I just saw the pulse-pounding film Gravity, about American astronauts who are stranded in space following an unexpected catastrophe. This is not a spoiler alert—anyone who has seen a trailer for the movie knows this is going to happen. Without giving anything else away, I want to talk about a theme that runs through this film: when there are no guarantees of safety, but holding on is not an option, how do you find the courage to let go? If you are facing divorce, this is a question you may feel forced to answer against your will. For many people, divorce is an unexpected, disorienting catastrophe for which they are not prepared. In an instant, the world is spinning out of control. It can feel as if you are staring into the void, rudderless and without an anchor. There is no longer safety in trying to hold onto the past, but what lies ahead feels absolutely uncertain. “I have to let go, but how will I survive?” is a very real question. “You will make it!” is the answer. And despite how lonely you might feel, you are not alone. There are sources of support that you have never known about, because until now you haven’t had to find them. It is possible to find handholds, but you do need to make some leaps of faith, while acknowledging the reality that there are no absolute guarantees in life. One source of support is Collaborative Team Practice, an out-of-court divorce option that you may never have heard of before. A Collaborative Team provides calm, experienced and supportive assistance through the crisis, and helps families transform the chaos and anxiety that can accompany a divorce into a safer and clearer road map for the future. If this sounds like the kind of handhold you have been searching for as you need to let go, please visit our website at www.collaborative law.org. Any of our multidisciplinary team professionals–attorneys, financial neutrals, neutral coaches and neutral child specialists–can provide a free initial consultation to explain the process and inform you of your options. We are here for you, and know that you can find us.
Mindfulness is a concept that has become part of mainstream American culture over the past decade. Hectic lifestyles, information overload and constant distractions have led more of us to look for a way to quiet our minds. In fact, many public schools, professional athletes, large corporations, and even the U. S. military, are using meditation exercises to reduce stress levels. Divorce is one of life’s most stressful experiences. Often much attention is focused on the past and the future, triggering both unpleasant memories and fearful expectations. As someone who knows first-hand the benefits of daily meditation, I see great value in using mindfulness principles in my Collaborative divorce practice. Starting the divorce conversation respectfully sets the tone for a more purposeful process. Awareness that the parties are often in different stages of divorce readiness is important. Becoming unmarried may be something that one spouse has contemplated for many years, while the other considers the marriage’s rough spots to be normal. Jointly exploring available divorce process options can also reduce fear and surprise. Processes emphasizing guided conversations between the parties, such as Collaborative divorce and mediation, reduce the likelihood of miscommunication and empower parties to achieve mutually acceptable solutions. Intentionally choosing the timing and method for divorce together establishes a calmer tone for the road ahead. Having patience during the process results in healthier outcomes. The strong urge to get things done as quickly as possible is understandable. It seems that the sooner the divorce can be finalized, the sooner life will return to normal. However, the decisions to be made are life changing with long-term impacts on the entire family. Trying to move too quickly can result in replacing one bad situation with another. Slowing down and accepting the divorce experience for what it is can allow for a deeper understanding of the issues involved. Acknowledging the good and the bad of the marriage without judgment provides valuable insight. Identifying each party’s contributions during the relationship can help the healing process begin. Recognizing one’s own part in the failure of the marriage can provide valuable insight for future relationships. Letting go of bitterness and regret is essential to moving forward in life. For divorcing couples with children, accepting “what is” allows them to redefine their relationship and communicate more effectively in the future. The ending of a marriage is, unfortunately, an all-too-common event. However, if done mindfully, divorce can be an opportunity for personal transformation and growth.
Many recovering alcoholics claim that the wisdom of The Serenity Prayer saved their life. I have found in my practice that the wisdom contained in this simple prayer can also serve as an essential guide for helping people through a difficult divorce. The Serenity Prayer, which asks for the serenity to accept the things you cannot change; the power to change the things you can and the wisdom to know the difference, provides an important framework for dealing with almost all difficult situations. Divorce almost always creates unfortunate realities that lie outside our control; the fact that you will not see your children on certain days; the reality that your family income will now be spread through two homes; and many other stubborn truths. These realities cannot be changed and, in the end, the ability to find acceptance and serenity is a worthy goal. Divorce also requires people to summon courage to address daunting challenges; finding ways to co-parent when you are angry or scared; learning to manage new financial challenges; or trying to communicate effectively in painful situations. People who find this courage in divorce are much more likely to achieve their goals. Finally, gaining wisdom about which areas need acceptance and which challenges require us to act courageously is often the ultimate challenge in a divorce. While some of this wisdom may come from divorce sources, some of the wisdom can be gathered by finding people you can trust to help you focus your time and energy on your most important goals. One thing I like about the Collaborative Divorce Process is the focus on giving people the tools they need to truly help themselves. The first step in the process is generally to help clients identify their highest goals. As the process evolves divorcing couples are counseled to accept the things beyond their control so that they can focus their attention and limited resources on the things that truly matter. Clients who truly commit themselves to these principles can move from chaos to a new sense of order; sometimes even a deep sense of serenity. In any case, I have found that giving people the opportunity to gain wisdom about when to “let go” and when to work for change is the most important part of a divorce attorney’s job.