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Since the subject matter is highly relevant to BC dispute resolution professionals, we invited Maria Silva, a Mediate BC family roster mediator to provide some thoughtful reflections. In part 1, Maria presents a scenario and in part 2, Dr. Beloff responds with 5 tips professional mediators can bear in mind to help clients find closure.

For those interested in this topic, the Vancouver Mediators’ Lounge will be hosting two events (Feb 20 and Feb 27) with Dr. Marilyn Beloff as the guest speaker. More info can be found here.  The paperback is also now available for pre-order on Amazon and will be released on Feb. 18.  Copies will be available for purchase at both events.


Written by Dr. Marilyn Beloff In the scenario presented by Maria Silva, Jack and Jill are fortunate to be going through the Mediation process, rather than litigation. Luckily for them, this means the mediator or mediators have the intention of reducing the conflict, bringing peace into the room, and allowing them to make decisions that will be in their family’s best interests, rather than adding fuel to the fire as litigation might be want to do. Although Jack and Jill will no doubt leave the mediation process feeling relieved to have their issues around finances and child care resolved; at least for the foreseeable future, they will most likely lack a sense of closure and each will still be carrying different wounds of divorce. In this scenario Jack is far ahead on timeline with respect to his decision to leave the relationship. Jill, it seems, carries with her a fantasy of return, and feelings around not being given the chance to make the relationship work. Jack, attempting to be “kind” has not shared his authentic feelings with Jill, but instead he may be carrying feelings of anger about staying in the relationship longer than he would have chosen.

5 Important Considerations

The question I’d like to pose is: can, and how could, a healing ritual of divorce address these issues in order for both Jack and Jill to face and mourn their losses, forgive themselves and the other, freely release and be released, and move forward, as single, but loving co-parents to their young child? This is a tall order, but upon reflection, a healing ritual of divorce/separation can be created with and for this family. If I were to be working with this family to create and officiate a healing divorce ritual, it would be important to consider several factors:

1) When to suggest and have a healing divorce ritual:

Since Jack and Jill are at different places on their emotional time line, a ritual could take place at different times depending on them. Are they stuck in the mediation process, and unable to move to resolution because of their emotional/psychic places? If so, they might break from the mediation process, go through the ritual, and then be able to move back into the process. The mediator, in consultation with Jack and Jill, will decide when best to create and participate in a divorce ritual.

2) How to help Jack and Jill face, and mourn their losses?

Facing the profound loss of a relationship, with all of its hopes, and dreams, can be incredibly painful. Particularly, in this case, for Jill, who has not had the time to come to terms with her loss. For her, the loss and grief may feel more like the loss of a loved one after a very brief but terminal illness in which she has no control and no way to come to say goodbye.

In this case, within the safe space of the ritual, I would help both Jack and Jill to find visceral ways to say good-bye and mourn their losses. They might benefit from writing letters of truth to the other about what was good in the relationship and what led to the end of the relationship. Jack may decide to share his letter in the ritual.

Working with Jack and Jill, I would help them to devise other ritual embellishments to enact within the ritual, with witnesses to support their pain.  Examples of such embellishments and enactment might include the burial, burning, ripping, or other actions that may symbolize and make visceral the end the relationship.

3) Forgiveness, of the self and the other:

I would look to their own history, traditions, religion or ethnic origins to help them find forgiveness for themselves and the other. For example, Jack and Jill may come from a religious tradition with prayers of forgiveness that are meaningful to both parties. Jack or Jill, or both, may find a well-known poem that speaks to them, or write a poem.

4) Freely Release and be Released:

Words of release would be written and shared by both Jack and Jill, to the other, before caring witnesses. Painful and difficult to recite and receive, these words often serve to create instant psychic relief and the freedom to move forward.

5) Moving Forward: Restructuring:

Once the steps above have been taken, Jack and Jill can begin to look at their new life, as co-parents. It would be important to speak positively and make reference, in words and actions, to the new relationship they are forging. Jack and Jill might consider making vows of co-parenting to each other as parents of their child, as family and friend rather than romantic partners.

No matter what the specifics of the ritual enactments, several factors must be in place in order for the ritual of divorce to be healing. 1) I cannot underestimate the need for both Jack and Jill to enter into the ritual with the openhearted intention of releasing and being released, and for moving forward. 2) Create a safe, sacred space, with caring witnesses to support Jack and Jill through this ritual and afterword. 3) Use as many visceral, ritual enactments as possible. 4) Make use of as many symbols, language, poetry, music, etc. that are meaningful to this family as possible. 5) Consider the possibility that the death of this relationship may be the opportunity for healing, growth and transformation for all involved.

For those interested in this topic, the Vancouver Mediators’ Lounge will be hosting two events (Feb 20 and Feb 27) with Dr. Marilyn Beloff as the guest speaker. More info can be found here.  The paperback is also now available for pre-order on Amazon and will be released on Feb. 18.  Copies will be available for purchase at both events.

 About the Author

Dr. Marilyn Beloff is a Canadian psychotherapist, marital therapist, divorce mediator, divorce coach and child specialist. She holds a degree in Early Childhood Education, a Master’s Degree in Educational Psychology, a PhD. In Psychology, (Depth Psychology) and has been in practice for over 30 years. For more information, you can visit her website: http://www.drmarilynbeloff.com and at www.BeloffBooks.com