One of the most profound benefits of mediation is its capacity to allow for peace and healing during a difficult time.
Mediation is designed to cut down on the antagonistic nature of the divorce process and allow families to lay a foundation for a healthy restructuring of their family unit. While divorce is a challenging transition for any family, the legal separation itself doesn’t need to be a devastating event.
One of my former instructors, Sandra Crawford, at the Northwestern Divorce Mediation Training Program explained that mediation permits space and time for couples to have a discussion about the future of their family. In this sense, she notes, “mediation” bears a commonality with “meditation” that extends beyond a superficial spelling similarity.
The mediator, like a meditation facilitator, is a “protector of the pause.” While divorce can so often generate a disorienting vortex of emotions, mediation can provide some calm in the eye of the storm. When people avoid the inherently threatening “win-lose” model of traditional litigation, they are better able to access the part of their brain that allows for high ordered thinking.
During a successful mediation—when participants are able to trust the process as they no longer feel as threatened—I watch as they stretch and expand into a greater sense of balance and ease and let go of some of the “need to be right.”
The fact is: the traditional legal system of adjudicated divorce was not designed to keep families emotionally intact. It is a system that you must endure and survive. Mediation lies on the other end of the spectrum – it is notable for its conflict-calming potential. Studies, in fact, show that mediation participants have increased contact with their children and improved family relationships. The reason is fairly straight-forward – they were able to transition their family without having to “go to war.”
Participants in mediation should exit the process feeling more confident. If successful, they will have negotiated an agreement that they can live with, with increased communication skills, and a renewed sense of optimism that they can maintain a stable home for their children. Perhaps most importantly, parties will set a powerful example for their children—they were able to work out their problems and arrive at a peaceful compromise in the interest of healing their family.