engagement days before my intended wedding day. It was tragic for both me and certainly for him. I left all my pictures and sentimental collectibles from our relationship at my parents' home and when I was there for holidays and other visits, I would sit in my room late at night and go through every single thing. It definitely wasn't healthy. One day, my mom sent me a package and in it contained my box of memories. She said she had found these under my bed and wasn't sure what I wanted to do with them. I finally was at a place where I was ready to get rid of them. I chucked almost the entire box--though I kept 2 pictures where I thought I looked exceptionally beautiful, to remind myself that love can do wonderful things to a person and not to become bitter. That was a freeing experience to get rid of the box.

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  5. A very sad sentence "When I realized he wasn't coming back". That made me so sad for the you of the past. I am happy you at least chucked one out of the window, you need to have that one act of anger. Great post!

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  6. Love the pictures of Vintage Danny! What a hottie! =)

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  7. Comment for Anonymous - Mara and Danny have soo many wonderful posts on this site - the classes are in addition to all that they have done and are continuing to do (for free!). May I suggest instead of bemoaning the cost, if you really want to attend a class, consider one of them. The Universe will provide to you the information that you need at just the right moment. Be well.

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  8. Getting rid of photos can be the healthiest, yet most terrifying, thing to do after ending a relationship. You're so right Mara, that after such a long period of time, it's hard to get rid of all of those things. But it's also incredibly unhealthy to stare at them every day.

    For me, after a hard break-up, I was on the phone with my mother and she stayed on the phone with me while I took down every single picture, card, or anything else reminding me of my ex. I put them in a bag (I had no box at the time) and stuffed it at the bottom of a shelf. A few months later, I felt confident enough to stash it in the basement and, when I moved out of that apartment a year later, it got tossed right in the trash - I had barely even remembered that I had it.

    The good memories will stay good memories, but you don't need the stuff hanging around to remind you of every moment. It's important to be strong and to put the stuff in the past away so that you can appreciate everything that God has coming your way for the future.

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    1. Thanks for the post. I have been trying very hard to figure out what to do with all the photos on facebook, blogs etc that involve me and my soon to be ex husband. he's become a pretty horrible person, but the beginning was soulful and amazing really. I've been thinking good memories will stay good memories; therefore, have mixed feelings about deleting everything. ahhh confused...........

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  9. I have actually kept photos of every past relationship because like you said, it was my life. I'm sure if I experienced a divorce it would be different because there would be much more pain around it, but my serious relationships in the past ended without animosity. Yes, there was pain, but love was still involved. I don't look at them, but it really is so hard to throw away pictures. I would have loved to see photos of my mom throughout her whole life with all different relationships.

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    1. I'm with Bri, I feel fortunate that my relationships ended well and look forward to sharing those people and their part in my life with my children.

      Of course, like she also said, in different circumstances purging the old memories may be therapeutic.

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    2. I don't like getting rid of any photos. All of my past experiences contributed to who I am today, and I don't regret any of them. While it's possible that I might feel differently if I hadn't been the one to initiate my divorces (2), I don't think so. I still have pictures of past loves who hurt me. It's my life. Of what value is it to try to pretend it didn't happen by removing visual references to it?

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  10. that is such a good idea-to replace them with loved ones. I have mine on the computer...but it is things like messages and emails...that i have to read to delete them...so i just ignore them...but even seeing the name still hurts...

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  11. It was a HUGE step for me when I threw them away. every single. one.

    It wasn't in hopes of being spiteful, or because I loathed him, or anything life that, but like you said Mara... there was a strange feeling knowing they were there, in my home, among me. So, once he remarried (4 months after our divorce to a woman who was 3 months preggo with his child), it was time for me to take the plunge. I chucked almost everything- wedding photo's, wedding video, my wedding dress (well I donated that :), memories, cards, letters... you name it I got rid of it.

    It was a really challenging day... but I did it and I felt such a calming peace once it was over. My little dude has some pictures in his room of his dad... and I have all my pictures archived on my computer, somewhere, but for the most part, I deleted the tangible reminders of him. It was too painful.

    I still hold very fond memories in my heart of the good, naive times... but as a part of my healing, I had to take that step and I'm so glad I did.

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  12. We had a child together, so I have several pictures of us in my sons room, plus photo albums that are in his room for him to look at if he ever wants to. I figure its important for my son to know that 10 years of my life was shared with his dad, good and bad, and we loved eachother. I want him to see that. I also gave my ex 2 big photo albums and duplicated each photo so he could have those memories of us, our sons first few years- as well. You cant erase your life. While I dont think they should be on display, I didnt feel comfortable throwing everything away.

