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Bearing Witness...

I joined a group on Facebook. It is for people going through a hard time in their marriages. I am not sure why I joined because I am not married. I think that I wanted to remember the feelings behind what I do for a living. It has been a long time since I was married and wanting out. Reading the posts of the people in the thick of it, helps me remember just exactly how hard it it. And why I left.

I am sure some would say that I joined to drum up business. And I will admit, it crossed my mind. But after reading only a couple of posts, all thoughts of any kind of gain to me, left. The posts are so raw, desperate, pain filled. I could never feel good about exploiting their pain for my gain. I mean, I could help but that would require me to invade their privacy and space to “sell” them on something that they have not looked for or sought out.

Instead, what has happened for me is that it has become a witnessing. Their posts keep me grounded to the harsh and painful realities of love gone so wrong. The loss, the fear, the self hatred, the inability to move on and forward.


It is painful to read. But I feel that as a divorce coach it is kind of my job to witness the pain of love unwound. My seat at the table is to listen. To help. In the group’s case, I try to respond with a message of hope. Something to say that someone out there in the world cares, sees their pain and isn’t trying to get them to do anything with it. Just bearing witness to their suffering.

For me, I practice Tonglen. I take in their pain and breathe out peaceful, healing light. I pray for an end to their suffering...


I guess this is what I have been doing for the last almost 28 years. Bearing witness. Showing up daily to see the remnants of love’s aftermath and be of service in some capacity to help the survivors move forward and into something better.


I did this as an attorney. And I think I do it better as a coach. So many more tools at my disposal than just legal papers and filings. Do not get me wrong, those have their place. But in my experience, those do little for the people involved. They push forward agendas and legal positions which are all taken under the auspices of “helping” but in the end the status of the humans involved is frequently lost and rarely paramount. In the end, divorce is about breaking apart, breaking down, terminating, dissolving. It is easy to forget that we are talking about people, children, women and men who anchored their lives to the now sinking ship that was their marriage and are woefully unprepared how to move on, let alone forward.


Being a member of this group is painful for me. It hurts me to read the hopelessness, the pain, the misery, the anger, the despondency. Perhaps I am just a glutton for punishment. But moreover, I think that I am just the person who can and should bear witness. I have not seen it all, but I have seen a lot. Marriages that end violently and with death. I have seen the children destroyed in divorce’s crossfire, the parents so caught up with hating each other that they lose sight of the love they feel for their children, and themselves if they had any of that to begin with... Addiction and mental health issues only serve to make it all worse. Divorce really is one of love’s many carnages.


I joined the group on a whim of self interest. But I remain because I feel it is my obligation and gift to offer up some assurance that there is a beginning, a middle and an end. That they are not crazy to feel the way they feel. That there is a way out but it is through. And that is a hard and difficult path to trudge.

Divorce is a hard reality. Love becoming unmoored from its object is a painful process indeed. And I hurt because they hurt. I hurt because my clients hurt. I feel the pain because I have walked this path and gotten to the other side. And just like my participation with the recovery community, I guess I feel on some level that I have a debt to those coming up behind me to share what I have learned. And to do so for fun and for free. I made it out and onto a better life. And so, while I do do this for a living, there is also service to be done in serving. Bearing witness to the difficult, messy and life altering feelings that run on the divorce undercurrent is my way of giving back.


I cannot help everyone, nor should I. Coaching is for people who want to change, and I definitely understand how powerful it is to believe that it is the other only that needs to change. And these people’s posts are sometimes clamoring for change and I hope they find help. Maybe with me, hopefully with someone who knows how to make it through this tumultuous time. But what I can offer up for fun and for free are words of encouragement. I can offer up love and understanding. I can see their pain and not look away. I can be present and witness and suffer myself because of that.


Sometimes I think that that really is what we are all really here to do. It isn’t about success or fame, or wealth or acquiring anything at all. It is about really seeing each other. Not turning it all off and shutting it all down. Perhaps there is nothing we can do to alleviate the suffering of another...but perhaps we may become more human and more present if only in our willingness to witness the pain of others.


I know most people in pain want a way out. Me too. But often times, that has to come from deep within. At least that has been my experience. I have had to have those dark nights of the soul. Those moments when I could not move forward, I couldn’t let go, so I was dragged into whatever waited for me next. I am intimately familiar with that. And so, in some larger or smaller way, perhaps my willingness to show up with a loving comment, the practice of Tonglen, the willingness to see the pain and suffering while not trying to force solutions is my way of giving back.


Divorce is awful and hard and life changing. I know the way out. I can be of service and I can help. But sometimes, perhaps the most honest and loving thing I can do is just to witness...and when I can, offer up some loving encouragement to those still in divorce’s most bloody trenches. I do not sit on moral high ground because I made it through. I, instead, sit and watch and wait to be called up for service. And while I am waiting, I can see what I might possibly be able to add...some small kindness to be given with no thought of return or gain. Which gives me access to why I do this at all, it isn’t about me. It is about showing up as authentically as I can as the person I am, and sharing how I got here. In this skin, living this life, facing what I have faced and how to move forward regardless of the pain and heartbreak and loss.


Bearing witness perhaps is the higher calling...and coaching is just a path that leads to a closer relationship to all that lives within us.





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