Seeking closure in Divorce
May 26, 2011
You receive the divorce Judgment in the mail. You property and finances have been divided but you still feel a lack of finality. The problem is that lives cannot be divided like property. Children cannot be divided. Your feelings and memories cannot be divided. It takes time to feel whole again and you ask yourself, "how am I going to move on from here?"
One place to start is to examine what we usually do to mark life changing events. We usually ease the anxiety and trauma of life changing transitions by the observing some kind of ritual. Joseph Campbell explains that the function of ritual is to give order to human life at the deepest levels. Ritual is a way that people individually, or through institutions, such as religion transition from one state of life or being to another. Most rituals involve an element of gain and loss. The most important events in our lives are marked by rituals: birth, childhood to adulthood, marriage and death. We even have housewarming parties to celebrate a new residence.
Most people begin their marriages with an elaborate and well orchestrated ritual that both symbolizes and makes concrete their union. The marriage ceremony is one of the most well known examples of ritualizing a transcendent moment in life. One could argue that divorce is no less a transcendent moment. The ubiquity of divorce is a relatively recent phenomenon in our society, but for the most part we have not developed any meaningful rituals to mark divorce.
Some older cultures and religions do understand the deeper meaning of divorce and have created rituals. The Jewish religion has a well defined ritual for divorce which involves the writing, witnessing, and delivery of the get before three rabbis. In his book, Divorce Is a Mitzvah, Rabbi Perry Netter describes the process. The get is a Jewish bill of divorcement that terminates a marriage. The get has exact format requirements- twelve lines of the same length, justified on both the right and left margins, on a paper that is longer than its width and has margins on all four sides. The text of the get contains the Hebrew date, place, name of each party, the formula for separation and divorce, and signatures of two witnesses. The ritual itself takes place in front of three rabbis, and involves the writing of the get, the delivery of the get from the husband to the wife’s hands, the husband’s recitation of a formula of release, and the wife taking four steps away from her husband. The Jewish ritual is based on the idea that an instrument is necessary to achieve psychological closure from a relationship, and that closure must be accomplished in the presence of God. It is a ritual of termination no less sacred than that of a wedding or funeral. The ritual is described by Rabbi Netter as “giving a voice to the pain of radical disappointment, the feelings of failure, the moment of separation between the couple, the death of the marriage, and the need for closure.”
In modern society, it usually falls to individuals to create their own rituals. Many people have their wedding and engagement rings re-designed as a symbol of being un-married.
Creating some kind of ritual that symbolizes the ending of the divorce is, however, only the beginning of the healing process. After a divorce you will need time to heal the emotional, psychological, spiritual scars left by the divorce. Therapists, friends and family can help you through the process. Therapists suggest a number of ways of seeking closure after your divorce:
1. Take practical steps to establish your independence, e.g. update your mailing address, revert back to your maiden name, re-decorate your house.
2. Spend time and share you feelings with close friends and family.
3. Join a divorce support group in person or on the Internet.
4. Develop new hobbies and interests, or rekindle old ones.
6. Eat well and nutritiously.
7. Look at the positive aspects of your experience.
8. Avoid unnecessary interactions with your ex.
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