Anytime we go through one door and into another, we have to mentally assess what we’re leaving behind. Some things from the past will always remain there, while we may choose to carry along other aspects of life before into the next phase. When we close the door on the past, it’s often helpful to have a sense of closure to make peace with what stays behind.
How do you get closure?
Some grieve the loss. Let’s face it, divorce is a lot like a death, so it only makes sense to work through the stages of loss to come to terms with the fact that life will never be the same.
Some perform a ritual. When people die, we hold a funeral for them. Maybe it will help to have a divorce party (somber or celebratory, it’s all up to you!)? Humans have tended to attach a ceremony or ritual to most major life milestones to make them “official.”
Some soften the blow with pleasant things. Who doesn’t feel better with favorite people, places, and things around? Your best friend and favorite pet in front of a good movie with a pint of tasty ice cream might be all you need to create a good send-off; just make sure it’s not a temporary bandage on emotions that need to be dealt with! Temporary solace is fine so long as you eventually face the facts.
Some say goodbye. In the case of a divorce, we have an ex and even friends or family from that side of the family who may no longer be part of our future. The divorce “goodbye” may not be as sentimental and sweet as the type you give your best friend before moving abroad for a year, and it’s possible that an actual farewell may not be spoken. In this situation, actions might speak louder than words, and it’s just understood that we’ll have nothing to do with one another anymore.
Some of us put a lid on the past through introspection. We don’t always get a “goodbye” or the answers and resolution we would like to neatly wrap up the loose ends, so we achieve this through reflection, taking responsibility for our actions, and seeking forgiveness. Sometimes we need to just forgive ourselves for feeling like we somehow failed. Sometimes we forgive an ex simply so we are free to let go, not necessarily because we condone their actions or wish to continue the relationship.
Sometimes we say farewell to people and things who will still be a part of our lives. When we co-parent after divorce, our ex, and to an extent, their family will still be a part of our lives. Closure in these circumstances means finding a way to close off the feelings and connections of the past relationship
Did you say “goodbye” to your ex and your past life?
Bree discovered that her husband was cheating on her, and fathering a child with his mistress during her second trimester of pregnancy with their second child. Her pregnancy, which should have been marked with joyous planning of the nursery and choosing baby names was, instead, defined by appointments with her lawyer to plan her divorce. She endured awkward prenatal appointments with her soon-to-be-ex, as they decided how best to handle his presence during childbirth and what their life would be like after.
He made closing the door on the past easy for her from the standpoint that she has absolutely no interest in a relationship with him after his betrayal. He also helped to push himself out of her and their child’s life because he requested not to have overnight visitation with the baby, which will significantly impact the amount of time he is available to parent.
Many of us, if wearing Bree’s shoes, might have been all too happy to walk away from the marriage, with barely a glance in the rearview mirror; however, Bree opted for an unconventional end to her marriage.
Bree and her ex-husband exchanged their “goodbyes” in the form of her discovery of his infidelity, which was followed by her announcement that she would seek divorce. No other explanation was needed, and he had already moved on to his next “victim.”
Three months since their divorce was final, Bree and her ex will board a plane to attend a wedding in another state. They are attending together, though not as a couple, because she plans to use the opportunity to say farewell to his entire family. Since many of them live out-of-state, this is likely the last chance she will have to see any of them, and a unique opportunity to meet with all of his relatives in one place.
Will she expose her ex’s misdeeds and seek sympathy from his family?
Will she give former in-laws and others a piece of her mind now that the marriage is over?
Will his family rally around him and attack her, since she will be vulnerable and alone?
Will she have the opportunity to express her affection and gratitude for the members of her family she still loves?
It’s hard to say what might happen. A wedding can already be an emotionally-charged event; but, Bree feels that it’s important to have an opportunity for closure with this large group of people she never plans to see again. A significant chapter of her life is preparing to close, including a family she was once a part of and people who once meant something to her.
In many cases, friends and family still care about both exes and don’t want to be prevented from contact just because of a divorce. In other cases, relatives take sides, almost without question; so, their relative’s ex becomes “the enemy” no matter what. Sometimes, we find it quite easy to pull the curtain closed and walk away, knowing that the pain of the past, and all those associated with it, can remain there.
Will you maintain a relationship with anyone from your marital past?
Will you say “goodbye,” say your peace, or just leave it behind?