Is your heart a museum to grief?

You know that feeling you get when you read something and it’s being punched in the solar plexus? Well the piece below by Elizabeth Gilbert did this for me and I think it just might feel like that to you too. The original piece is here

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.



I absolutely love this idea and clearing my house of mementos of our failed IVF cycles kick started my healing.

stumbleAnd I believe there’s another step to take before you can have the positive life you want and that’s clearing out your heart.

How many times do you think about what might have been?

How many times a (day or) week do you wish that you were a mother?

How often do you walk through the museum of the negativity from your past, take something off the shelf, dust it off and think about it?

And it makes you feel worse doesn’t it?

Each and every time you think of what might have been you’re stumbling over your past and stopping yourself from having the future you want.

You don’t need me to tell you that when grief makes its home in your heart it’s hard to evict.

And you also don’t need me to tell you that it’s a real challenge to summon up the effort to evict it.

But take it from me, as Elizabeth Gilbert says in her article, once you do you’ll never look back. Getting rid of the dark from your past opens up space for new light to come into your future.

You know how cleansed and positive you feel when you clear out your wardrobe and make space for that new outfit? Well it’s the same with feelings.

So let me ask you;

Is your heart a museum to grief?

I know it might seem comforting to think about what might have been, but it’s holding you back.

It’s time to clear out every ‘what might have been’, every ‘should have,’ every ‘could have’ and ‘every ‘I wish I had’ from your past so that you can move forward with positivity and confidence.

So are you with me in having a clear out?

Over to you.

1 thought on “Is your heart a museum to grief?”

  1. Great post, Lesley, thanks for sharing the wisdom and inspiration.

    I love your extra step of of ‘clearing out the heart’.

    And “I know it might seem comforting to think about what might have been, but it’s holding you back” – is most definitely a Tweetable! Off to do that now 🙂
    Linda Anderson recently posted…Survivor’s guiltMy Profile


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