Burning up your ugly divorce stuff


“Happily remarried, in a new city with a new job, Carolyn Bourassa felt the time was finally right to get rid of her 10-year-old divorce papers.  Somehow, though, the recycling bin didn’t seem appropriate.  She wanted the papers burned – flamboyantly, in-your-face- torched – in a symbolic act of closure and renewal.” ~ Stephanie Simon, The Wall Street Journal 

Stephanie Simon of the Wall Street Journal wrote an article a while back about something called a Zozobra or “Old Man Gloom.” It is a giant effigy of wood and chicken wire that every summer for the past 85 years, Santa Fe artisans have stuffed full of their woes. Jilted brides bring unused wedding dresses. Cancer patients bring hospital gowns. Foreclosure papers and credit cards, police reports, photographs of old lovers and uniforms from jobs gone bust are all appropriate woes to feed Zozobra.  

When Zozobra is stuffed full, thousands of people gather to watch him set afire in a spectacular ritual of public catharsis. For participants, it’s a freeing experience. Ms. Bourassa’s divorce papers were amongst the flames this year.

I’m sure it is empowering to be standing shoulder-to-shoulder with about 20,000 other people getting rid of their respective gloom in one spectacular blaze. Maybe the R.A.D.I.C.A.L. Women could meet in some field somewhere every year and have a Zozobra of our own.

P.S. Check with your divorce attorney.  I have no idea how long we need to keep those papers, legally, but I love the idea of seeing all of that go up in smoke as we are moving joyfully on to our new life.

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About the Author:

Suzy developed Midlife Divorce Recovery as a safe refuge for people healing and surviving the overwhelm of divorce. Starting her first RADiCAL support group in 2003 she's been helping women navigate the journey of divorce ever since.

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