Burying Dreams at Sunrise

A couple of months ago, on November 9, 2022, my father died. I keep thinking of the custom and ceremony that were such a big part of his dying and burial: the priest, the prayers, the family gathering. I believe my mother, my sister, my brother, my children, and I could not have made it through the initial grief if we did not perform all the rites and rituals as we did. 

The one person I did not want to be at my father’s funeral, yet agreed to join us anyway, was my husband. We are in the middle of an extremely difficult divorce, which is not appropriate to portray in print. However, his presence was in a lot of ways inevitable to the process of letting go of my father, and I am realizing this now, as we are returning to Court for the third time, in the ritual of letting go of our own marriage and our own family.

I am coming to think of the divorce as a form of burial. All these arguments, failed settlements, and Family Court presentations with their attendant anxieties are part of the process of coming to terms with a harsh reality. The security and trust we once experienced as a family are gone for good. The experts of all kinds help minister the burial of a dream, and hopefully will help clean the slate for each of us, and especially the children, for a life ahead. I know that the future will resemble nothing of what we built over years and years with different hopes and dreams. 

My son and I took some time to talk today after school. As I was explaining to him that he cannot avoid the grief over our situation, that it is perfectly normal to feel torn and frustrated, the perception of divorce as burial seemed compelling. My father died and his body had to be returned to the earth—disposed of—safely and properly. The rituals helped us deal with grief and look ahead at life without him. My marriage, the body that housed the dream of a safe and happy family, has died. The divorce is a long and painful ritual meant to bury the marriage and create the possibility of a life ahead without carrying the disintegrating corpse around. At my father’s funeral, somebody had to carry the cross during the procession, the closest family had to carry the coffin to its vault, everyone present had to throw earth on the coffin, someone had to lead the prayers, someone had to speak about my father and his legacy. Everything had to be balanced, there was a reason for all the gestures we made. In a sense, everyone had to agree to let go. After the burial, we accepted to return to our lives—without my father—each of us carrying a different burden of grief.

I tried to explain to my son that hopefully soon we will all be ready to let go of our little family too. We are becoming accustomed to new words in our lives—legal words that are cold and artificial, that carry the legacy of loss. But the longer we lug the dead body of the marriage about because we can’t figure out how to bury it, the more likely we will become irreversibly sick from its toxic fumes, as it decomposes in our arms. The sooner we end the divorce—carry through with the burial of our family dream—the sooner we can draw our lives ahead.

The mechanics of the divorce itself remap our lives but unfortunately not many practical decisions are in my control. During the past year I was able to win a fabulous job across the world. The dream of returning to my academic career with this job could have come through easily a few years ago. But I am warned that my hopes for the job—and financial independence—will be shattered soon. What the judge will do in Court, as he will minister over the burial of my marriage, will re-draw the future of each of us: I could be opening a new part of the map for my children and help them embrace the larger human family. Or I could be kept here, dependent on my husband’s child support and alimony, struggling. It’s terrifying. 

I looked into my son’s eyes which were full of pain. I wonder what he saw when he looked into mine. Every day I look into his sister’s eyes too. Their eyes are full of questions about what will happen to us, about how and where the Court will say that we must live. Unlike a burial, which is usually peaceful and swift, the divorce is not. Those who help in the disposal of the marriage have a lot of power over how, where, and when our future will begin. The children and I are deeply exhausted. I can only hope for the best.

I wake up without fail before the sunrise just so I can see the sky fill with light, hoping to see a new path ahead. I pray continually as I bury dreams. Freedom, that old word that cost my father and my childhood so much, has returned to me with a new sense of urgency. It seems as elusive as a fish from the sea I once rescued and held in my hands, before I put it back into the water and coaxed into the depths. 

2 thoughts on “Burying Dreams at Sunrise

  1. Poignant and honest. joining my prayers to yours and your children’s. Justice is slow in order to get it just right.Whatever happens, I have faith in your clear-eyed and brave focus.


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