Isn’t that a powerful phrase? A museum to grief?

Below is a new post by Liz Gilbert. But first let me say: I’m a HUGE believer in getting rid of the past – I even lit mine on fire and did a tribal dance. Here’s a little story about clearing out my own Museum to Grief in a short excerpt from
“Want A Man? Make A List.”-

“I thought it would be a good idea at the time, to take all of my ex’s cards, notes, mementos, pictures, and poems – and burn them.
I would then scatter the ashes to the wind, giving the Universe a smoke signal, making it clear that there was now a boyfriend void to fill.

With my right shoulder cradling the phone, I took Wes (my BFF) outside with me, along with my box of memories and a lighter.
It was about 8pm – cold, dark and lightly drizzling, which I thought was a good sign. I put everything on a large stone, in the middle of my wet patio and lit it up. In a couple of minutes, there was a good little fire going, and I watched our smiling faces and birthday cards filled with his once loving words, melt before my eyes. Trouble was, a significant breeze had picked up, and started swirling a small tornado of embers all around me. I was screaming, trying to get away, but the lost love delivery system, disguised as burning memories, was in my hair, my face, and my mouth and burning tiny holes in my flannel nightgown! All the while, Wes was laughing hysterically in my ear!”

Here is Liz’s story-

“Dear Ones –

A friend of this page asked if I would re-post this essay I wrote last year about cleaning out your house from sad, stale, negative mementos. So here it is…and this quote below seemed like a good attachment, too!

Here goes:

QUESTION OF THE DAY: Is your home a museum to grief?

About nine years ago, a dear friend called me one morning in a state of joy, to inform me that she had spent all night throwing out old letters, photographs and diaries. She sounded so free and light, it was amazing.

My jaw dropped.

Letters and photographs and diaries???!!! Who throws out letters and photographs? That’s the stuff you’re supposed to run back into the flaming house to rescue during a fire, right?

But she had thrown away several giant black garbage bags of it, she said. Because many of those letters and photos and journals, it emerged in the conversation, were relics of her sad old failed relationships, or documents of bad times. She had been holding onto them the way we often do — as some sort of dutiful recording of her complete emotional history — but then she said, “I don’t want my house to be a museum to grief.”

The historian in me balked at the idea of this — you can’t throw away letters, photos and diaries!!!

But I took her words to heart. There was something so eloquent and haunting about the phrase “a museum to grief.” I couldn’t shake the sense that my friend was onto something. I couldn’t forget how joyful her voice had sounded. I couldn’t stop thinking about what miseries I had stored in my attic, literally hanging over my head.

Later that week, I took a deep breath. Then I took two big black garbage bags and did a MAJOR cleansing. Divorce papers. Angry letters. Tragic diaries of awful times. (YEARS of them: the chronicle of my depression — page after page after page of sorrow and tears.) Vacation photos of friendships now severed. Love letters and gifts from men who had broken my heart. All the accumulated evidences of shame and sadness. All of it: IN THE TRASH.

What was left were only items that made me feel light and lucky and free when I saw them.

That was nine years ago. I have never missed one single piece of it since.

So I ask you — are you holding onto anything that spurs memories of shame, of abandonment, of loss, of sorrow? (I don’t mean healthy sorrow, like photos of a beloved friend or relative now deceased. I mean items like the letter where your ex-husband explains to you in careful detail what a loser you are. That kind of stuff.)

Throw it away. Trust me.


Don’t be stumbling over your unhappy past every day as you walk through your home.

See what happens when you stop hoarding sorrow. See what space it opens up for new light to come in, and new, happier memories to be born.

Don’t be a museum to grief.


PS. I just read that a woman threw her old, dark, memories in the compost pile – and used it to grow amazing tomatoes! Gotta Love that. Do whatever it takes. Be creative – then tell me about it.



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