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Divorce and Self-Care

Tami Wollensak

Why it’s Necessary—Not Only for the Clients

I’ve been blessed to create a circle of industry professionals who have taught me so much since I decided to specialize in divorce mortgage planning. One member of my tribe, who has also become a very dear friend, is a collaboratively trained family lawyer and mediator. She’s one of the best and has been instrumental in opening my eyes to the pitfalls that people can get caught up in during the divorce process. I know, I’m practically gushing, but she’s just incredible at what she does. The way she incorporates a storytelling session for her divorcing couples as part of her standard practice is extremely insightful. She explains options to them that they may not have ever considered before meeting her.

Recently, she invited me to sit in on two of her very educational consultations with two separate couples. She talked through the different types of divorce and options available for every type of family going through it. She offered thought-provoking ideas and possibilities they never knew existed, including alternatives to divorce and legal options that may work for them. This empowerment is crucial for couples who believe that the law dictates the process… when actually, they can be in the driver’s seat to navigate their own situation.

I found the entire experience fascinating. I have learned many things that I now incorporate into my own lane of business. Offering clients empathy and the space for contemplation and options is necessary, even when the couple may not realize it’s something they need. More often than not, couples contemplate their situation for months, years, maybe even decades before actually initiating any course of action. Unfortunately, it isn’t until then that they realize there isn’t only one cut and dry way to go about it—if they have the right team in place.

As I sat through her presentations, silently observing as the couples talked about their journey, I was so intrigued by the way they would smile as they thought back on the early days, when they first met, and how it all started. As the discussion unraveled, they would both jump in and complete each other’s sentences or correct each other on the small details of the stories. It happened in both presentations for both couples, and I was instantly transported back to years ago when I was contemplating my own divorce. We tried for years to live unconventionally and get through each day while still holding on to hope that something might change or break open for the benefit of our children. Had I known there were so many options, it could have been a much healthier environment and time frame for everyone involved. If only we had known to approach the process in a way similar to the one I was witnessing with my present-day colleague leading the way.

As I continued to listen, the couples would progress through their story and get to the point where things pivoted and moved into a darker and more hopeless situation. One spouse remains quiet while the other one—who has already processed the demise of the relationship—continues down the path of how things have changed and how it just isn’t working for them anymore. They finish their part of the story, while the other spouse seems like they might not have known everything their significant other has been feeling. They may be hearing some of these things for the first time while sitting in that room with two other people present. The room gets thick with anxiety and sadness. I could see the guilt and shame on their faces for existing in a space they never thought they’d be. The attorney allows them to continue the story, but doesn’t interfere to counsel them, as she knows her place. She isn’t a therapist, but she does need them to feel the gravity of the decision they will ultimately make. They need to be prepared for everything they will need to unpack and unravel before they start the transition of divorce.

Sitting in that room and seeing it unfold like this, it hit me like a bolt of lightning. Not only is the couple feeling the toxic air and energy around them . . . so are the professionals who are helping them. I realized how much the divorce attorneys, counselors and coaches must absorb on a daily basis. Before any final decisions are reached, I imagine how much the negative emotions and conflict must somehow affect them as well. I also feel it as their mortgage professional because of the emotions attached to the martial home, but I think they we are all affected on a different level.

The very same week, while sitting with another attorney discussing this very subject, he mentioned that he integrates recommendations to his clients to start meditating, practicing yoga, and using therapeutic breathing techniques. I was impressed with the way he guides his clients to a healthier place to shift their energy.

If you are reading this, you may be someone who has gone through divorce, someone contemplating divorce, or you work in the divorce space like me. Regardless of who you are, please take care of yourself. Especially if you’re surrounded by it on a daily basis. Even if you’re just someone’s confidant… a friend or family member of someone going through it, it will affect you. Negativity, stress and emotion can permeate your space. It’s easy to allow it to shape and determine how you view or move through your own world.

We must treat divorce the same way we would work through any other loss or tragedy. It became so clear to me through these two particular instances, and I’m so grateful to these colleagues for teaching me by example.

When I reflect on my own divorce, I was grateful to learn about the world of self-healing, self-reflection, and energy work. It helped me through those difficult times. I eventually reached a place where I understood that my marriage was a season of my life that gave me some wonderful memories, two beautiful children and 20 years of growth. I had a better understanding that the relationship was ending as we knew it, but this person—the father of my children—would always be in my life and our family would just look very different moving forward.

This family law attorney I mentioned earlier told me, “Even if my client doesn’t embrace this for themselves, it is my priority to practice this. I am working and serving a community of people who are in pain, anxious, sad, full of grief, angry, and carrying a high level of negative emotions. I cannot allow that to penetrate my space and energy.” The old adage is true—we need to put the oxygen mask on ourselves first before we can truly help others. This rang so true to me at that moment. We cannot save the world from experiencing pain, but we can open up possibilities to guide people to work within themselves and self-reflect. That is an enormous part of self-care. The goal is to get out of your own way and shift the voice inside your head to a more compassionate voice, a voice that is your own biggest cheerleader. These are steps toward achieving emotional intelligence. This is a daily practice. As you get better at navigating it, you will find your own inner peace. Whether you are a person going through a divorce, or a professional helping someone on that journey, be kind to yourself.

I’ve always been an advocate for self-care, I just never knew I could integrate it into my business like this. Thanks to those professionals who have exuded this in your daily work life, reminding me that we can all make a difference in more ways than one.