Yes, Margaret, you can still get divorced in the middle of a global health pandemic. (Reference to Judy Blume’s classic young adult novel, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.)
Speaking of God, unless you studied epidemiology or public health, you probably didn’t see this coming. This virus is pulling us all up short, killing friends and family, and disproportionately impacting the lives of African American communities in the US. Simultaneously, it’s exposing our collective vulnerability and wisdom.
This is a crisis. Organizational development experts and change agents across multiple disciplines have recognized this as a changing point for humanity. The entire species is being confronted by our mutual risk to this new virus. I’d say this is a call to action.
If you are feeling heavy with grief and fear, I encourage you to look up beyond the horizon. Find joy amidst the chaos. Take this mandatory pause and reflect deeply on who you are and how you want to walk the rest of your days on the planet if you are given the precious chance to do so. Arundhati Roy recently wrote about this in the essay, The Pandemic is a Portal.
“Whatever it is, coronavirus has made the mighty kneel and brought the world to a halt like nothing else could. Our minds are still racing back and forth, longing for a return to “normality”, trying to stitch our future to our past and refusing to acknowledge the rupture. But the rupture exists. And in the midst of this terrible despair, it offers us a chance to rethink the doomsday machine we have built for ourselves. Nothing could be worse than a return to normality. Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next. We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it.”
Two weeks ago I heard someone say, “You can’t break up with me in the middle of a global pandemic!” The person requesting the breakup, replied simply: “Yes, I can.”
It is never easy to ask for a divorce or separation. Just because we are physically sequestered, doesn’t mean our feelings stop. In fact, being forced to stay home with your spouse and kids when your relationship was already on shaky ground is an unimaginable nightmare. This is not even addressing the issue of actual domestic violence. I’m just talking about the “regular” non-violent reasons why people want to separate and divorce.
Chronic stress, worry and fear about exposure to COVID-19, assessing how to safely obtain food and necessities, caring for the sick or dying, morphing into your kids’ teacher and day care provider, while being “lucky enough” to work remotely, sounds like a recipe for divorce.
If your sequestration hasn’t inspired the renewed commitment to your marriage or long-term relationship that you had hoped it might, take heart. You still have the right to be happy. You can pursue your divorce or separation. You can do it with grace and dignity. Since the courts in many states are closed while they re-tool to operate safely, this pandemic presents an opportunity to do your divorce differently too.
Divorce is a grieving process. The Collaborative Divorce model aligns with this time of collective opportunity for transformative growth through grief. Growth comes in strange ways sometimes. Is this the time for your growth through the action of divorce? If so, know that you have support. You are not alone. You can get divorced with kindness, respect for the past, and hope for the future. You can emerge through this pandemic and your divorce, healthy and whole-hearted. It will take effort and care.
Use this time to consider your options. Ask yourself, “What opportunity for growth and change is COVID-19 presenting to me?”
I am deeply grateful for my community of support. This includes my teachers, friends, and family. Wishing you strength, courage and hope during these turbulent and unsettling times to step into your best self. Even if you decide to get divorced.