Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker
upon a time it was important in each community to have a butcher, a
baker, and a candlestick maker. But in these times when divorce is the
order of the day, they seem to have been replaced by a new group of
professionals: the lawyer, the therapist, and the arbitration maker.
Along with several other professions and disciplines, they provide
expert help for those who are involved in the process and aftermath of
divorce. They bring with them years of training in their specialities
and mountains of goodwill for their clients.
The Common Thread
is one common thread that connects everyone involved in a divorce. The
connecting issue is GRIEF. All parties to the divorce are grievers.
Beyond the obvious — the husband and wife and the children — there are
also the extended families and workmates, all of whom are affected by
the cycle of divorce. The length of time and intensity of the cycle may
differ, and some of the participants may be more or less open about
their emotions, but nonetheless, those emotions of grief are the leading
Grief Recovery Institute defines grief as the entire range of human
emotions caused by the change or end in a familiar pattern of behavior.
Even when relief seems to be the presenting emotion at the end of a
bitter, battling marriage, there is also sadness about the end of the
hopes, dreams, and expectations implicit in marriage.
who assists the individuals and families caught up in the emotional and
financial details of divorce must have more than passing awareness of
what grief is and what grief is not.
Concentration: Emotions First, Facts Second
the therapist, the social worker, and the grief counselor, emotions are
clearly the centerpiece of every drama. But the lawyer, the accountant,
and the real-estate agent are not far removed from the eye of the
storm. The most common complaint we get from those who are regularly
involved with divorcing people can be distilled into this question: “Why
don’t they remember tomorrow what I told them today?”
answer may surprise you. For the professional, the presenting issue is
intellectual: the facts and figures that relate to the divorce. For the
divorcing person, the presenting issue is emotional, even though they
may have a strong pre-occupation with the financial and other details of
training funeral directors, doctors and others who also have
intellectual skills, we must always remind them and teach them that
their clients’ focus is emotional first, and information related second.
If they will acknowledge the presenting emotions first, then they are
able to gather better information about the facts that are relevant to
who is involved in divorce proceedings, as well as anyone involved in
probate issues, soon learns how often emotions can dominate a proceeding
that is basically about facts and figures. Many of those professionals
are sensitive, loving and kind, but don’t always know what to do or say
when their clients have an emotional reaction based on the dissolution
of their marriage.
of the virtues of The Grief Recovery¨ Certification Training Program is
that a lawyer, accountant, real estate agent, or other professional
doesn’t have to go back to school and become a therapist or social
worker in order to become more effective when dealing with people whose
lives are massively affected by divorce. All that is required is a four
-day participation in a Grief Recovery¨ Certification Program.
What Not to Say Is Equally Important
Primary within the grief recovery training is learning what to say. And even more important, what not
to say to the people who are in your office at one of the most
difficult times in their lives. We know that most people reading this
article have from time to time said something inadvertently that
affected their clients, although they may never have known exactly what
they said or did to cause such an extreme reaction.
addition to the essential elements of interacting with grieving people,
the Certification Training Program introduces a non-invasive interview
technique that allows the non-mental-health professional to get better
information from their clients and in turn to get better results. Along
with the new skills comes the benefit of feeling more comfortable in
their interactions with their clients.
Grief Recovery¨ Certification Program is experiential first, followed
by the training elements. What is true for your clients is true for you.
Everyone has a past, and included in that past are losses of varying
kinds. When interacting with grievers, your own emotions that relate to
losses will be triggered. Dealing with your own feelings will make you
safer and more helpful to the client’s you serve. Given emotional safety
and dignity, your clients will be better able to address the financial,
legal, and mechanical complications of life after divorce.
Russell Friedman is the executive director of The Grief Recovery Institute and co-author of The Grief Recovery Handbook and When Children Grieve.
Along with partner and co-author John W. James, Friedman has pioneered
the establishment of more than 2000 Grief Recovery¨ Outreach Programs in
the United States and Canada.
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