The Heritage of Divorce


What Impact does Your Divorce Have on Your Family Heritage?

As we celebrate our Heritage during the month of September in South Africa, honouring our diverse cultures and the various legacies inherited from past generations, I would like to explore the true extent of heritage for families.

Through the ages, mankind has always endeavoured to preserve its tangible, natural and cultural heritage. Each generation has faced its own challenges with the maintenance and celebration thereof. The rapid rise in divorce over the last fifty odd years, has a profound impact on the heritage of our families and communities.

When we opt for divorce, it is paramount to accept this fact and grasp the full extent of it. Not only does the status quo change within our inner circles, but the impact reaches far outside among the family, friends and communities in which we live and function.

As families, we have a tangible heritage too, such as homes which are our monuments; parks, school grounds and holiday destinations which are our urban landscapes; works of art and artefacts depicting the growth and development of each member; photographs taken on special occasions and story books read by generations.

Watch my Interview: How Different Parenting Styles Affect Relationships

During divorce, we should be careful not to disregard the importance of a family home providing a safe haven and familiar base from which to go out into the world and to return to whenever needed. Similarly, the urban landscapes in which we live our daily lives are an integral part of who we are. Sudden changes to or loss of these monuments and landmarks should receive careful consideration before being imposed on our families.

The arts and crafts created by our family members from their childhood through to their old age, deserve a rightful place in the halls of fame, along with each individual’s achievements, regardless of divorce or new blended families. These are reminders of where we come from and the talents we inherited from our forefathers and should be preserved for future generations to refer to. Photographs record the milestones and special occasions celebrated with loved ones and become a valuable reflection of our timelines. The same goes for the books our grand-parents read to our parents and again to us and so on, which are precious heirlooms.

9 Reasons why you shouldn’t burn your wedding photographs

Imagine the huge sense of loss for adults and children alike, when you no longer live in the family home and don’t have regular access to all those familiar heirlooms, as a result of divorce.

Equally valuable is our natural heritage and the support we show as families to preserve and care for our limited resources. Some would be devastated to leave behind a lovingly cultivated garden and others would mourn the loss of a beloved family pet that cannot be accommodated in a new dwelling after divorce. Not being able to visit favourite nature retreats or participate in regular community initiatives, robs us of the opportunity to find solace in familiar surroundings or make a positive contribution.

Who gets the Pets?

The way we behave during divorce has a huge influence on our future intangible heritage. When we disrespect and hurt the people we love, a culture of pain and suffering develops, resulting in bitterness and resentment. When we deceive and betray our partners, dishonesty and distrust becomes customary. When we engage in prolonged and unfair legal battles, conflict and bullying becomes common practice. Similarly, when we actively alienate children and parents, we enable negative values such as selfishness, insecurity and rivalry. Healthy relationships and bonding are no longer valuable and our beliefs in loyalty and honour suffer tremendously.

If divorce interferes or brings an end to our inherited traditions and rituals, we get lost and lose our sense of belonging to our tribe. We are left with little or no notion of family values and customs to honour and uphold as defining characteristics in society.

Read more about the importance of Divorce Transition Rituals.

It is vital that we critically evaluate the impact on the future heritage of our divorced and blended families, which we are creating in our daily lives:

Are we crafting cause for future celebration in spite of this divorce heritage or are we setting the stage for mourning loss and shame? Learn how to turn your divorce around and build a fair legacy.


Written by Sinta Ebersohn (creator of – Stellenbosch RSA)