I’ve set out here some examples of secular rituals we all can use to help us in our healing process after divorce. The approach you take will vary depending on where you are in the crud, what your relationship is with your STBX, and just what kind of person you are.
You may not think of this as a ritual, but it is. The act of sharing with your friends that you are divorcing is one of the many ways you can ease yourself along in the grieving process. I realize, of course, that you may find the whole idea of grieving irrelevant, because you’re simply relieved your marriage is ending. In any event, sharing the news of your divorce with those who are important to you is likely to make it easier to deal with the divorce.
How do you do it? For many of us, it comes quite naturally. Others of us get stuck here. What do you say? What will they think? Sam told me he was fine dealing with his divorce, but he had no idea how to break the news to his Aunt Sue, who had always had a special spot in her heart for Sam and for his wife Latricia. “I just couldn’t get the words to come out,” Sam told me. He finally decided that he needed to tell Aunt Sue in a letter.
The letter was short and to the point. It simply said that Sam and Latricia were getting a divorce. Sam wrote in the letter that he had hoped to be able to tell Aunt Sue in person but that he just couldn’t bring himself to break the news to her, so he was using this letter as the way to get the conversation started. Sam invited Aunt Sue to call him when she got the letter, which of course she did. They had a sweet, tender conversation and several more over the next few weeks. “Looking back on it, I don’t know what I was so afraid of,” he said, “but the letter got me over the hump.”
This doesn’t need to be a big whoop-de-doo, although it certainly can be. For most of us, it’s more likely to take the form of a small gathering at our house, at the house of a friend, or at a favorite restaurant or bar. My favorite invitation was one Lucinda put together on her computer and sent to about 20 of her friends. It went something like this:
I need you to come so I’ll know you still love me.
(the address of her house, the date, and time)
I didn’t get much in the divorce, so don’t get your hopes up.
And if you’re wondering, yes, bring a present. Damn it, I deserve it.
You can read more about divorce parties if you want to.
It’s not nearly so important that you deliver it as that you write it. Some of the most powerful healing can come from a letter you write and never send to the addressee. Write a long letter. Pour out your hear. Vent your spleen.
When you’ve finished, you may even want to write the letter you would love to have your STBX write you in return. Of course it’s unrealistic. That’s not the point. It’s a way for you to observe a ritual that helps you move on.
Not everyone can do this. Sometimes the pain is simply too great for one of you, or both of you, and you can’t bring yourself to sit down and say a calm goodbye. If you can, though, it can be a tender and powerful moment.
Don’t try to plan this. It’ll never happen on the schedule you design. Just be open to the possibility, and it may come.