|Forward Motion 411
Our society has created special traditions (sometimes referred to as Rites of Passage) to mark life changing events. Rites of passage tend to provide social support and offer a way to clearly mark entry into a new life while acknowledging the life you are leaving behind. When you get married, you have a ceremony and then some sort of celebratory party. A birth is preceded by baby showers and followed by a christening, a bris, or some other type of gathering of family and friends. Death is marked by a viewing or a wake, a funeral, and often a dinner shared by the friends and family of the deceased. Divorce seems to be the only life changing event for which there is no Rite of Passage and no show of social support. In fact, most people aren’t even sure of the actual date of their divorce because a divorce is not final until the judge has signed your divorce papers and entered it into the Record of Judgments. This is one reason divorce becomes so difficult for you and your family – even if you if you believe your divorce is your best option. More than 50% of marriages end in divorce and yet our society continues to carelessly sweep each divorce under the rug; leaving it unacknowledged and failing to recognize the enormous life changes happening to the men, women, and children involved.
Divorce is very much like a death; it must be grieved. A Rite of Passage that frames the divorce as the death of a dream (rather than as a failure), includes people who are important to the new family unit (the ex-spouse may, or may not, be involved) and assists in redefining the future. This can help to provide a much needed sense of finality along with movement toward a new beginning. So what can you do to create a Rite of Passage for you and your family? The answer is easy: anything you want!
Megan and Craig created a sort of divorce ceremony to be performed in front of their children, family members, and friends wherein they promised to be good co-parents, be respectful, and try to get along. Their friends and family members were given a chance to express their support of the two new family units and promised to not speak badly about either of the parents in front of the children. Others create some sort of ritual or activity to be shared with their children. These types of activities often celebrate the formation of a new family unit minus one of the parents. Karly held a special dinner with her children. The kids chose the menu (Oreos and soda pop). Karly set the table with her best china and stemware and the dinner was served by candlelight. Once dinner was finished, she and her children joined hands and sang a few of their favorite songs. Then, as the candles dwindled, this new family unit quietly planned how their new family would work and talked about how the divorce might change their lives. This ritual provided them a chance to formalize the end of their traditional family unit, acknowledge their new family unit, and move forward in a healing manner.
As you near the finalization of your own divorce, think about creating your own Rite of Passage. Try to include activities that will help your children acknowledge their old family and also feel comfortable in moving forward with your new family unit.
Article by Dr. Sherry Thompson