Death and Divorce

Death and Divorce

I’m one of those people who believes in loving my job, and I do, immensely. In fact, I’m not ashamed to say that it’s how I define myself. But that definition comes with consequences, when you’re not willing to let it go . . . and I wasn’t.

You see, although not the primary reason for the collapse of my marriage, my calling as a hospice veterinarian played a huge role in what ended up being the most important decision of my life, my divorce.

We Used To Pursue Our Career Dreams Together

My husband and I were married a month before I began my first year of vet school. Luckily, the university at which he was finishing his law degree accepted my grad school application; otherwise, I would have landed at a veterinary college1000 miles away.

We had the perfect marriage for years. He went to work for Big Law. I opened my own practice. We were smart about kids; we held off on having ours until we were better established, both in our marriage and in our careers. (And then we had two, first a boy and, two years later, a little girl.)

How we spend the vast majority of our waking hours should make a positive contribution, don’t you think? The more my business thrived, the more I realized what an impact I could make in the world we live in . . . in one very special way.

I’m the eternal caregiver, of my family, of my staff, and of my patients. I would rather focus on the aspects of my profession that keep me going, that drive me to be the doctor I am, that move me, than just make money. So, I specialize in end-of-life care. When my husband misunderstood, questioned, and challenged that personal definition of who I am, our resulting conflict forced me to examine what was most critical to me.

And my marriage ended up in the toilet because of it.

Animals Cannot Communicate

I deal with life and death decisions every day. But even harder, I help people decide for their beloved pets when “enough is enough,” and I’m pretty darn good at it. I may not be as good at the Miller’s Knot or at castrations as I once was (scratch that, I’ll always be good at castration), but I can guide people through their emotions and the decision making process like a pro. I am fulfilled when I can see what truly “listening” with my heart can do for people, and how others feel when I respond a certain way, how I can cause an effect in others.

This realization changed my definition of love, of what is really important in my life. We make a lot of difficult decisions in vet med, judgments with which not everyone would agree. No one else who doesn’t do what I do can understand what it’s like to hold the life of a pet, a being who cannot communicate and who is completely dependent on the human who loves him most to do what is best for him, in your hands.

It’s hard to conceive that something as crude as money is part of the equation, part of our medical protocol even, and that a client might throw disgraces at me because she assumes that I’m “only in it for the money.” (Which is so ironic, of course.) Even my support staff doesn’t always get it.

But I feel like your significant other should. And my ex did not.

I’ve gobbled up primers and handbooks on body language, verbal directives, and Neuro linguistic programming in one sitting. So, when my marriage started to break down, I had to really take a look at WTF was going on.

We Get Along Better Divorced Then We Did Married

I left my marriage for many reasons that will always remain mine and mine alone. For me, my intent to practice palliative medicine, to run an empathy-driven business, and, yes, to change the way the world treats a pet’s end-of-life played the biggest roles in my decision.

Let’s just say that I learned a lot during my collaborative divorce, the many “wrong ways” I handled my marriage relationship with my ex, and I’m stronger for it. In fact, my divorce relationship with my ex is far better than it would have been, I’m pretty sure, but for the lessons I learned in collaboration.

I’m remarried now, and I like to think that I’m handling my second marriage “the right way” because of the mistakes I made earlier. For example, I changed the way that I disagree, with anyone actually but, most importantly, with my husband. I always remind myself to be interest-based, focused on my goals and aspirations, rather than on a certain position.

Do I wish the outcome had been different? For many reasons, yes, I do, but “coulda-woulda-shoulda,” right? Just as with the companion pets I help every day, there was no “right” answer, so, instead, I chose the “best” answer.

To see if the collaborative model is right for you, visit us at Open Palm Law or email me at We are here for you, AND for your family!

Coauthored by Anonymous Client, Joryn Jenkins, and Intern Madison Sasser

Learn more about collaborative divorce. Follow Open Palm Law.

Need advice now? Contact Joryn!

About this week’s author, Joryn Jenkins.

Joryn, attorney and Open Palm Founder, began her own firm here in Tampa after a 14-year career in law, two of which she served as a professor of law at Stetson University. She is a recipient of the prestigious A. Sherman Christensen Award, an honor bestowed in the United States Supreme Court upon those who have provided exceptional leadership in the American Inns of Court Movement. For more information on Joryn’s professional experience, take a look at her resume.

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