During my years of practicing divorce litigation and mediation, I have seen many people at the lowest point in their life. Sometimes they confide in me how difficult it is to make it through the day and how at moments they want to give up. Over time, I have developed an analogy that seems to resonate with my clients: going through a divorce is like living through a hurricane. When you are in the middle of the hurricane, everything looks cold, dark, and gloomy, but inevitably the storm will pass, you will clean up, get your personal effects in order and rebuild a new life for yourself. One day, you will look back and barely remember that the wind knocked you down.
Often ranked as the biggest life stressor a person can experience, just below the stress caused by the death of a spouse or partner,¹ getting divorced can stir up a flurry of emotions that can feel like it will never go away. An article in DivorceMag.com by author Alex Delon, “11 Parallels Between Divorce and Hurricanes,” suggests, “Divorce is more than a lifestyle change: it can rip through all we hold dear with the fury of an offshore hurricane… Conflict, deprivation, temptation, expectations, and a million other things can turn the balmy waters of a relationship into a boiling sea of emotions. As long as the topics and tropical waters heat up enough to rise, they create a feedback loop, causing stronger updrafts that fuel the fury.”²
Weathering the Storm
So how do we help our clients through the wrath of their own personal hurricane? The second thing I tell them is this too shall pass. I find my clients take comfort in those words, especially because I say them with genuine empathy. I let them know I’ve assisted many others who have been where they are and that in my experience, within six to twelve months after the divorce, most people are in a positive, happy, and healthy place and comfortable in their new life. After all, the process of going through a divorce is temporary and there is a new life waiting after the water recedes.
Author Alex Delon agrees. He concluded his article with the following message, “Those same winds of change can clear the air. Eventually, we find a new pace and rhythm. Beginning again–just like rebuilding after a storm–can become the adventure of a lifetime.”2
Be the Beacon Your Clients Need
It’s important to acknowledge that attorneys specialize in law and are not typically trained to help people who are suffering from depression or anxiety. When my clients are struggling, I recommend that they seek the help of a professional mental health provider. I also suggest that they surround themselves with a good support system of people they trust, whom they can depend on for encouragement and strength. To note, this is also the time to weed out the negative people and toxic relationships in their life. Lastly, I encourage my clients to do their best to maintain a healthy lifestyle that includes exercising regularly, practicing yoga and meditation to help with relaxation, eating well, and getting ample sleep.
Of course, the best way to help your client through the storm is to settle their case as smoothly and quickly as possible. During the mediation I remind the parties that a little flexibility in their negotiation can lead to a faster resolution, allowing them to start rebuilding their lives sooner rather than later. The advantage of moving on to their next chapter is often the incentive that works best to nudge people gently into reaching a settlement.
I am here to help you settle your cases, and in the words of international bestselling author, Bryant H. McGill, remind your clients, “When the storm rips you to pieces, you get to decide how to put yourself back together again.”
TIP: To manage stress, encourage your clients to find online resources such as WebMD’s 10 Tips to Manage Stress, HelpGuide.org’s 8 Tips for Stress Management and the CDC’s recommendations for Coping with Stress. A simple Google search for “stress management” will yield a myriad of additional resources.