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The Heart Beat The Heart Beat blog

New Trend: Divorce Parties

Some experts say it may help to celebrate saying 'I don't'.

By Kristin Wong Aug 17, 2012 3:06PM

Photo: Cultura/Zero Creatives/Getty ImagesThere's a new trend for individuals who have recently untied the knot—divorce parties. While it may seem out of place for recently divorced people to celebrate during what is usually a time of grieving, some experts say: let them eat cake.

These 'divorce parties' range in tone, but the objective is always the same: to begin the healing process. Theoretically, it makes sense that a ceremony would help bring closure. But how do these rituals work, and are they effective?

In a Huffington Post article, Karen Salmansohn talks about her book, Bounce Back Book, in which she explains that throwing a ritualistic divorce ceremony can make it easier to transition through divorce's most 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," she writes. "And that's not just my opinion. Divorce ceremonies seem to have become a popular trend all around the world."

Indeed they have. The Heart Beat talked about this phenomenon with Clinton Power, founder of Australia Counseling.

"In my work with clients we've designed rituals to help them get closure around the end of a relationship or a painful marriage," Clinton told us. "It can be very significant in the healing journey as it is a physical and symbolic representation of closing off the relationship and facilitating the grieving process."

And while some ceremonies are subdued, other divorce rituals are a bit more forthright. Christine Gallagher owns a Los Angeles events company called The Divorce Party Planner. Her parties involve amusing amenities like divorce cakes and aptly-named cocktails (the So Long and The Sucker). Fire sessions are also a big part of her parties, and they involve letting go of paraphernalia from the marriage.

While it sounds like all fun and games, these soirees serve an important purpose for Gallagher's clients. She told The Heart Beat:

"That's the whole point of the party. To take them from some sort of transition from one phase of their life to the next. We look at it as something really healthy. For every major event in our life, we have a gathering of people around us. But with divorce, typically, you're on your own. It's hard. And this is a way for people to say, 'we're with you.'"

So not only is the party about closure, it's about knowing that you have a support system around you. Gallagher further explains the importance of the burning ritual:

"I love to end the party with people sitting around the fire--it's very primitive-- and just talking about the person and their memories of the person and then what they hope for the person. I think that can be really uplifting and helpful."

If the client testimonials are any indication, Gallagher's parties are invaluable:

“After my divorce, I was bad-tempered and slightly crazy for months. My divorce party was cathartic. I finally let go of all the anger, sadness and regret. It marked the end of a difficult chaotic time.”

Gallagher tells us that she customizes the events based on the mindset and emotional needs of her clients, but there are always a few rules she follows.

"Pick the guests carefully," she advises. "You don't want to invite people that...somehow disapprove of it. Be respectful of the ex. I'm not into slashing the pictures or anything like that. I don't think that's really helpful."

But not everyone is entirely convinced that partying is the way to go when dealing with divorce. As one commenter suggested, "Children are of primary importance and a party which celebrates the split between their parents says a lot to them about where they stand."

The concern is understandable, and both Power and Gallagher agree that the children should be left out of the event.

"One concern I would have about children being involved is it could potentially affect how they feel about the other parent," Power tells us. "I think keep the divorce party as a private event for the adults so that the children don't feel obliged to take sides with one parent against the other."

"It's an adult event," Gallagher agrees. She adds, "I think the whole institution of divorce is shifting. So many more people are doing it. It is being regarded differently."

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