September 29, 2016

A Few Thoughts On Death and Divorce

Categories: Divorce

aI have been fortunate enough to make it into my later in life years before experiencing the death of family and friends close to me. My parents were the first losses from my immediate family, followed by an older sister. My two younger brothers, my daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren are still living. A member of a close spiritual support group passed away in the last year, and another member of that support group is now dealing with significant medical issues that portent the end of life. Each of these deaths has helped inform and comfort my own end of life choices.

Like many of us, arriving at later life – and the successful treatment of throat cancer -has brought me to the being able to contemplate my own demise. I am very fortunate that I now am able to approach the end of life realities without debilitating fear and dread.

For one thing, it has taken my entire life to realize that each of us is limited to our own narrative of life, and few of us realize that the narrative given to us in childhood is NOT the only narrative for life that exists. That narrative has most often been routinely co-opted by the religious or faith group of our parents.

It is the default operating system narrative not only for our own life, most likely for all of our society. It can be akin to running our computer from the very first operating system made available to us. But because we don’t know what we don’t know we are deprived of the opportunity to learn about other operating systems that exist, much less the choice of selecting and choosing a narrative that best suits our needs.

The poet, Gregory Orr has said: “River within the river. World inside the world. All we have are words to reveal the rose that the rose obscures.” So it is that all we have reveal life’s meaning that life obscures, are words, and the only narrative – words – available to us is the narrative that is our default operating system.

Death conflating with the end of our temporal existence on earth is only one of the ‘deaths’ we experience in our lives. Paradigm Shifts, Transitions and Transformations are other processes in which we may experience symbolic deaths. Certainly another example of such a symbolic death may be the loss we experience through divorce. There are many parallels between loss of life and loss of a marriage.

Fear of the unknown is the first similarity that comes to mind. Especially as children death is frightening and dreadful. As children we have not had enough experience with death to formulate thoughts about how to cope with it. I did not have pets as a child, but I have read much about the benefit to children growing up on a farm and witness the death of pets, livestock or wild animals to provide the opportunity to grapple with this great mystery. Even with that opportunity, the reaction of children to death is one of fear and dread for their own demise.

It is not my intention in this article to address other narratives about life and death that exist, only to make note of the fact that other narratives do indeed exist. I only observe that if the only coping strategy we have is denial we will avoid allowing ourselves to ever think about subjects like death and divorce. Never thinking about these realities does NOT prevent them from happening, it only guarantees that when such losses do occur we will have no idea about how to deal with them.

Cultures other than our western thinking have wisdom by not only recognizing the fear and dread of things like death and divorce, but also knowing they are an essential part of living that can enhance our existence.

My message today is simple. If you find yourself caught up in the dread of divorce, don’t ignore it and hope it will go away. Only by becoming engaged in the uncertainty can we find the comfort of being able to move through the experience and allow it to inform our life in positive ways.

If you would like to learn more about how collaborative family law practice can help take the fear and dread out of experiencing divorce, contact any collaborative law professional.

Bruce Peck

Bruce is one of the founding members of the Collaborative Law Institute.
Back in the Wonder Years, this small group was trying to figure out what a new way of practicing family law might look like. Today the collaborative law concept has exploded, not just throughout the United States, but also internationally. For over thirty years Bruce has continued to hone his skills to provide the highest quality of services to family law clients. He helps good people make tough choices during difficult times.

Bruce is a laid back and easy going person who listens well to others. He is a shameless optimist who can always see possibility and opportunity. Being very curious by nature, he is a voracious reader. His love for words has drawn him into being an avid poet.

Bruce’s skills supports clients interests without alienating their spouse. When the parties reach agreement, it is not under duress. They have the time to discuss all decisions with their attorneys before signing the agreement. Once completed, the stipulated divorce is filed with the court for a default hearing in which neither party, nor their attorneys, ever have to set foot inside a courthouse. Learn more at

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