Gratitude After Sandy/Sharon Oberst DeFala, Esq.

Posted on November 18, 2012

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GRATITUDE AFTER SANDY

This year, as always, I am collecting some of my favorite stories of the post-divorce possibilities. The eastern seaboard of the United States has just survived Hurricane Sandy and its after effects.  Those of us who “only” lost heat, or electricity, or ell service are feeling pretty grateful and fortunate right about now.  And, considering that it is November it is just about the right time to start being thankful for our blessings – even if your family is going through a divorce.  These are the stories that make me feel a sense of gratitude and hope. These are typically people who kept their wits about them during the divorce process enough to be civil adults with each other afterwards. (The names are fictitious, the stories are true.) Here are a few of my favorites:

“Poppy” and “Nana” have a son who is divorced from his first wife and both of them have re-married. There is one child from the first marriage – he is in elementary school. Last year the first wife planned a school Thanksgiving party that included the kids learning to make cranberry relish.
So, she called Poppy and Nana and invited them to come make cranberry relish in their grandson’s classroom. Which they did with – sorry – relish. They set up a table with 3 food processors, Poppy wore a big white chef’s hat, and every kid had a turn to help make the relish, decorate a container, and bring home a beautiful home made gift for their families. The three of them – mom, Nana and Poppy, all worked tirelessly and seamlessly to make a fun event for the kids and a beautiful memory for the grandson.
I was so happily impressed to see their teamwork that I had to ask them about it. I told them that the focus of my divorce work is to help make sure that families still have a relationship when the divorce is over. Nana said. “They always do. It’s just what kind of a relationship they want it to be.”

Poppy said, “No one wanted a divorce. It was just given to us. The question is what we do with it.”

They are right. This is the moment that we stop and take account of what we have, before the onslaught of what we buy. This is our moment to take an accounting of our lives and see the blessings we have. Nana and Poppy understand this Thanksgiving party with their grandson’s class is a blessing.

“Bill” is divorced and his two teenaged sons live with their mom. Bill and his ex-wife are not friends. They can barely stand each other, and after a bitterly contested divorce, blame each other for a lot of what is wrong in each of their lives.

I saw Bill just before Thanksgiving last year and was thinking that he probably has some schedule where the kids spend half of Thanksgiving with Mom & the other half with Dad, or someone has Thanksgiving on Thursday and then the other family has it on Friday.

Imagine my happy surprise when Bill told me he would be eating Thanksgiving dinner with his children, his ex-wife, and his ex-mother-in-law all at the ex-mother-in-law’s house! The secret to how he received this invitation floored me. After what he has been through, and the money he has spent on lawyers, court hearings, alimony, child support, and maintenance on a house where he does not live; Bill said the last thing I ever expected to hear.

He was paying for a full catered holiday meal to be sent over to the mother-in-law’s house, at his own offer, for the family. He didn’t even do it in anticipation of an invitation (how could he have anticipated a gracious response?). He just knew that it would make the women’s lives easier if they didn’t have to cook, so he offered to have it catered for them.

No Judge ordered Bill to feed his angry ex-wife a feast. No court order made the ex-wife graciously insist that Bill join them. The truth is that Bill and his ex, as little else as they may have in common, both really want their sons to have a happy childhood. So, they put their egos aside for this holidays and came up with creative solutions for reducing conflict and stress. I can’t wait to hear if they will do it again this year!

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