CoParenting Community

Relationship Workshop: Why Not a Healing Ritual to End a Difficult Divorce?

If it’s difficult creating two happy homes because of conflict and enmity between you and your co-parent, you might consider the role of rituals in your life.
 
What I mean is that we have rituals for nearly every significant event in our lives. There are baby showers and birth announcements; annual birthday parties; confirmations; bar mitzvahs and bat mitzvahs; graduation events for middle school, high school, and college; bachelor and bachelorette parties; and grand, elaborate wedding ceremonies complete with receptions. But what’s missing here? 
 
The divorce ceremony is missing. We celebrate getting married and there is often a religious ceremony marking the uniting of a man and a woman. But after years of sharing your life together, what signifies a divorce?
 
Usually, a routine scene in the courtroom. You show up on a certain day, wait in the courthouse hallway, and then it’s time you go into court, often only accompanied by your attorney – and maybe one close friend or relative. The judge asks a few perfunctory questions which you answer in an equally perfunctory manner. He signs the forms – and that’s it. You walk out pretty much alone. And for one of the most significant events in your life, you drive home and carry on with your life. 
 
No wonder it’s so difficult to get over it and get on with your life as a divorced person.
 
But it doesn’t have to be this way. And even if it’s been a few years since your divorce, you can still hold a divorce ceremony, which I prefer to call a healing ritual.
 
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. Divorce rituals can be invaluable tools to help you finally sever your emotional bonds toward someone you once loved. Here are some tips for creating your own healing ritual to cope with a divorce:
 
  • Go through all the photos you have of the two of you and of your co-parent. Allow yourself to feel what you see in the photos – and what you felt when the photo was taken.
     
  • On a set of note cards, write down how you met, what you did on your first anniversary, the first gifts you gave each other, the best vacations you had, and various other positive memories. This does not have to be done quickly; it could take days or weeks.
     
  • On a different set of note cards, write down the events and situations that caused you pain and hurt. This, too, could take a long time to complete.
     
  • With a photo of your ex in front of you, read over the cards aloud to him or her. You perhaps should do this several times.
     
  • Write a letter of thanks for everything good your ex gave you during the time you were together. This is a private letter; it’s just for you – unless you choose to share it.
     
  • Having done all of the preceding steps, design your healing ritual. It should be a ceremony that will be meaningful to you. It can involve candles and it can involve your closest friends or relatives – or it can be just for you. 
     
  • Choose a place for your ceremony to take place; perhaps at a park or a place where you and ex share a common memory. Or it might just be in your yard.
     
  • Include flowers, candles, photos (especially one of your wedding photos), maybe even music that has special meaning for you. You will need a bowl to burn the cards with the negative memories.
     
  • On the day you have picked for this healing ritual, go to your designated place and carry out the ritual as you have designed it, remembering to burn the negative cards. After burning the negative cards, turn your wedding photo face down, blow out the candles, and make a good-bye statement to your ex. Tell him or her it is time to move on with a new part of your life. Wish them the best. Conclude with a moment of silence.
 
End the ceremony with something special – like meeting a friend for dinner or doing something really fun with your children. 
 
 
 
 
James Windell, M.A., is an author, columnist, and college instructor. He is the author or co-author of 20 books, a newspaper columnist, editor of The Michigan Psychologist, and a group therapist with adolescent delinquents. His column Coping with Kids has appeared weekly in newspapers since 1986, and currently, Coping with Kids appears in the Staten Island Advance. He has written several parenting books including 8 Weeks to a Well-Behaved ChildThe Fatherstyle Advantage6 Steps to an Emotionally Intelligent Teenager, and The Everything Child Psychology and Development Book. He has been a parenting expert on AllExperts.com for 15 years. He has taught parenting classes for many years and designed a parenting class for a juvenile court. He teaches criminal justice classes at Wayne State University in Detroit. In addition to parenting books, he writes a wide variety of books, including those related to medicine, psychology, criminal justice, and high-conflict divorce (Defusing the High-Conflict Divorce and Take Control of Your Divorce). He is married to a speech therapist and is the father of two adult children and the stepfather of an adult son.  
 
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