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    1. I was reading through the responses and am glad I found yours. I have 3 boys with my ex and have not known what to do with everything because if I were to have thrown it all away, it would be years of my kids lives as well. Thanks!

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  13. An incredible post and extremely relevant in my life. I would love some further advice, if you could. I am a photo taker, and a believer of my children and children's children seeing and reading about the life I led. I even kept journals since I was 12 and photos of my whole life - friends, boyfriends, travels, everything. I have worked hard to archive and save them by burning them on to dvds, etc.
    When I got married, my husband had a real problem with my past being next to my present. I heard him, and archived all old photos, and then deleted them off my computer (it took forever, but so worth it). but, he doesn't even like the thought that they exist. and, yes, i've had that conversation about "these people made me who I am." so, any further advice on what I do from here?
    would i erase every old photo of me with another guy? sure. Do i want to? no, not really. that would mean good bye to prom photos, i just got a new car photos, make ups, break ups, and travel buddies. Then again, do I really want my kids seeing their mom kiss another guy? no way! but, it was my life... So, I would love to hear anyone's reply.

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  14. Ugh - this is a rough one. We were together for 7 years (college right through marriage) and 13 years of marriage. Plus 2 kids. When I was moving (in with the man who is now my husband) I found my wedding album. I stared at it for a long time. A well-meaning friend insisted that I keep it for my children, as it was their legacy. But it was MY marriage and my wedding day was a full 5 years before we had those children. So I chucked it. I still have the photo albums of our life before kids, and of course the albums of my kids have photos of him throughout. I'm beyond blessed to be in such a good place now that I just "steel" myself when I have to turn a page and know "he" will be there. Even worse, there were some pictures of his new wife sprinkled throughout, as she was related to a close family member (which is how he met her and began their affair while we were still married). You expressed the sentiments of this experience beautifully. Thank you.

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  16. While you can't erase years of history, you can make it bearable to look back at those photos of your past. This will probably sound a bit juvenile, but go wild "scrapbooking" them! Strategically place stickers, ornaments, trinkets, lace, tulle, ribbon, textured/colored paper, ticket stubs/passes etc. on the photos where your former spouse/companion is. You're even allowed to get as creative as you can by making your own stickers with appropriate words and phrases. All of this can also be done with online scrapbooking. Photoshop anyone? This too can be very therapeutic.

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  17. I love that you tossed the 20x24 photo -- good for you! I asked a friend once about her family (they had 8 kids). She pulled a wallet sized photo out to show me and it was a wedding photo with their entire family (including lots of grandkids) and my first thought was "her daughter is married to Darth Vadar" and then I realized she had taken a BLACK MARKER and colored him in! I was stunned!

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  18. I agree with you about throwing them out. I always do this after a breakup and put pictures of friends/family up because that's what makes me happier, not seeing someone that has negative feelings linked to it!!! Great post :)

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  19. I'm going through a break up right now and while I know I need to move on, I'm finding it really difficult to do things like getting rid of the photos of us. I guess I'm still in such a sad, grief-stricken stage that I just can't bear the thought of deleting photos off my computer, emptying frames, etc. I guess I feel like that will make it all really over. I know I need to eventually, but right now I just can't. I guess I'm just waiting for that feeling to go away until I can....speaking of, when does that feeling go away???

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  20. I only have pictures of ex boyfriends...in high school. And of course I keep these: because I always enjoyed looking at my parents photos. It was a hint of their youth, a glimpse into their life before me and them. So I figure my girls will enjoy learning more about "Mom" when their teenage years approach.

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  21. I am a scrapbooker, so all of my photos go into scrapbooks.

    I like the analogy "life is like a book". Many pages and many chapters, all of which makes up the story of my life.

    My personal belief is, just because I've had a few horrendous pages and a couple bad chapters doesn't mean I tear them out and throw them away....because the whole book is my story.

    My old photos sit in the old dusty scrapbooks on the shelf. They are a part of my life, so I personally could never part with them. They are memories of the past(the good, bad, ugly, and fabulous). Those old photos, memories, an life experiences....made me who I am today. An rare/occasional glance at them, reminds me of where I've been and how far I come, and how much happier I now am.

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  22. Oh my goodness. This post hit close to home. I got divorced three months ago but have been separated for almost a year. THe pictures have been a source of stress and heartache for me. My ex-husband and I get along very well. He is a decent, kind person and a great dad. But he is not the same person I married. He would admit that too. His core values and beliefs have changed along with his feelings about me. So when I look at him now, I see my kids' dad but not my the man I was in love with. However, when I look at old photos of him and our family, it makes me emotional because that is the man I am in love with..I feel like in a lot of ways, that man died. So I can't bring myself to get rid of old photos. And I can't even bear to look at my wedding album...maybe it is just all too fresh.

