Woman blowing up heart balloon
Photo: Thinkstock/Elizabeth Hachem
We often think of weddings and birthdays as the best times to celebrate. Yet many cultures believe with destruction comes new life. Karen Salmansohn has a few ideas about how to turn that divorce or heartbreak into a brand new beginning—starting with throwing a party.
The word shiva has two different meanings—in two entirely different cultures—yet the meanings share the same underlying message. In Hinduism, Shiva is a deity who represents transformation. Through destruction and restoration, Shiva reminds us that endings are beginnings, and that our world is constantly undergoing a cycle of birth, death and rebirth.

In Judaism, shiva is the post-funeral ceremony when family and friends gather to share happy memories of the departed. Shiva is an uplifting time, reminding the living to appreciate the abundance in this world, and to seize the day (and kugel!) while you can.

I appreciate how both versions of shiva remind us there's a beneficial—even beautiful—alchemy of emotions that occur when you're faced with an ending. A healthful shiva perspective can help you view what seems like the worst of times as an opportunity for better times. For example, the death of an unsatisfying love relationship can be viewed as a chance to begin a highly fulfilling love relationship—one that will thrive, thanks to all your freshly gained wisdom.

Keeping both these shiva perspectives in mind, how about celebrating the death of a marriage or any relationship breakup by holding a ritualistic breakup ceremony!

In The Bounce Back Book, I explain that losing a love relationship takes you through the same stages of grief associated with death—denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Acknowledging your loss with a ritualistic ceremony will make you better able to transition through these difficult stages. You'll be giving yourself the opportunity to bury the darkness of your past, so you can move forward to a brighter future. And that's not just my opinion—divorce ceremonies have become a highly popular trend all around the world!

Start planning with these fun and creative ideas
Christine Gallagher, owner of a Los Angeles event company called The Divorce Party Planner, explains, "Divorce is part of life, and yet it's the only major event for which we have no ritual. A celebration communicates that divorce is OK—life-affirming, even." With this in mind, Gallagher hosts divorce parties with plenty of humor thrown in.

Celebrations include signature alcoholic drinks like the So Long and The Sucker, as well as fire-starting sessions involving various bits of marital paraphernalia. "Burning is big," says Gallagher, who's seen everything from wedding dresses to a husband's trophy deer head ignited into flames while campy songs like "Hit the Road, Jack" and "I Will Survive" play in the background.

Charlotte Eulette, owner of New Jersey-run Celebrants USA, loves to brainstorm one-on-one with her divorcing clients to create rituals with the right personal tone and meaning. For example, one of Eulette's male clients celebrated his divorce by gluing back together a broken glass—a reversal of the well-known Jewish tradition of smashing a glass at a wedding's grand finale. For her own divorce ceremony, Eulette symbolically reclaimed her maiden name by slipping a ring from her mother onto her wedding ring finger. Plus, she purposefully wore a shiny cocktail dress to symbolize her goal to "shine on."

In Britain, Estelle Williams runs Rhythm of Life, which specializes in offering alternative ceremonies, such as Divorce Letting Go Parties. As Williams explains, "The ceremony may allow you to say sorry or to say thank you for the good times before it went wrong. It may involve a symbolic action like the cutting of a cord." Debenhams, a department store in the UK, hopes to bring a little extra ease and levity into divorcing couples' lives by offering a divorce gift registry—so even if you are left by your spouse, at least you won't be left without, say, a toaster. The Great Northern Firework Company also offers a special divorce fireworks display that sends a colorful, powerful signal that you're doing quite okay and looking forward to an exciting future ahead!

In New York, Lyss Stern hosts regular Life After Divorce events designed to empower women when "I do" turns into "I don't ever want to see you again." She offers the help of seven experts—a matchmaker, a nutritionist, a psychic, a makeup artist, a life coach, a yoga instructor and a divorce lawyer.

Manhattan's Barbara Biziou, author of The Joy of Ritual, also offers a variety of healing rituals for the newly divorced. Biziou begins by helping clients write divorce vows to be read and signed in front of friends and family. The goal? To acknowledge the positives of the marriage; to let go of the negativity; to embrace forgiveness for both oneself and one's ex; to commit to being true to one's core needs; to heal the pain of one's past; and to bravely pursue a healthful, thriving relationship once again.

More great party-planning ideas
No matter where you live, there are now many online services that offer various rituals to help the newly divorced gain a better sense of closure. For example, WeddingRingCoffin.com sells a literal way to bury your past—placing your wedding ring contraband into a tiny coffin. There are a lot of funny symbolic breakup cakes available online too. The upside-down wedding cake from Sprinkles Custom Cakes in Florida stars the bride on top, and the groom buried beneath the cake with just his little Ferragamo-clad feet sticking out! Yes, it can also be made with a buried bride.

There are a growing number of divorce gift products on the market. You can find a wide (and hysterical) range of greeting cards, T-shirts, mugs and bumper stickers—perfect to send or give away at your divorce party. Here are a few of my favorites from the slogans I've seen:

"I do. I did. I'm done."

"Divorced happily ever after."

"Breaking new ground at rock bottom."

"Divorce: It's the new black."

"Ask me to show you my happy divorce dance."

"Wife goes on."

Divorce lawyer Leon Borstein of Borstein & Sheinbaum strongly encourages his clients to try their best to end things as amicably as possible. "It's a shame the divorce system here in New York isn't a no-fault system—thereby requiring couples to say bad things about their spouse in order to speed along a divorce. It's not only bad emotionally for the couple, but potentially for the children," says Borstein. "I strongly believe it's important for divorcing couples with children to recognize that there's no such thing as an 'absolute' divorce. You will always be in each other's lives—at soccer games, graduations, marriages, baby showers—you name it. Hence it's helpful for divorcing couples to have the 'move-on gene.' If divorce ceremonies are performed with the right spirit, they could be of true service to couples, helping them to move on."

If you're going through a divorce, you might want to consider performing some ritualistic rites of passage to help increase your chances of forgiving and forgetting past wrongs so you can make sure you're facing forward to a new, improved future!

Karen Salmansohn is a best-selling author known for creating self-help for people who wouldn't be caught dead reading self-help. Get more information on finding a loving, happier-ever-after relationship in her book Prince Harming Syndrome.

More Reading from Karen Salmansohn:
How to recover from Prince Harming
8 ways to forgive and forget
How to know and grow your potential
Ready to find love? Create a love teleology!
The opinions expressed by Oprah.com contributors are strictly their own.


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