They first appeared only 21 days before my perfect, meticulously planned wedding. The harpist was booked, the dry-ice machine rented and my ultra-puffy Sarah Duchess of York replica wedding gown fit like a royal glove.
The pressure leading up to the wedding day had taken its toll on my anxiety-ridden 22-year-old body and I inflated until I resembled the pale pink balloons I had ordered for the head table. I could no longer fit my now not-so-delicate princess feet into shoes, and I anxiously joked that it must be a sign.
Ten years and four months later, I woke up alone in my home and king-size bed for the first time. My absent eyes stared at the bathroom mirror as the familiar tingling sensation travelled from the top of my head to the tips of my toes. An hour later I was buried under the itchy bumps.
Hives again, neatly bookending the beginning and end of my marriage.
My husband had moved out the day before and had taken our two young sons with him for that first night. This would be beneficial for all of them, I thought, and avoided the gut-wrenching scene I had envisioned of my distraught little boys waving goodbye at the window as their Daddy drove off. Of course, the agony of divorce lingers much longer than one night, especially in the hearts of children.
Compassionate friends, counseling, and anxiety meds became my lifelines and, gradually – very gradually – my new normal became, well, normal.
It never occurred to me that a carefully crafted ceremony including rituals, music, symbols, and readings could also have been a part of my healing journey.
It’s called a Divorce Ceremony and, as you may expect, I am often on the receiving end of peculiar looks when I broach the subject.
“Oh I get it – you throw darts at pictures and burn wedding dresses and stuff, right?”
Uh, no. Although these types of “bashes” exist and have been a hot topic in the media, I am not a proponent.
What I’m talking about is a mindful honouring of the rite of passage that divorce represents. A well thought out divorce ceremony led by a Life-Cycle Celebrant does not include mud slinging. The focus is on healing, not revenge. On love, not hate. On moving forward, not dwelling in the past.
Charlotte Eulette is the Director and Co-Founder of the Celebrant Foundation & Institute. She’s also the subject of her own divorce ceremony. “At a wedding,” she says, “we gather friends and family around in hopes that they will support us on our journey. A divorce ceremony is a way to gather them around and say, ’I’m moving on. Please support me.’”
Divorce ceremony rituals can be as varied and unique as the individual or couple being honoured and can include:
Serving as a metaphor for your new life, you can remould your wedding rings into something new and invite someone significant to present the item to you during the ceremony.
If you feel that your married name is no longer a true reflection of yourself, a naming ceremony can allow the opportunity to formally declare your new chosen name.
For thousands of years, labyrinths have been used as a spiritual tool for healing. One step at a time, a labyrinth walk reminds us that life is a journey of discovery, change, and transformation.
Light the darkness with this simple but impactful ritual by honouring the past, embracing the present, and welcoming the future.
Whether to yourself, your children, or your ex-spouse, saying vows can be a powerful element in a divorce ceremony, sealing your commitment for a harmonious future.
It’s been 17 years since that solitary morning when I came face-to-face with the realization that my family was broken. Since becoming a Life-Cycle Celebrant, I have often wished this type of ceremony had been an option for us. A safe space to reassure my children that we would always be their parents and always be a family. A comforting time to reassure myself and my ex-husband that our broken hearts would heal and that we were still worthy of love.
What I can offer now is to spread that possibility of healing to others by creating personalized divorce ceremonies to mark this traumatic rite of passage, to help them honour the time spent in marriage and to move, with hope, into a transformed future.
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Linda Stuart is a Life-Cycle Celebrant / Ceremony Officiant located in Toronto, Ontario. To learn more about Divorce Ceremonies or to plan your own, contact me and check out these resources for further reading: