Project Genesis

Family and Relationships

Marriage and Dating

Divorce and Grieving

Question: Has Judaism developed any rituals or guidelines for guiding people through the grieving process after they divorce their spouse? I am thinking of a process parallel to the traditional rituals for mourning the death of a loved one.

Answer: Sometimes divorce can be as emotionally traumatic as losing a loved one and the intense feeling of sadness and confusion needs to be addressed. If Judaism views marriage as a fusion of two individuals into one flesh, then divorce is akin to having an amputation. That is why we only resort to it when there is no alternative. You don’t amputate a limb unless it is posing a threat to the rest of your body.

Yet, not all catastrophes mandate formal grieving. The process of Shiva when mourning the loss of a loved one gives the mourner an opportunity to reflect on the life of the deceased, recall their attributes, accomplishments, and legacy. When the mourner can internalize some of this, he takes part of the deceased with him, and that is a great source of comfort. It gives meaning to his life, creates a bond and immortalizes his existence.

Similarly, we annually mourn the destruction of the Temple, and contemplate its meaning, significance, and centrality in our lives. We gain insight into what has been lost, what we can do to compensate, and yearn for its rebuilding.

However, in a divorce, as unfortunate as it may be, one must strengthen himself to get up and move on. You don’t dwell on the past, just look to the future. What it beholds might make you forget about your tears.

Sincerest condolences,
Shlomo Soroka

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