Guide to Religious Divorce Rituals

More and more faiths are finding ways to sanctify the end of a relationship.

BY: Jennifer M. Paquette


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Coming to terms with those truths can help the divorcing couple as well. Divorce hurts our children by depriving them of the family into which they were welcomed. One of Kaessman's suggestions is to incorporate penitential prayers into a divorce ritual, with an emphasis on moving in a healthy, constructive direction. This kind of divorce ritual can help parents dedicate themselves to righting that wrong through civilized co-parenting in the years to come.

Some religions--like Judaism--actually require a religious divorce. Sobel says, "You get married in a religious ceremony, and this is a way to sanctify the end of a relationship as well." Most rabbis are well-equipped to deal with this kind of ritual, but a few religions resist acknowledging divorce as a life passage. In some Christian denominations, leaders have resisted the demand for divorce ceremonies, branding those who promote the idea "divorce advocates." But, in Kaessman's words, "Considering a divorce ritual doesn't mean repudiation of church weddings."

Many divorce rituals don't even require you to be on good terms with your ex. Clergy of all faiths caution that if your marriage was abusive or if contact may cause physical or emotional harm, you shouldn't consider a ritual involving him or her. But even then, you might want to consider a private ceremony.

Most of us go through divorces praying only that we won't be dragged through the mud. But what if we could come away ennobled, having learned something valuable about ourselves and strengthened our ties with family, community, and with God? In most faith traditions, divorce ceremonies are a relatively unexplored path, so you're free to pick and choose from the wisdom of others who have walked this terrifying valley.

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