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 by holding a ritualistic breakup ceremony?
In my 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 seem have become a popular trend all around the world.
As Christine Gallagher, owner of a Los Angeles events 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's 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 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, Barbara Biziou, author of The Joy of Ritual, 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 heal the pain of one's past so you can bravely pursue a healthful, thriving relationship.
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 features 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.
Divorce lawyer Leon Borstein of Borstein & Sheinbaum strongly encourages his clients to try their best to end things as amicably as possible. "For those divorcing couples with children, they must remember and gear their thoughts and actions to the reality that they will never be totally divorced from each other. That means that they will be jointly attending all the sports and graduation and significant events in their children's lives till the day they die. Often with their new significant other. It's key to act accordingly on behalf of the kids and the grandchildren by allowing the greatest access to the children, supporting the decisions of the other and refraining from criticism."
I agree with Leon Borstein. It's key to everyone's happiness to make sure that when you leave your relationship behind, you're looking forward to a new, improved future. Why not celebrate that with a divorce ritual?
Karen Salmansohn founder of notsalmon.com, a top inspirational website in the US, is a best-selling author/designer with over 1 million books sold - known for creating self-help for people who wouldn't be caught dead doing self-help -because of her feisty humor and stylish graphics. If you're presently bouncing back from a bad break up, you can check out her Bounce Back Book and Prince Harming Syndrome book - both recommended on Oprah's site.