Some Hallmark Holidays are not Just Hallmark Holidays

By William Levine posted Tue July 02,2013 02:43 PM


Some Hallmark Holidays Are Not Just Hallmark Holidays


Just through another Mothers’ Day-Fathers’ Day cycle, we are reminded again that not everything that is commercially exploited is bad. As parents and grandparents, we enjoyed sweet moments this spring; and as divorce mediators, we learned again, that for separated spouses, simple celebrations can have healing significance, whatever we or others may think about them. If we fail to listen carefully enough, or to respond appropriately, we can add to the thousand cuts that often characterize the divorce process.

Obviously, this is not only about parents’ day celebrations but about events small and large that are too numerous to catalogue, including birthdays, soccer games, camp visits, 5th grade “graduations” and others not in mind. It is also about attuning ourselves to our clients’ pain and the spouses’ willingness, conscious or otherwise, to reduce or enhance it for each other. Sometimes they need help to see that symbolic things hurt, that hurt parents are often surrogates for hurt children and that the golden rule is sometimes more about kids and parents than about gold. As “neutrals”, we are ideally placed to miss the cues or to provide this help. Most mediators wish first to do no harm, but in many small, yet important ways, these are opportunities for us to do good.

We are professionals, but human beings first. Many of us have children and grandchildren of our own. Some of us are divorced. This personal experience may help guide us, but it is also important for us to understand always, that our cases are not about us. Any sense that we are inattentive or even dismissive of symbolically laden matters undermines our effectiveness, and it reduces our chances of achieving settlements. And worse, we can become one of the thousand cuts.

Personally, we can’t wait for Mothers’ Day and Fathers’ Day, next year.

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