How ritual and ceremony supported me through separation, divorce and midlife changes

I was lucky enough to turn 50 last May… crossing the half century threshold or ‘The Second 50’ as I have heard it called. In any event it is a passage and one that warrants recognition.

In addition to reaching this milestone, I experienced other profound events all concurrently. Some might consider them  – taken together – as a mid-life crisis. This was not my experience, however I was aware of their transitional qualities and  transformational opportunities. The role of ceremony and the support of community allowed me to move through this time in my life without feeling completely broken or overwhelmed.

When I was 48 my youngest child (of two children) left for university. Two months later our family dog died and within the year my husband and I parted ways. We then sold our family home of 23 years, and I watched it get demolished two weeks later.

This was a lot of change. And a time of profound loss.

Looking back, it feels like the first chapter of life is about expanding – having experiences, learning, growing and gathering while the second chapter is about stripping away, letting go. For me I felt like I was being forged in the soul fire of spirit.

I was deeply humbled through this experience, raw and vulnerable. I have always been a ceremonialist at heart and even before I became a certified celebrant (which I was studying at this time) I understood the importance of ritual and ceremony.

My husband and I made our separation official on the 2nd of August… our 24 year anniversary would be on the 6th. Intuitively I knew it was important that we “unwind” our marriage on the same day that we wound it up 24 years earlier. We did this with kindness and forgiveness through a guided and witnessed ritual to mark this transition.

I do not believe anything can be ‘discarded’, especially not a deep long term relationship. Ours had been woven together with love and pain, joy and sorrow, and it needed to be honoured, acknowledged and unwound.

There is some pain and some fires that are worth staying in because they actually burn you clean. To face and stay in the deep loss of, home, family, and marriage was, I believe, an easier pain to bare than the pain of isolating and turning away. Instead through ceremony I gathered the support I needed to move through the transition and to stay present to myself, my life and its challenges.

In addition to ceremony for ourselves, we did another family ritual with our children when they came home for Christmas. This was to acknowledge the change in our family constellation from what it was to what it was becoming. Although they were skeptical they both said it was very helpful.

We also did a ceremony with family and friends to honour, bless and say goodbye to our home.

Ceremony and ritual does not need to be elaborate, and the individuals involved do not always need to be present. It does however need to be spoken out loud, moved through the body and witnessed to really create change. There is something very important about this. Something transformational.

Ceremony acknowledges that something is ending or dying, and it can hold us in the chasm of transition until the new is formed. Ceremony can bring good closure by marking an end, it can take us through the transition of the unknown, and it can initiate a new beginning.

I know that without family, friends, ceremony and ritual, my passage through this initiatory process would not have gone so well.

As a Life Cycle Celebrant and Ceremonialist who has experienced the benefits of marking life transitions in meaningful ways through ceremony and ritual, I invite you to consider where my services could be of benefit to you, your family, business or a loved one.

Here are some examples of ceremonies I have done or could do.

  • Coming of Age
  • Coming out as a gay person
  • Engagement
  • Marriage
  • Mother Blessing
  • Separation/Divorce
  • Retirement
  • Losing your job
  • Moving out of your home
  • Moving into assisted living
  • Post traumatic healing
  • End of life

Thank you for giving your time to reading this blog.  I would welcome hearing from you on how ceremony has helped you through a life milestone.

Many Blessings,
Lisa Gilmour 403-819-2583