ccording to family law experts, Australia is currently experiencing record levels of separations. Heightened tensions due to Covid-19 has seen rates higher than we’ve seen in generations. In response to this largely unseen pandemic, family lawyer Cassandra Kalpaxis founded Australia’s first ever wellness retreat designed deal with the dreaded “D” word.
Detox Your Divorce
The first ‘Detox Your Divorce’ wellness retreat was held at Crown Plaza Hotel Terrigal, with another held more recently in Byron Bay and founder Cassandra continues to help women going through separation with online courses recently announced.
The courses empower women with all the tools, resources, and advice to separate simply… and stay out of court.
Going through a divorce is stressful, upsetting, depressing, demoralising… and expensive. Many women (and men) forget to take care of their health and wellbeing throughout the process.
The first thing women say is they don’t know where to go, or who to turn to for advice and what to do next. If children are involved knowing how to communicate and keep things civil, can cause anxiety and create enormous pressure.
Cassandra has pulled together a powerhouse of experts who, over the course of the weekend retreat, provide answers all these questions, and come out the other end still healthy, wealthy and a little bit wiser.
The retreat also allows attendees to take two days out of a difficult time to reset and reflect. Detox Your Divorce provides a space to reboot, learn, and connect with other women who can relate to what you are going through.
Expert presenters at the first retreat in February this year included leading relationship expert Dr Lurve, hypnotherapist Dino Hira (Former MAFS contestant), nutritionist Ange Sinclair, financial expert Natasha Janssens, health coach and personal trainer Kathy Ozakovic, meditation therapist Lenore Pearson and some of the best family law minds in Australia.
The weekend retreat kicked off on Saturday morning with a pool-side yoga class, to energise delegates and prepare them for the information onslaught. After an introduction to the weekend from organiser Cassandra, we start off with a session in Self Love from relationship specialist; Dr Lurve.
Despite her Instagram-friendly moniker, Dr Lurve had some valuable insights for delegates on getting through a separation without getting bogged down and thoroughly depressed in the process.
“Don’t get caught up in the drama. Don’t worry about the taboo of divorce. This is your story, and you can control it. Remove the emotion, concentrate on the facts, hire professionals, and LISTEN to them. Be grateful for the past and look forward to the future.”
As for friends?
“Look for support, not counsel. Vent, pour your heart out, but don’t take their advice.”
Healing through Grieving
Lenore Pearson is a Transformation Coach, and our lesson from her is how to heal through grieving. The first step in this process is to understand the grieving process, a process you need to “move through’ not “get over”.
We’re introduced to the Kubler-Ross Grief Cycle: Denial – Anger – Bargaining – Depression – Acceptance, and Lenore provides valuable advice on dealing with anger.
“Anger is only bad if expressed in a way that endangers you, or if you suppress it. Scream if you need to, let it out – don’t let it turn into resentment.”
And we’re provided with a cheat sheet on healing – the 4 ‘T’s and 3 ‘M’s of healing:
- Time – Give yourself time to heal
- Tears – cry… a lot, until the last tear
- Talk – Talk it through often and with the right people
- Traditions – Find new ones
- Music – create a playlist of uplifting songs
- Move – Release stagnant energy by moving your body – walk, run, try yoga.
- Meditation – one of the most effective ways to switch from a state of stress and anxiety to a state of relaxation.
Serious stuff: Criminal and Family Law
Our next session covers the more serious aspects of separation and explains the crossover between criminal and family law. Barrister Carolina Soto takes us through the intricacies of AVO’s and explains issues such as coercive control, intimidation, harassment, and other subtle aspects of domestic violence.
The Digestive Detective
Nutrition may be one of the last things you consider while going through separation and divorce, but specialist Ange Sinclair explains that it’s a vital component in managing your stress levels.
Stress from an unhappy marriage can triple your likelihood of having a heart attack so it’s vital to keep your diet top of mind as you manage everything else day to day life is throwing at you!
Co-parenting vs Parallel Parenting
Navigating the world of parenting while going through separation and divorce is challenging to say the least. It may seem an insurmountable task while you’re arguing about everything else, but it is very important, in this one aspect of your relationship, to work together.
Cassandra, who has had years of experience as a family lawyer helping couples through this, explains the different approaches parents often take, co-parenting vs parallel parenting. The difference? Co-parenting is when you and your ex-partner work collaboratively, rather than try and divide your children’s loyalty. Early intervention with a family therapist is key to achieving this. Parallel parenting not only creates problems for you down the line (“dad said I could…”), but if you foster a negative relationship between your children and their father, research has shown that it will impact their development.
Our first day ends with a Mindfulness Yoga Session with Dino Hira before we retire for the day for a few drinks with new-found soul mates.
Good Gut Health is Good
From mediation to nutrition, in our next session we learn, from health coach Kathy Ozakovic, the importance of gut health, and how it affects your brain, the way you respond physically and emotionally to everything that’s being thrown at you.
Once again, we’re reminded of the importance of thinking about your health and wellbeing while you navigate divorce.
Top tip for good gut health? Use COLOUR. Make sure every meal you prepare includes the full spectrum as each different colour provides a different nutritional and medicinal component. Eat the rainbow, ensure variety, and stay hydrated.
Arguing about money is one of the leading causes for divorce, and as we navigate separation, money (or our fear of not having any) triggers our survival instincts, generates fear and can leave us feeling overwhelmed.
Award-winning financial planner, founder of Women with Cents and author of the Wonder Woman’s Guide to Money, Natasha Janssen spends the next session inspiring us to take control of our finances and walks us through the steps:
- Understand your mindset first. Nobody likes change, but we need to change the way we think about money – be more aware.
- Create a plan. What is important to you? Your plan needs to consider your cashflow, values and goals and include debt management (tax, credit cards), wealth creation (investment, super) and back up (Real estate, savings).
- Take consistent action – don’t go back on autopilot.
Overcoming Adversity and managing wellness
Surviving adversity is supposed to make us stronger, but how do we get through the next day, week, month?
The afternoon of our second day at this retreat is spent with a series of panels and presentations that give us practical tips and advice for coming through a divorce a stronger person.
- Set small goals to include the things you enjoy in your weekly, monthly schedule.
- Finish what you start.
- Take pride in your own accomplishments.
- Keep a notebook by your bed and write down three things that made you smile that day.
- A problem shared is a problem halved – open up to people.
- Don’t be scared of failure.
- Ask for help.
- Schedule activities, set goals.
- Create a sisterhood.
- Try meditation.
We end the weekend with an inspiring presentation from Cassandra, urging us to focus on the future and use all the tools and resources at our disposal. Her book ‘Dignified Divorce’ covers many of the issues discussed this weekend, showing women how to take a holistic approach to divorce, maintain optimal wellness and take control of the process.
As the retreat ends, we all feel refreshed and empowered – and we have already formed a sisterhood, with a follow-up Facebook Group and a promise to stay in touch. It’s been an emotional roller coaster, with workshops, games and truths told… and I think we all feel enlightened, and stronger for spending the time here together.