Bittersweet Celebrations — Marking the End of a Marriage

We need culturally appropriate rituals for divorce.

Two months ago my husband of almost 11 years told me he didn’t want to be married anymore. Things had been rough for years and despite trying to leave him on multiple occasions I was still surprised by the news.

After a day or two of crying and lots of real talk with friends, I began moving forward. I downloaded a break-up app, started seeing a therapist, tried meditating, and continued to lean on great friends.

This was all great, but I got to wondering — what do I do about social media? I immediately unfriended and blocked my ex-husband. I changed my name to my first and middle. But these subtle changes went unnoticed by most.

For every other major life event we announce it. We celebrate the bittersweet transitions in life with cake, flowers and parties. Births, deaths, graduations, weddings, new jobs, job losses. Everything gets posted and celebrated or grieved. Except breakups.

Contemplating years of work, love and pain — and moving on.

There’s still so much shame and stigma around a “failed” marriage. I didn’t fail. I tried everything. I read all the books. We spent $1000s on therapy. We gave it everything — and it’s ok that it’s over. I want to celebrate the hard work I did and the exciting new chapter I’m starting.

A coworker from several jobs ago recently changed her name on Facebook to her first and middle, just like mine. Seriously, we have the same middle name. In the past I wouldn’t have thought about it, but now I know, and I reached out to tell her my story. She told me hers. We can see each other now — while the rest of social media posts about their new babies, engagements and anniversaries.

I threw myself a little “the divorce is finalized” party at my favorite brewery. A friend got me a beautiful bouquet in honor of the event.

So I got dressed up, did my make up, went down to the courthouse with a friend who’s very good with a camera and we did a photoshoot. I even threw my (super cheap) wedding band into the Truckee river, per Reno tradition.

I posted a picture of me on Instagram announcing the split. Some people expressed surprised, some sadness, most support. One recent acquaintance reached out to tell me he’s been divorced and he was here for me. So we got lunch and compared stories.

It’s like divorced people are this secret society of broken people. Except, we’re all broken and most of us have experienced major life-changing losses — why is divorce so taboo? Why do we have to be subtle about this?

Why don’t we have any culturally appropriate rituals to mark this transition?

I’m still sad. Today I broke down thinking about the loss and the unknowns I’m facing; but that doesn’t mean this isn’t a time to celebrate, to mark the occasion with flowers and photos. From now on, I’m making up my own rules.

Photo by Michelle Matus, call her for all your divorce photography needs.
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