The legal process of divorce does nothing to heal the emotional pain caused by ending a marriage relationship. Filing final papers in court makes you legally single, but healing the damage to your psyche follows an unrelated timetable. Divorce can be even more traumatic than the death of a loved one. Instead of a loss fixed in time, the end of a marriage can seem like a death of a thousand cuts.
Like a marriage ceremony brings two people together, a divorce ceremony or ritual places you and your spouse on separate paths and promotes emotional healing. It can be a private ritual involving just yourself, your immediate family, or one or two close friends. You can involve a larger group of people, and help them feel more comfortable about the breakup as well. It can be as elaborate or as simple as you choose. There is even a newly published book with suggested divorce rituals. The important point is to give it meaning that promotes dignity, respect and healing.
Author Robert Fulghum writes about ritual as follows: “Meaningful rituals have a lot to do with gaining that inner harmony and making letting go as much a part of life as holding on. Rituals anchor us to a center while freeing us to move on and confront the everlasting unpredictability of life. The paradox of ritual patterns and sacred habits is that they simultaneously serve as solid footing and springboard, providing a stable dynamic in our lives.” From Beginning To End, the Rituals of Our Lives. Random House, 1995 (p. 265).
A divorce ceremony or ritual serves an important dual purpose. It helps you let go of the past – to place a period on a chapter of your life. You are then free to spring into the next chapter of your life – minus the burdens you intentionally leave to the past.
Too much analysis of your divorce ceremony can lead to paralysis. Give some thought to what works for you, but don’t be afraid to trust your instincts. Your divorce ceremony can be as elaborate as a wedding reception (complete with divorce vows), or as simple as a meditation (or smashing something into small pieces). You and your ex might plan something together. Your circumstances might call for you to plan an event on your own. Any ritual or ceremony that speaks to you will work, but it does require some action on your part. The internet has resources to plan your divorce ritual or ceremony. Do some research. Talk to your counselor, your spiritual advisor, or a close friend. Don’t just read about it or think about it. Plan it and do it. You’ll be glad you did.
by David Tracy