Getting divorced is like going through hell. Depression, anxiety, frustration, anger, and worst of all, maybe your ex took the dog in the break-up. Maybe it had to happen, or maybe it caught you by surprise – but either way, divorce is unique among life events for how little closure it offers. Other major events, such as birth, graduation, marriage, and death, all have rituals to integrate them into our lives and allow us to process them in healthy ways. The importance of this ritual can’t be overstated – it’s a way for us to lean on our support systems, encourage each other, and help each other. We need these rituals. They give us the opportunity to help us understand the event that has happened, enjoy it or endure it, and ultimately accept it.
That’s why you should have a Divorce Party! A growing number of people are throwing these after divorce as a means of gaining closure after the traumatic events of divorce. No longer such a stain on your life’s timeline, divorce today is not about shame, stigma, or failure. While it can still be painful and in some cases undesirable, in many cases, divorce is accepted, acknowledged as an opportunity for new opportunities and fresh starts.
Culturally, divorce is heavy-handed, with an emphasis on legal conflict, blame, and loss. It often can be painful for both parties, and draining in more ways than one, so this cultural image is in many ways understandable. However, a divorce party allows you to work through the emotions in a positive way, through celebration and ritual, like a celebration of life after a loved one has passed.
Of course, not everyone is comfortable with this idea. Celebrating the end of a marriage? The loss of love? This is not what is being celebrated, just as a funeral or celebration of life is not celebrating death. Rather, the divorce party is about celebrating a love that was, and encouraging participants to look forward and imagine new opportunities and a new life in a positive way.
There are many ways you can have a divorce party. It can be as simple as any other gathering, with festivities, laughter, and silliness. Sometimes that’s just what is needed by those involved in a divorce. Other events could be more sombre, or more thoughtfully arranged, again depending on the needs of the divorced.
The divorcees will be the most likely people to throw a divorce party, but friends and family could also be involved or initiate the event. If you’re throwing your own, try to involve as many close friends and family as possible, in just the same way you would with your wedding. This is critical for the purpose of the divorce party – to remind you that you have people in your life who love and care about you, to spend time with those close to you who will encourage you in your new life.
Sometimes a divorced couple may themselves throw a joint divorce party. Sound strange? It isn’t! Many divorces end amicably, sometimes even joyfully, when two people mutually realize that their lives would be better off separated. Hosting a joint divorce party is a way to remind everyone that you are still important to one another, you can be civil, and you aren’t looking to split up the friends and family between you.
Should You Throw a Divorce Party?
So, should you throw a divorce party? Well, if the ceremony has been important for you in the past, i.e., for birthdays, marriages, etc., then there’s a good chance this one will be good for you, too. If you’re looking to honour your marriage, end it on a positive note, or simply surround yourself with friends and family during a difficult time, the divorce party is a great way to do it.
It doesn’t have to be an enormous, elaborate affair, though it can be if you like! It can be as simple as a private moment, shared among those closest to you, either privately or with your ex, allowing conversation and understanding to lead to healing.
A recent article by Geraldine Fabrikant in the New York Times detailed one high-society example of a divorce party:
“Mr. Bronfman, the former chairman of the Seagram Company, and that their ‘friendship is stronger without being married’ and that they wanted to thank their friends for the support. On the invitation, they wrote that they looked forward ‘to continuing these relationships with everyone.'”
There are even marriage therapists, such as Renee Beck in California, who have good things to say about it. She says, “To really bring closure, as humans, we go back and look at what happened. What have we learned, what have we gotten out of our experience? Marriage is initiated with a very special energy. For a relationship that started that way to end without any formal marking is sad, and can make it really difficult. It’s wonderful to acknowledge how important it has been, how much we have learned, what we have given to each other.”
Sometimes, we need a ceremony, we need rituals, we need symbolism. Signing affidavits in a lawyer’s office doesn’t quite cut it, in these cases. The end of a marriage feels more significant than that, and it’s important for us to connect – or reconnect – with that feeling of depth in light of a recent loss, such as divorce. The legendary Carl Jung says it best:
“Only the symbolic life can express the need of the soul.”
There has been a lot of buzz about divorce parties lately, and some of it has missed the mark.
Like this title: Marriage Is “Out” and Divorce Parties Are “In”. The article gets the idea but the heading is misleading. No one is saying marriage is bad or that anyone wants to get a divorce, or that divorce is something we should all do. Marriage is most definitely not “out,” although when marriages end, divorce parties are definitely gaining in popularity.
Some of it is coverage that’s getting the word out there, like this one which sums it all up nicely.
Then there are pieces where the author is grossly misinformed as to what a divorce party is, like this one, where the author’s understanding of it is: “Divorce party: a celebration of a broken vow. “Hooray! We quit on ourselves and each other! Now let’s dance!”
When I first heard of divorce parties, I thought the idea was pretty morbid as well, but I changed my mind once I understood the point. The point of a divorce party is not to take something disappointing or hard and celebrate it, and party because a marriage failed. The point is that once you’ve done everything you can to save a marriage and it’s not possible, it’s time to pick up the pieces, and look to the future, and celebrate a fresh start and the fact that there is still life left to live. Why sit around moping? What if the divorce wasn’t your choice, even, but it still happens? What if your relationship was not good for anyone involved and divorce is the best option? Why hang your head in shame, when you’ve tried and tried to make it work?
There are always going to be people who don’t understand your choices, and who will be judgmental of your divorce, whether or not it was your choice, and who will not understand if you throw a party to celebrate your new life. But, if a party helps to mark the fact that you’re moving forward — like New Year’s Eve does for some people — then that’s a good thing, and worth celebrating.
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