Toronto Star Tuesday: What to do with souvenirs from past relationships

Bad poetry. Mix CDs. Postcards from Sedona, Ariz. Postcards from Berlin. A freezer-burnt wrist corsage. Tiki mugs. An electric can opener.

These are a few of my favourite things that old boyfriends have given me over the years. I still have most of these objects. (The electric can opener did not survive a particularly stressful move, not unlike the relationship itself).

Call me sentimental, but I just can’t seem to part with the material reminders of people I used to love. Just because a relationship is over doesn’t invalidate all of time we spent together and the memories we shared.

Not everyone wants to hang onto souvenirs from ex-partners, especially if the breakup is a fresh one. Everyday objects can be extremely painful reminders of a difficult time.

“It’s difficult to throw away or give away objects that have a lot of sentimental value,” says Alexis Hyde, director of the Museum of Broken Relationships in Los Angeles, which takes in anonymously donated post-breakup memorabilia. “There is no ritual that we have yet that can honour a relationship adequately. No funeral, if you will. This is a place that you can lay it to rest, along with other stories from all over the world, and know that the relationship had merit.”

It’s interesting that Hyde mentions funerals. The end of a relationship often feels like the death of something — future plans, a parallel life in which you were going to be with this person for the long haul and, above all else, the death of a friendship (in most cases). So it makes sense that we ritualize our grief in the face of such endings.

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