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  • Writer's pictureEd Johnson

Grief in mediation

With the limited access to courts and lawyers mediation is even more so now than ever the best choice to find a resolution for your dispute. Get your dispute resolved now while you can’t go anywhere you can really concentrate on what’s important and what deserves your time and energy.

Northwest Mediation continues to use Zoom, Skype and FaceTime as well as the phone and emails to resolve disputes so please do not feel that you cannot contact us if you would like to mediate but wish to do so remotely.

I’ve been thinking about grief this week, not simply because of all those dying during the war in Ukraine but because a friend of mine and my children’s died. It got me thinking in advance of writing this blog that the causes of disputes often have a similar form to grief, in a divorce it’s widely acknowledged even if you are the party who “wants it more” than the other you still grieve for the loss of the relationship. The commonly accepted process of grief through the five stages of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance are all reflected in how people deal with major changes including disputes.

Clients may start by denying their colleague called them what they called them “I can’t believe she’s just said that”, anger “I’m furious my neighbour has cut the hedge down”, bargaining “if you just pay me what’s owed I’ll leave you alone”. The depression generally comes in when the case or complaint goes on for months or years and acceptance only really starts once an agreement or settlement is reached, and then you may have to start all over again if the court ordered settlement isn’t what you wanted. So you are a long way from acceptance when you begin a case.

With a mediation I aim to get you to acceptance quicker and cheaper so you can cut down both the period of anxiousness and depression but also get a resolution that is acceptable to you. Whether that’s a civil dispute, a building dispute or an ongoing family problem, to quote my tweet from earlier this week “Alice - listen to Brian, mediation is better than court #TheArchers

If you’re a teacher in Minneapolis your probably at the anger stage regarding your treatment when the decision came to strike. It’s actually the Minneapolis Teacher and Education Support union which has taken the strike action which is ongoing at the time of writing and mediation is planned to help resolve matters.

Greta Callaghan president of the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers Local 59 said she couldn’t see the strike ending any time soon accusing data scientists, HR and lawyers (!) of trying to foist their own ideas into what’s good for children’s education.

She said she wants education leaders making the decisions, which is a noble comment although reading the report it does seem to be more about pay terms (with offers being made to increase pay by 8% in some cases) but perhaps that’s the misunderstanding here, Greta’s grievance is stated as being who is in charge not what is being paid. At the start of a mediation we often see that what one side wants is clearly misunderstood by the other, sometimes, as may be the case here, the funding is the only matter which one party can address but reading Greta’s words it certainly seems that the issue is deeper than just pay packets.

Greta added that the state is facing a funding crisis "They're headed in that direction and we're intervening and saying: 'If you don't do something different, if you don't invest in our children and those close to them, you will no longer exist'"

It hasn’t helped that information came to light that Minnesota has a surplus budget of over $9 million! When every penny counts that’s a heck of a rainy day fund.

This is a great article from Sharon Murray at Gillespe MacAndrew about the options for settlement of financial disputes arising from during in divorce proceedings in Scotland (similar concepts and rules apply south of the border). Sharon sets out the differences (not necessarily understood by some lawyers) between mediation (yay!), collaboration, arbitration and litigation (boo!).

Reminding couples who are in that grief process of ending a relationship that by working together and co-operating over the financial aspect not only speeds the process of settlement to an end point but saves vast sums of money which would otherwise be spent arguing over pension entitlements, house sale and/or division of the proceeds. Obviously I would say mediation is the best one of those to go for the others have merit but once you step away from fully engaged mediation you take slow steps towards entrenchment and court.

Grief in its usual form is naturally a part of inheritance mediation. As you know I conduct inheritance mediation, it’s engaging, worthwhile and satisfying for me and (if the feedback questionnaires are right) for clients as well.

Here’s a case where parties who were grieving already from the death of their relative had years of prolonged anguish during a dispute but ultimately found settlement via mediation. The third and fourth generations of parties finally reached an agreement which involved arguments over property rights and dissemination of the estate, complicated partly due to gender rules on inheritance which changed during the course of the proceedings.

Whilst mediation of all types still feels to many like a new concept it’s really not and as is seen from Susan Guthrie’s interview her life in mediation work goes back 30 or more years from her time working as a divorce litigator to moving into mediation as her main thrust. The ups and downs of a mediator’s life contains much to admire and be inspired by and whilst no doubt some grief she’s now looking to the future of 2031 and beyond in the aspiration that mediation is the first port of call for all divorces.

I’ve thought this week that perhaps we will get to the point that mediation becomes the primary conflict resolution process, PDR if you will as opposed to ADR but more on that next week.

The three pillars of mediation remain it’s voluntary, it’s confidential, the mediator is independent, by using those pillars to support your work the parties keep control, save costs, save time and energy and reduce stress.

In person or via electronic media as we’ve said before choose to mediate early and resolve your issues effectively, timeously, and with less stress and costs than going to your solicitor so you can get out choose a different path, not quite the road less travelled but perhaps the path less adversarial. You have an interest in the outcome the sooner you get round the mediation table the quicker you can move forward and avoid the grilling a cross examination in court would put you through.

By having a deep and meaningful discussions with parties the mediator elicits what the true “red-lines” are and where there is the potential for compromise, it is with this structured period of reflection that the parties are then able to reach an accord.

The flexible nature of mediation and the possible outcomes make it an ideal way to resolve disputes in an ever-changing world and the open nature of discussions in mediation whilst remaining confidential allows all sides to engage fully in the process and understand the needs of all involved allowing parties to reach a conclusion which both sides can live with and move on.

There are so many situations which could have been resolved by early intervention of mediation it continues to surprise me the lengths the public will go to avoid referral.

Whether you need a mediator to help out with a construction matter in the Northwest, or council’s plans in Cheshire, a civil mediator in London, a commercial mediator in Manchester, a dispute resolution for your family in Liverpool, a neighbourhood mediation in Stockport, then our mediators at Northwest Mediation can help.

Mediation is cheaper, quicker and less stressful than running any case to court, it can help with any dispute whether it's an employment issue or the sale at an under value of a property, a fight with a neighbour, family issues, commercial disputes, civil mediation or inheritance, wills and probate arguments contact Northwest Mediation on 07931318347 or via email at

neighbour mediation; commercial dispute resolution; civil mediation; commercial dispute; corporate dispute; commercial mediator; family mediation; inheritance wills probate mediation; property mediator; civil mediator; civil litigation; fast track mediation; injury mediation

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