For many people, when they end a divorce, there are no post divorce rituals. For some, there might be the sharing of some champagne as they finalise signing the relevant documentation to end their marriage. Others simply get in the car and go onto the next thing for the day. Still others throw a huge party to celebrate their new single status. And there are some divorcees who consciously finish their marriage with some kind of ritual and it seems to be a growing trend.
Break-ups are almost never easy. When we say ‘I do’, we say it in hope of forever. But ‘forever’ in many marriages often ends up being around 12 years (which is the median duration of a marriage in Australia). Divorce is a fact of our lives. In Australia in 2014, there were more than 46,000 divorces. That’s a lot of people who could benefit from closure, perhaps in the form of post divorce rituals.
Although there are some divorces where it is unwise for there to be a couples ritual because of safety or health issues, there are many divorcees who may be able to entertain the idea of finishing well. Sometimes it may take a while to get to that place, but when the emotional landscape is is being painted in calmer blues, greens and yellows rather than angry, resentful reds, oranges and black then a divorce ritual of some kind may be helpful.
Post Divorce Rituals Can Do Several Things For Us
We have rituals for many life events, including birthdays, graduations, birth announcements, funerals, bucks parties and hens nights, as well as wedding ceremonies just to name a few. We even have our own day-to-day rituals that help us to be grounded in where and who we are. Maybe you’re like many others and part of your morning ritual is to make and drink a cup of coffee. People might be able to tell if you haven’t performed that ritual! It’s not just the caffeine that might be missing from your morning that they observe in your behaviour, but also the fact that you didn’t have an opportunity to gather your thoughts and get ready for the day in the making and drinking of it.
Having a post divorce ritual may be a way for you to ‘get ready for the rest of your day’. It may ground you for moving on without your ex-wife or ex-husband in a way that signing documents just doesn’t do. James Windell, an author and therapist, says,
“What is the importance of a ritual? Rituals do several things for us. They mark the passage of time; they signify a milestone event; they help ease and publicize an important transition; they celebrate an ending or a beginning; and they are a public – or private – statement or acknowledgement of a transition from one stage of life to another.
A divorce involves a significant loss – and certainly it should be marked by a ceremony or a ritual. Post divorce rituals can be invaluable tools to help you finally sever your emotional bonds toward someone you once loved.”
Post Divorce Rituals
There is no set way of having a divorce ritual. You can make up your own, or you might consider some of the post divorce rituals that others have established.
At the Mantokuji Temple, in central Japan, divorcees are encouraged to get rid of any bad karma by flushing their break-up wishes down the toilet – quite literally. The temple, which is now a divorce history museum, has two toilets to choose from. A white one which symbolises the cutting of ties, and a black one which is for tightening ties. These toilets are meant for prayer, although people have mistaken them for a different purpose in the past. “When this museum was realized, at first, there were people who took it for a real loo and actually used it. But since we have put a sign indicating that the toilets are for praying, almost nobody makes that mistake anymore,” says temple museum director, TadashiTakagi.
Japan is also home to divorce parties or divorce ceremonies. Whilst in many Western countries divorce parties are celebrated by newly made singles, Japanese divorce parties are for the divorcing couple. And, although it’s not a party, the Unitarian Universalists (a religious group) have a divorce ceremony called a “ceremony of hope”. It is similar to a wedding, but to commemorate the end rather than the beginning. The divorcing pair have an opportunity to apologise and seek forgiveness from one another for their part in the breaking-up of the relationship.
Another way that couples are choosing to part is with a completion ceremony. This is what a Melbourne couple, Erin and Jen Kyna chose to do when they broke up earlier this year after 12 years together and 10 years of marriage. Although same-sex marriage is not legal in Australia, they had their own kind of marriage ceremony to celebrate their commitment to one another. Jen said, “We’ve both witnessed divorce, and even when we married we promised we would never end things that way. In our wedding vows, we promised to always love and support each other, regardless of whether we were together or not…” When their relationship broke down, they chose to focus on what had been good about their marriage rather than let anger and resentment make a home. They made clear boundaries for keeping healthy contact relationally and had a completion ceremony to help them move on well.
Post divorce rituals are a kind of emotional cleansing process, of not allowing anger and resentment over a divorce to fester. Instead, they focus on acceptance and forgiveness, as well as acknowledging that many divorced people must still co-parent children. Perhaps for these people particularly, post divorce rituals can reset how they view each other and they can co-parent successfully in the future.
What Is A Completion Ceremony?
- a divorce ritual that shows the parting ways of two people once together who are beginning new paths separately
- it shows a choice to move forward in a positive way
- there is often an opportunity to remember the good times and to put the bad times in the past so that they can move on with dignity and respect for each other
- it helps family and friends to join them in moving on, whilst showing the intention to remain as friends after the divorce
A completion ceremony or divorce ritual can be designed and carried out in the manner you and your ex decide. Maybe you could look at photos from good times you had on holidays or with your children, or write a letter thanking your ex for the fond memories you have of your being together. Maybe you can invite friends and close family to have a last meal with you both together as hosts, with toasts from everyone about the good things you did as a couple and for a hopeful future. It is up to you how many elements you create and include.
At Divorce Lawyers Brisbane we are interested in assisting people by having a divorce that is as conflict free for you as is possible. We offer a free, 10-minute phone consultation with one of our experienced family lawyers. Please contact us today!