    Plus, we have four children together. So I feel like I owe it to them to keep the photos of our family when they were young. I want them to see photos of me and their dad and know that we were in love at one point. I want them to know they were conceived in love. We even had family photos taken when we were separated because I wanted my youngest son (who was just a year at the time) to have a picture of our family with him in it and both parents.

    There are no easy answers for this. It makes me cry to even type this comment because the pictures are so hard for me to deal with. If I throw them away, it feels like I am throwing away 13 years of my life and pretending it didn't happen. Anyway, I am rambling. Thank you for this awesome post.

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  23. What about all the stuff from previous marriages?

    My husband was married to his first wife for 7 years. They were high school sweethearts, so together for MANY years. She absolutely broke his heart, ripped it to shreds. As we've been together for only three years, we're still having lots of conversations about my comfort level regarding THEIR stuff that he still owns. The most painful was a framed print of a bride and groom given to them for their wedding, which he had up in his apartment and wanted to put up in our house. He finally sold it, but there are plenty of other reminders. (I recognize these items since I was friends with both of them when they were married. Nothing inappropriate happened--he was divorced for quite a while before we started dating. And it's not like Ikea bookshelves that, hey, everyone has. These are unique knicknacks and pieces of furniture from their many, many travels.)

    I'm also having trouble with the in-laws. They're still good friends with her. She stays at their house when she's in town. Their Facebook pages have tons of photos of her. My husband has tried talking with them, but they say they've known her longer than they've known me. It's really tough because SHE is the one that let him go!

    It's also tough because I sometimes feel like she's still there, she's a part of our marriage!

    Any ideas how I can let go, just let it be? I imagine 50 years from now it will all be old news, and he and I will have accumulated "our" stuff, and all "their" stuff will be long gone. But it kills me right now.

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    1. I feel for you. I think his parents are not acting appropriately. I, too, am married to a man who was "married" before for 7 years, but the cheating there started before they were even married on her part. I feel terribly for him and their child together. I put their "marriage" in quotes, because she never intended to uphold their vows. I have also spent many of our years together healing him from that experience. Love can move mountains. It will start to fade...

      However, I ended up putting my foot down when it came to his parents. I told him if they even brought her / her parents / their marriage up again, that I would just stay away. I shouldn't have to hear all of that every time I visit. If they wanted to know their grandchildren, my children, it would just have to stop, and they would have to move on the way their son did.

      I know this sounds harsh to others reading this (probably because you aren't in the relationship this poster and I am in), but it's the only way to feel happy and feel supported as a daughter-in-law. It is a brave thing to marry a man in that position - let them know how brave you are.

      Try to figure out why his parents are holding on to his failed marriage. Try to help them see your position of loving this man, their son, and your future family together. Help them understand that it means more than "staying friends" with his ex. It's hurtful and completely unnecessary. They need to open their eyes and realign their priorities. Have you ever broken up with a friend that you've known forever yet betrayed you? Yup, that's what they need to do with her. Buh-Bye.

      I will say, I think photos (archived or scrapbooked) are less harmful than items around the house. I wouldn't be able to look at all that. Doesn't it bother you psychologically? My husband couldn't wait to trash everything. He was so done.

      We also took initiative to provide printed and framed photos of us and our family to the whole extended family. We requested they remove all prior family photos, and even asked for some of them back so we could insure they were gone. Again, harsh? FOR SURE! Do I feel awesome going to see his family now? YOU BET! I feel so loved by them. Extremely supported. Yes they do it my way, but so what, now we can all thrive.

      I pray you can too! I think you are half way there since you wrote it!

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  24. I am "Anonymous" from 5-02-2012 @8:09. I guess I should have also signed some sort of name, but I prefer to protect my personal info online.

    I have no issues with looking at old photos. Actually I find it therapeutic, it reminds me of what I don't want, or what made me unhappy, or just simply "what wasn't right for me". I look at things, in a "learn from my mistakes" kind of way.

    As far as cards, trinkets, etc...
    From the first long term relationship, there was nothing to keep. No cards, love notes, jewelry, etc...

    From the second long term relationship, I kept every photo, card, letter and a couple sentimental items. The photos are in scrapbooks, the other stuff in a simple floral hat box, up in the closet. We ended on a friendly basis. Sometimes, it's just not meant to be and it's simply the end of a chapter and time to move on. I wish him love and happiness in his life.

    I think everyone deals with closure and healing in their own way, and what's right for one, may not be right for another.

    Best regards, Anonymous-Journey
    (I think I will use Anonymous-Journey for my "name" here.

