Many moons ago, my partner and I participated in a ritual for closure. There had been a few years of painful interactions and challenges and here we were engaging in yet another fight over the same issue that we had been unable to find connection and resolve over.
I can still recall the moment very clearly. We had been driving for a few hours, the road unfolding for miles in a straight line, monoculture farms of pine trees in neat and tidy rows either side of us, as we hurtled on the main highway north, a long way from home.
The heat in the conversation was intense and familiar. We lapsed into a deep silence. A voice came through me and, as clear as a bell, I spoke, ‘It’s over. I am done.’ He simply replied, ‘Yes, I agree.’ I could feel my heart begin to race and yet I felt calm. There was no drama, no anger, no wanting to retract the statement, rather a sense of acceptance and integrity that the time had come. It resonated for us both.
We found a place to pull over and drove up a dirt track into a small clump of eucalypts in the shade. We talked, cried and hugged. We agreed that we would continue our journey north and complete the following week away together not as a couple. We were hosting a chartered boat trip as the skipper and host with eight other friends. We would be transparent with the group about this change and yet, with open hearts work together and hold the space. We were fortunate that we could have our own sleeping spaces.
A few days into the trip, we had anchored just offshore and most of our guests had gone walking on the long sandy beach and would be gone for a few hours. We had some quiet time and the ritual on the front deck of the catamaran spontaneously unfolded. It was clear, simple and yet potent.
Another couple onboard, whose wedding ceremony my partner and I had conducted over 20 years ago joined us and offered their guidance and support for this farewell ritual for closure.
To be honest, I didn’t want to do it and at the same time, I did. In this light, I listened to both and held the mourning and resistance and the celebration and gratitude within this sharing. With my ex partner sitting opposite, our friends invited us to speak into each of the areas of our life that we had engaged in as a couple – the physicality of sharing space, emotional connection, heart space, our sexuality, our adventures, our celebrations and challenges, our songs and music, our many conversations, our battle of the minds and our spirituality. We were to speak and the other was to listen until it was their turn to speak. No questions, no corrections… just deep listening.
Each aspect of our relationship was given our focus and we were invited to share what we were mourning and what we were celebrating. And, if necessary, retrieve from the other was needed to be retrieved and offer back what was ours to give back. There were tears and laughter, many happy and painful moments. I felt moments of deeply wanting to step back in and, mostly, the relief of letting go. When it was complete, we hugged, laughed and I felt empty and full at the same time.
We still had a few more days onboard which passed very peacefully and with the most divine, clear perfect ocean sailing days we had ever experienced in the last 17 years. I had a few private moments of grieving, lots of laughing and long swims and walks on my own did me the world of good.
The charter finished on a clear, sunny morning and joyfully we handed back the boat, said farewell to our friends and to each other. My lips trembled as we kissed each other on the cheeks. I could smell that sweet salty familiar smell. Tears rolled down my cheeks and it still felt in accordance with something far greater than us.
My partner stayed on for another two weeks of sailing with different friends, and I headed home to prepare for this next stage. I felt shaky and I felt relief. We had agreed that in this time apart, we would each write a story of what our 17 years had meant to us and share that when we next saw each other. That is another story…
I am grateful for my skills in Nonviolent Communication and mindfulness which increased my capacity to listen deeply, to speak honestly and without blame and to hold an intention to connect and to hold the moment sacred. I am grateful to have friends who can also listen deeply and be in uncomfortable spaces without wanting to fix or offer advice. That is a priceless gift.
When the ritual was complete, our friend said, that my partner and I had so many wonderful things going for us it seemed disappointing that we were going separate ways, yet it made complete sense. We all laughed. Yes, all of this was true. I am grateful for that simple, honest and grace filled ritual of closure.
You can find other examples here. I recently came across this recording of a couple sharing their closure ritual using the principles of NVC. It is an intimate insight into what is possible given our capacity to listen and to share honestly.