Lisa sat in my office and cried silently for half an hour straight. I had invited Lisa and Steve to an introductory meeting to explain the divorce mediation process. He had just asked for the divorce, and she looked like a deer caught in the headlights. At the end of the meeting, she looked over at him and asked, “How did we get here?”
Months later, when they actually started the process, her demeanor was very different. By then, Lisa was furious, and spent much of the session letting Steve know all of the ways he had betrayed her. Her emotions were still strong, but they anger had replaced shock, and honestly, this seemed healthier. But they were still not ready.
Just as there are different stages of grief, there are different stages of dealing with divorce – particularly if you aren’t the spouse who wants it. In her article, How to Heal From Divorce, Ann Gold Buscho, PhD does an excellent job of explaining those stages – the acute phase, the acceptance phase, the adjustment phase, and the healing process – and of how you can take care of yourself as you move through them.
I’ve noticed that it is easier for people to mediate when they have at least reached the acceptance phase. Sitting down at the mediation table is hard. You are there to make decisions that will affect the rest of your life. You have to be in touch with your own wants and needs, and be open to hearing your spouse’s. You have to be able to imagine a future that is very different from the one you imagined as you got married.
Lisa and Steve were able to go through the process, but they needed time to let things cool down enough so that they could both sit at the table.
If you are in the divorce process, which phase are you in? If you have been through the process, how did you find your emotions change over time?
(Note: their names have been changed…)