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  25. Since I have children, I didn't feel it was right to get rid of all the pictures no matter how much I wanted to. I have a special box with my kids' names on it that I put our wedding pictures in and other stuff. When they are old enough to learn the horrible ending, I want to be able to show them that the whole 8 years wasn't that way. As for all the digital pictures on my computer, I didn't want to be facing those everyday so I moved them all into a separate folder, burned that file onto a disc for my kids, and then had the wonderful satisfaction of highlighting that folder and pressing the delete button. At first seeing pictures caused pain, but as time went on it became more about focusing on my life and the new path me and my children were on.

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  26. You and the hubby are recently married and you are both divorced. Not being the naysayer here but what merit or qualification do you two have to be charging others for a lecture/lesson about love and relationships? I like the blog and all, but I find it interesting that you guys are 1 for 2 but speak as if you've both been around the block...

    Also, I was divorced many years ago and after the initial anger and resentment subsided, I decided that my ex was as important a part of my life as my current spouse. I learned so much from my first marriage. I loved and respected my first spouse. And while I was angry, I didn't get rid of a single photo. I chose to own my past and to cherish the good about my ex. So to me, your last paragraph in the post seems to come from a vindictive place. Just sayin'.

    Thanks for listening.

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  27. oh man. i remember the day i heave hoed my 20 x24 picture in the dumpster too.
    i appreciate that you address this...the pictures. and i have a little girl, who after 8 years of infertility we adopted (so grateful) and then 5 years later my husband of 12 years walked out the front door. you can't throw out everything. i want her to know that her dad and i did have a happy life most of the time. and i couldn't very well throw away the memories that she was part of. i did however 'downsize' them and only kept pictures that included her....and a few of the her dad and i.
    it has been 3 years since my divorce. this christmas i made her a photo book and wrote all my favorite memories in the pictures for her to read and hold dear.
    she asks why we aren't married anymore?
    you know how i love mashed potatoes and you don't?
    and that's ok!
    i love to be married and your dad didn't.
    and that's ok too! (because i had to move on)
    thank you for your blog. xoxo

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  28. I got divorced from my first husband and married my second 14 years ago. No kids in the first marriage which certainly made things easier! After I had been married the second time and our first child was about one year old, I felt emotionally ready to toss the photos, so they all went into the dumpster outside out downtown SLC tiny one bedroom apartment and I felt SO incredibly free! Now our kids are a little older, 8, 10 and 12, and our 12 year old girl asks about my first marriage and she wonders what he looks like. I wish I had kept one or two photos from my first 'fancy' wedding for her to see! An interesting twist - next week the kids and I are going to my homeland of NZ on vacation (we live near Boston in NH so it's a HUGE trip!) and my mother in NZ said she found my old wedding album and wanted to know if she should hide it from the kids, and me, or if I wanted them to see it. I said show it to them - they'd love it! I'm so beyond any bad feelings at this point that I think it would be interesting. I'm happy for my ex - we are both remarried with the children we could never seem to have, (4 miscarriages while married to each other) and both doing well so it's smiles all around!

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  29. Four years ago, my wife and I decided to get a divorce. Since that time, we have lived apart and have grown in our own separate lives. We have done things separately, we have grown professionally and we have grown personally. She moved out of the country, and I have all of our wedding pictures and the pictures from our marriage. I am about to move to another state for work, and I have to tend to all of my personal items before my move. Unfortunately, I have had to tend to our photos. That has been terribly difficult for me.

    We both made mistakes in our marriage, but she will always be a part of me. I dont know how something so beautiful can go so wrong, and the photos bring all of those feelings out that I have worked so hard to block out over the past 4 years.

    So, I am going to separate from the photos, but not all of them. There is one left of her that I took in Seattle. She had the sweetest face, the softest hair and the warmest heart. The smile on her face made me feel at home.

    I think that pictures are a reminder of a point in time. They are representative of a moment. We can look at them and choose to remember what we want to remember.

    I only hope God can forgive me for the part I played in the failure of our marriage. No matter what happens, I will keep that one picture to remember the best of times. They did happen, and that picture will help me to remember it.

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  30. i want to thank God for using dr ADAGBA as my source of saviour after 7 year of joblessness and my lover left me alone for 5 years,Have just been heart broken until i go in contact with dr ADAGBA after i saw a lady testimony on how she was helped by this same dr ADAGAB,So i decided to get in contact with him and when i told him all my problems he laughed and said this is not a problem that everything will be ok in 3days time.Exactly the 3rd day my ex lover called me i was shocked and what surprise me the most was that a company i applied for over 4month called me and said i should resume work as soon as possible.Am so grateful to drADAGBA, if you wish in contacting him adagbaspiritualtemple@yahoo.com or is cell number +2348115200304


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