Category Archives: Parenting Coordination

With Thanks to My Coparent- on the Anniversary of His Death

“Love never fails.”-1 Corinthians 13:8

Today my children and I remember and honor their father, Bill McCandless, who died a year ago today. It’s been a challenging year in so many ways.

Some of the most important and gratifying work I do is as a parenting coordinator working with high conflict co-parents who are stuck being immersed in their hurt. They cannot see clearly to find healing and forgiveness with their coparent. I love working with those couples because I was one of those high conflict wounded people, after Bill and I divorced in 2003 following 18 years of marriage and having three children.

Through God’s grace and a firm commitment to find healing and forgiveness no matter how long it took, we overcame those difficult days and were friends, celebrating many events in our children’s lives together for several years before he died. One of my greatest blessings was that I was able to hold his hand and tell him I loved him and thank him for our beautiful children as he was dying.

Since his death, our first grandchild has been born. The baby’s mother has a photo of Bill (her dad) on her fireplace and I have sat many days in the rocking chair at the home of my daughter and her husband in the quiet, rocking baby Liam. While I rock I often look at the picture on the fireplace, recognizing that the one person who perfectly understands that love I have for Liam would have been Bill.

While Liam is well loved by many, no other person, friend, loved one, grandparent, aunt or step parent on Earth will see him quite like I do…. but for Bill…. because our own child who we created together gave birth to Liam. I’ve been sharing this insight with the high conflict couples I work with in parenting coordination for the past year, and often tell them about Bill’s death and my experience. I sometimes ask them to look across the table into the eyes of their coparent with the possibility that what I am saying could make sense for them someday. That the person they are at war with will one day share an understanding of a love that neither of them can describe to anyone, but that both of them will inherently “get.” Often there are tears from all three of us and on some rare occasions there is a small breakthrough to a healing path.

It’s funny because throughout the past year as I grieved, I was able to forget..literally…the issues that divided us all those years ago, the drama that we created in our hurt of high conflict, and the sadness that swept through our family during those “lost” years. Instead, the memories that came to mind often were those of when we were young and newly married, and the times we sat rocking our own children with awe and wonder at the precious lives we had created with God. So many times through the past year I rocked in the quiet and looked at that picture on the fireplace whispering through tears, “Look Bill! Look at our precious grandchild!”

I’ve seen miracles in high conflict parents in my work. A small number of them transform completely. Some agree to a silent truce. Some continue to work hard and I still hold out hope for their finding peace or transformation. Others I have “fired” telling them I suspect they are getting a secondary gain of some sort from keeping the conflict alive, and draining my life energy in what is grueling and emotional work.

Are you one of those high conflict co-parents? Are you someone who doesn’t even speak to your coparent? Today is a new day. We are on the threshold of a new year. You can choose forgiveness and healing or maybe a truce. Or maybe you will choose some gesture that is a small step towards whatever life transformation that is unique to you and your circumstances.

One thing I know for sure: Your coparent is one of your greatest life’s teachers.

Thank you Bill for all you taught me.
May your memory be eternal.

TREES ON A LAWYER WEBSITE?!

logo jpegRecently my law partner and I launched our new website.

We wanted a look that demonstrated that we aren’t just your “ordinary lawyers.” We ended up with a prominent display of trees.

Why does the website of Stamatelos & Tollakson prominently display trees?

We chose imagery that depicts our alliance in compassionate lawyering, as well as the journey we take with our clients in times of family crisis. When we began working with our web designer, they showed us numerous logos with letters, symbols and other traditional graphics. Although skillfully designed, they didn’t seem to speak for what we try to provide through our work as Central Iowa divorce attorneys at Stamatelos & Tollakson.

Ultimately, we landed on a drawing of two strong trees standing over a smaller, barren tree. We feel this most accurately demonstrates our philosophy and the synergy we create between lawyer and client.

What do trees represent?

Antiquity and enduring strength. The roots of our law firm began with Kim’s father, Dan Stamatelos, who was born in 1934 and began practicing law in West Des Moines in the 1950’s. Kim continued the legacy beginning in 1982 and Ashley joined her in 2015. Both Ashley and Kim are lawyers educated by Drake University Law School, an institution that began educating lawyers in 1865. These roots provide us with strong direction and a clear sense of purpose.

Expansive canopy of protection and shelter. Clients who come to our firm are often wounded, hurting, grieving and lost. They may be suffering from depression, betrayal, financial hardship, fear and disappointment. We want them to feel safe telling us their stories and sharing their fears. We are strong active listeners and we zealously guard confidences. Our clients feel safe and protected when they work with us, like one does when sitting under a tree with vast protective branches.

Intuition and inner wisdom. A tree gathers its experience from the earth and intuitively moves that life force through its foundation. While we are educated and experienced in legal matters, we also find that life experience and inner wisdom is an integral part of our work. It’s not only our inner wisdom and experience, it’s helping our clients tap into their inner wisdom. Together we use these resources to design a customized approach to peacefully resolving our clients’ family conflicts.

Balance and transformation. Since we live in the Midwest, we are used to seeing trees lose their leaves and become barren. Yet we know that in Mother Nature’s perfect timing, they will regenerate and bloom again. Fruit-bearing trees will bear new fruit, leaves will blossom and flower buds will open. Providing hope and encouragement to our clients, and reminding them that this will happen in their own lives, is part of the joy of being a family lawyer.

Rooted in the earth but dancing in the sky. Clients have their past and history, and those stories remain deep in the roots of their lives. Many of them have left marriages willingly and others under protest, but all have an opportunity for new beginnings that cause them to grow, stretch and transform. We help clients look upward to the future, and encourage them to use the divorce or family conflict as a chance for personal transformation and to soar into the future that they choose for themselves.

We hope that you will visit our website at

http://www.thecompassionatealliance.com

 

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