I studied abroad in England between my first and second year of law school. The program was scheduled for five weeks over the second half of the summer, but a classmate and I flew over a month early to backpack. We started in Amsterdam and moved clockwise by rail through Europe, sleeping in hostels and on trains as we traversed seven countries before our arrival in Cambridge the day before classes began. Lectures took place on Mondays through Thursdays, so many of us took trips on the weekends around the UK and to nearby places in Europe.

It was one of the most transformational experiences of my life.

To communicate with friends and family, I would send letters and postcards. The postal services charged by weight for international mail and it was very expensive, so we looked for exceptionally lightweight paper to send our messages back home. I was scheduled to be a groomsman in Daniel and Stephanie’s wedding a few days after my scheduled return to Mississippi, and I wrote the following words in a letter, which Daniel recently found in a box at his mom and dad’s home:

July 30, 1997

Dear Daniel,

Cheers! With two weeks remaining in my summer-long adventure in England, my thoughts turn to my great friend and the path which he has chosen to follow. I know you must currently be searching your soul for answers to timeless questions. I must say, my friend, you have followed your heart and you have my utmost admiration and respect. It will be such an honor for me to celebrate the union of two such wonderful people as my first experience back in the States. I have so many stories to tell and have discovered so many places I hope our families can travel together one day soon.

My eyes have been filled with visions of Seurat, Picasso, Van Gogh, and Monet. My ears have been touched with the sound of Shakespeare in four-hundred-year-old gardens and the power of the Atlantic crashing into the emerald coast of Devon and Cornwall. My soul has been elevated by rocks jutting upward into the Alps as I faced glaciers with the power of the earth engulfing me, but my heart remains in Mississippi with my friends and family. The next time I see you, my friend, that will be another great day. Please send Stephanie and Logan my love and prepare yourself for my return. Did I mention you may not sleep the night before your wedding? That’s okay because I won’t sleep either.



P.S. Did I mention I’m going to Sweden Friday?

I have read these words a dozen times since Daniel sent me a copy of the letter. I was clearly inspired by my experience and had a great sense of hope for my friends who were embarking on their own epic journey. These feelings were exponentially greater in the days leading up to my own nuptials with Rachel. It is the recollection of this type of hope I believe people grieve when faced with the reality a divorce may be on the horizon. 

Since I wrote those words to Daniel back in 1997, many people close to me have died.  My sister died of cancer in 2012.  She was too young. I lost my dad the next year in 2013 and my mom in 2019.  They were both 83.  Above all the words spoken to me at my dad’s funeral, my legal mentor, L.C. James said “If we could all be guaranteed 83 years, we would take it.”  

His words gave me great comfort both then and now.  L.C. passed away on Christmas Day in 2021. He was only 76.

Divorce and death profoundly shift the foundations of our lives. While these life experiences may seem completely different, the emotional journey one takes have striking similarities. I vocationally stand witness to the profound grief that accompanies the dissolution of a marriage, and I have weathered the death of many loved ones in my 50 years on planet earth. 

In death and divorce, we mourn the practical reality of lost human connection.  In divorce, I think we grieve the loss of the hope I wrote about to Daniel in my letter from England. In death, unlike divorce, there is no hope of renewal on this side of eternity. It is almost more bearable than divorce for some. Both death and divorce involve profound senses of loss which cycle between denial, anger, bargaining, and depression until one finds ultimate acceptance. Understanding and acknowledging these grief stages can help individuals navigate the accompanying complex emotions.

Just as death forces us to end the mutuality of emotional ties with another human, divorce demands the unraveling of intricate emotional bonds and practical entanglements within a marriage. Shared memories, dreams, beloved children, and a unified future must be reimagined and reconstructed, echoing the challenging process of adapting to life without connection to lost loved ones. Both death and divorce often carry the isolating stigma of grief, because society struggles to comprehend the emotional upheaval caused by divorce, just as it does with the mourning process after a death. Recognizing the legitimacy of these emotions is crucial for healing and moving forward.

Talking and time.

A strong support system is essential. A great therapist is a must. If you think you need legal help, you do. Whether coping with death or navigating the complexities of divorce, friends, family, and professional support provide necessary strength and understanding. Encouraging individuals to seek guidance during these challenging times is a vital aspect of my role as a divorce attorney. The good news is in the aftermath of both death and divorce, unique opportunities for self-discovery, rebirth, and rebuilding will be present. Individuals can emerge from these experiences with newfound senses of resilience, strength, and a clearer understanding of their own identity. 

While the grief of death and divorce manifests in different ways, and the emotional toll is undeniably profound, there remains great potential for something new and amazing for those who are resilient. Through challenging experiences, individuals emerge with newfound strength and a clearer understanding of their identity. The importance of a strong support system cannot be over emphasized, so seek help. There is simply more help than the challenges you face. 

Craig Robertson is the founder of Robertson + Easterling. For almost 25 years, he has practiced exclusively high net worth divorce and complicated family law in Mississippi. Beyond the legal maneuvering, which is necessary to dissolve a marriage, he sees his role as extending beyond legal guidance; encompassing the support of clients through the intricate and challenging landscape of emotions that accompany divorce. By recognizing the parallels between death and divorce, he provides compassionate and empathetic assistance for those who need to navigate the path of healing.