This blog article comes from Bill Connolly, a Collaborative Law Institute of Texas member and a partner with Houston family law firm Connolly & Shireman LLP.
In far too many divorce cases, fear dictates what we do, what we say and what we finish up with at the end of the divorce process. The loss of the dream or illusion of the relationship can be more wounding than the loss of the relationship itself. What do we do with our anger and our sense of being wounded and abandoned? We have ceremonies and religious-based rituals for birth, marriage and death, and many other rites of passage in between. Yet, despite the magnitude of its occurrence, there is no recognized spiritual or ritual template for divorce, and in that, we fail to recognize the profound effect that divorce has on the inner world, and how it can leave people feeling isolated, confused, angry and frightened.
The underpinning of ritual is to bring meaning from chaos. It can provide order and sense to something that works outside of our control. Done properly, a ritual allows us a safe place to explore our fears, our history, and our wounds, as well as the best parts of ourselves that we hid, denied or suppressed for the sake of the relationship. It helps people explore what went right and what went wrong. Ultimately, it can help someone put healthy closure on the relationship and learn about one’s self in the process. Once identified, the joy and pain of the relationship can exist in the same place.
The planning of a divorce ritual itself has some pragmatic or practical aspects and some metaphysical ones as well. Creation of a safe place with safe people is essential. Special care must follow in the preparation and clarification of the intention. Some good questions to keep in mind, as you’re preparing such a ritual, include:
- What is intended, and for what purpose?
- Is there an expectation of a particular result?
- Is the goal a realistic one?
- Who will be invited?
- When will you have it?
- Where is the place?
- How much do you include?
- Who will participate?
- What do you leave out?
- What symbols or elements do you include in the ritual?
- How do you stay grounded and centered during the entire process?
- What do you need to do or have in the space in order to integrate the experience into your life view?
A divorce decree may disentangle the couple from the physical and financial realm but, without a ritual, the psyche may demand compliance to a patterned response and leave the couple enmeshed far beyond the chronological time frame of the entry of a decree by a judge.
Divorce tends to ignore the spiritual task of putting a fractured and alienated world back together. In a ritual, you can begin to see the darkness of the other as a gift. If you can embrace that darkness, it allows you to escape your own. When faced with the ending of a primary intimate relationship, a grief process is either invited or thrust upon a person. A ritual can provide guidance and direction and a safe place for the scattered fragments to gather and begin a simultaneous letting go and welcoming process. Fear and its counterpart, anger, should be invited guests to any divorce ritual, as they will be there anyway. They travel with you all of the time right alongside of hope and faith. Anyone courageous enough to face divorce with an intention to use it as a spiritual experience, as a springboard to a new and better self, will have all of these disparate pieces in attendance. A ritual allows all of them to be honored guests surrounded by supporters in a safe place.