After the Divorce, a Party?
Parties Can Help Newly Divorced Celebrate the Transition to Singlehood
One family is coming together to celebrate a brother’s new life as a single man. The Heintz family is putting together a divorce party to celebrate the end of Greg Heintz’s three-year marriage.
Kristy Heintz, of New York City told her brother Greg, 35, that she would throw him a party when it was final. At first, he seemed to laugh it off. “The first thought that came to mind was, ‘I never heard of that before.’ I became intrigued and thought it would be a fun and exciting time to start a new chapter in my life,” Greg says.
“Greg has been through a difficult time as his marriage has ended,” Kristy says. “The idea of a party is turning things around for him. It’s something involved with his divorce that is actually making him happy. It’s positive,” she adds. “That’s our goal here — keep this whole negative thing in a positive light.”
Kristy says Greg has been worried about the stigma of divorce, but also worried about being alone. “He was feeling like he was the only one, a cross he had to bear by himself,” Kristy says. But a lot of people get divorced.” So the idea of a divorce party began.
Kristy and her four other brothers plan to invite as many of Greg’s friends and family as they can find. “We’re spanning the tri-state area here,” she says. “We’re really trying to dig deep.” The party is planned for January, when Greg’s divorce is final. One of his brothers even mentioned holding the party where he and his soon-to-be-ex had their first date. “He literally lit up! He said, ‘Yes!’ It’s turning a place that had been an awkward memory into a place where we can tie it to something happy,” Kristy says.
Kristy thinks the idea of the divorce party has helped Greg realize the support he has during this life transition: “As a family, the party is the beginning of Greg’s new life.” They are planning to bring together as many people as they can, both old friends and new, to celebrate Greg’s fresh start. “He had a really nice wedding, so why shouldn’t you have a party to celebrate the end?” Kristy said.
For Greg, the party will be the starting point for repairing what he lost during his marriage. “I am looking forward to starting over again,” he says. “It will become a quest to find the right person eventually. I do plan to marry again but not sure of the time frame. Right now, it will to just be good to go out and do things that make myself happy. This is something I lost during my marriage,” Greg adds. “This party will mark the beginning of my new, happier life.”
MARKING THE TRANSITION TO SINGLE
For one life coach, her divorce party was both a thank you to the people who had supported her during the divorce, and a way to celebrate her new life. About 23 years ago, Gari Julius Weilbacher, M.Ed, who owns Coaching Partnerships, threw herself a divorce party after her now ex-husband, Peter, had an affair that ended their marriage. Peter, Peter pumpkin eater, had a wife and didn’t keep her, now October ’84, Gari’s fine, sad no more! read the first few lines of the party invitation.
She threw the party in the apartment they both had before they moved on. She dressed up, served fantastic food, had music and dancing. She invited everyone who had helped her navigate her first year without her husband. “People were there to celebrate me, and I was really there to celebrate them,” Weilbacher says. She saw the party as a way to mark a transition in her life, much like one would for a wedding or a bar mitzvah.
“It was good, it was in important transition,” Weilbacher says. And I think that is what is important about these kinds of events.”
“People who are newly divorced often feel a social stigma about the end of the marriage,” Weilbacher says. “Divorce parties can add levity to the situation, but also mark in a palpable way the new beginning. My hope is that they approach all of it with humor and with an acknowledgment, really standing in their new life,” she adds.
Weilbacher suggests her clients have divorce showers to replace the items lost in the divorce. She said people can gather together to celebrate the new life the divorced person is facing, while also helping them replace their household goods. “A divorce shower really acknowledges the breakup of the household,” she explains. “It’s a way of replenishing, and also having fun with it. It’s got more humor to it, and a little irony. It’s different from what I did, but just as potent.”
“There are too few reasons to celebrate in life,” Weilbacher says. So she encourages people to find a positive reason, like a fresh start in life, to throw a party. “In doing so, one feels less solitary in life,” she says. “When you acknowledge the people who supported you, either with the party or just a thank you, it forces you to reflect on all of the support you have had, and makes you feel less alone,” adds Weilbacher.
PARTY TO BRING PEOPLE TOGETHER
“Divorce takes time, and a party can publicly mark the end of the long process,” says Christine Gallagher, the author of The Divorce Party Planner, a guide for throwing a break-up party. She says most life passages have some sort of ritual or ceremony, such as birth, marriage, graduation, or death. But divorce is a life event that is rarely publicly marked. “People need ritual, community to help them through this difficult time; a party can fulfill that deep need,” Gallagher explains.
The pain of divorce can also be eased by throwing a party because it brings people together in an encouraging way. “A party is a way of bolstering the person, letting them know they are loved and their decision to divorce is supported,” Gallagher says.
“The party has to be thrown with the right intentions for it to be a positive experience,” adds Sally Landau, a certified life coach and a dating and relationship mentor from Your Date with Fate. “The party should not be an occasion to badmouth the ex-spouse. It should not be a time for dwelling on the difficulties in the marriage or the hardships of the divorce,” she explains. “I don’t think that spending a lot of time in the negative phase is healthy,” she says.
Landau strongly cautions against bringing children into the party atmosphere. “Requiring them to attend might make them feel as if they are castigating a parent they love. They don’t need to consider whether they should be choosing sides,” she says. “They are already dealing with enough in their own lives.”
However, if the party is intended to mark a new beginning, for the newly single person to show that he or she is embarking on a positive new start, Landau believes the party can have excellent effects. “Parties can be a great chance for friends and family to rally around the guest of honor,” she says.
“To have support, but in a positive way, I applaud it,” Landau says. “Parties to mark major life transitions, in a positive way, can be beneficial. Honestly, I don’t think there are enough celebrations in our world,” she adds. “It’s great to have celebrations, as long as it is forward moving.”
About the author: Michele Bush Kimball has a Ph.D. in mass communication with a specialization in media law. She has spent almost 15 years in the field of journalism, and she teaches at American University in Washington, D.C. She recently won a national research award for her work. She can be reached at email@example.com.