On grieving my divorce and making Adele cry

divorce/breakups Dec 21, 2022

My final Grieve Leave trip of the year went unexpectedly viral…

My divorce was incredibly painful, and I wanted to end my year doing something beautiful to celebrate the women in my life who got me through it all. So, 14 of my friends and I went to Las Vegas for a weekend of fun and to see Adele in concert.

Of all the people at her concert, Adele happened to talk to one of my friends in the audience. My friend shared that we were there for a divorce party. Adele cried. We cried. The audience cried. And then, the moment went viral. It's been pretty wild.

The reactions from hundreds of thousands of strangers on the internet (and from Adele, herself) have been—thankfully—overwhelmingly positive. I've even gotten TikTok comments like, "This makes me want to get married just so I can get divorced." And while I definitely don't recommend that at all, what I do love about this crazy experience is that it’s helping to flip the narrative on its head that divorce = failure.

Part of what I wanted to celebrate with my friends was my simply making it through the traumatic legal process of the divorce, itself. North Carolina is one of the worst states to get divorced in in the US, requiring over a year of mandatory waiting. (Did I extensively research divorce policies in America and make maps? Yes, yes I did. I’ll share them for you at the end, here.) There is every deterrent in the way of someone who wants to divorce their spouse. And when women are much more likely to be the initiators of divorce, that means many women are surmounting obstacles that seem endless in our legal system to get out of a bad situation. So, just getting through this process that is meant to keep you from getting divorced is an accomplishment in itself.

Drawing out my thoughts on divorce

And yet, the night before my divorce would be final, after a year and a half of legal back and forth, I was in tears. I suddenly felt the weight of the "divorced" label looming over me. I would be a divorcée at age 33, and society had ingrained in me that that’s very, very bad. The refrain in my mind over and over was that my marriage had failed, and therefore I had failed. After a sleepless night, by 10:30AM the next day, it was over (and I could begin the months long process of changing my name back). I was divorced. It was bittersweet— I was thrilled this nightmare had ended, but I couldn't shake the shame of being labeled as a divorcée forever. 

That shame had been weighing on me for months, leading up to the December divorce party I had been planning with my friends from all over the country. But by the time we had all arrived in Vegas, I forced myself, with the support of my friends, to just own exactly why we were there. "Are you all celebrating anything?" "Yes, my divorce!" The more I said it, the more I believed I should be celebrating.

And boy, when you’re popping champagne with tiaras on your head that say "Newly UNwed" and "Divorced Babe,” it's really fun to hear people's reactions who had assumed it was your birthday until they took a closer look.

But, this isn't all sparkles and champagne and tiaras. Just because there is celebration doesn't mean there isn't grief and pain. If there's one thing I've learned in grieving all kinds of losses, including my divorce, it's that I hold pain and joy alongside each other all the time. I can celebrate my bravery, I can be happy and spend time with my friends, and I can cry about how things have turned out very differently than I thought they would in my life. I can be sad and angry that I tried so hard to make my marriage work and it didn’t, and I can be happy and proud that I left a marriage that was hurting me.

Grief is always both/and.

I’ve heard from people throughout this year who are going through their own breakups that Grieve Leave has been helpful to them. I’m so touched to know that you are able to see yourself and your own experiences in what I’ve been sharing. So, to those folks out there who are in the thick of it: if you decide to end a relationship, whether it’s marriage or not, I hope that you give yourself the grace to hold your grief in one hand while you celebrate with the other. You can carry both. You deserve to be celebrated. You are not a failure.

Adele certainly doesn’t think you are.

Grieve on.

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P.S. Here are the maps I made a few months ago in my "I have a Master's Degree in Public Policy and I don't understand divorce laws" rage. I also wrote a 14 page memo on it. I will do something with it eventually, but for now shoot me an email if you want to read it: [email protected].


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