Divorce is a devastating experience. Difficult also for the one who is actually seeking the divorce. Difficult even though the marriage is bad, hurtful and disappointing and freedom is in the near future. It affects people of all ages as well as their families, friends and co-workers. And, unless you have had the misfortune of experiencing it yourself, it is hard for anyone who has not gone through it to truly understand.
Nearly 25 years ago, I had a very close friend go through a horrific divorce. My heart went out to my friend seeing what she was going through. She was brave and I was supportive. She picked up the pieces and continued on with her life, eventually dating and starting anew. Being married at the time, I went along with my life and assumed that she was “just fine” with her fresh start, dating and other new beginnings. Although we continued to see each other, our time together was less frequent, attributing it to her new social life and our lack of doing things as “couples” anymore. She developed new friendships and connections. Somehow, we weren’t on the same game plan any longer. I felt a loss. I am positive she, also, felt a loss.
I realize now, so many years later and after my own painful divorce 15 years ago, that I just didn’t get it. Compassionate as I think I was, I really did not have a clue about what a divorced woman goes through in getting stabilized, finding her own new social network of singles, adapting to a different lifestyle, understanding finances and dealing with children/father issues, just to mention a few.
ADVERSITY LEADS TO GROWTH AND NEW BEGINNINGS
When I began to have trouble in my marriage, I began reading book after book; trying to figure out what to do to make things better. No matter how bad the marriage felt, divorce just didn’t seem an option. We both felt that it was our obligation, responsibility and our vows to ourselves, G-d and our family to work things out. The books alone were not enough to help. We began seeing therapist after therapist, trying to find one that was the right fit, who understood our situation and in whom we had confidence in to guide the way. It was during this part of our harrowing journey to find help that I actually embarked on getting my Master’s degree from Northwestern University in psychotherapy. After years of frustration and disappointment in therapy, we considered separating for a while. Without a “plan” we embarked on the separation that ultimately led us to divorce.
Though I was the one who filed for divorce, knew that it was a step I needed to take, I could not escape the pain and heartbreak that is the outcome of divorce. I was married for 25 years. I loved the joy of being married; sharing my life with someone who loved me, having my children in an intact family, and planning our lives and future together. It was devastating to think of the “failure” of my marriage, the loss of companionship, camaraderie, my in house co-parent and my protector. Divorce is a life-altering event and is gut wrenching for even the toughest of us. As I walked away from the court house on May 1, 1999, I had no idea what to expect, what was to become of me and my kids, how I was going to move on, feel better and stay afloat financially. It was one of the hardest life experiences I have had short of losing my brother, my parents and grandparents.
Happily, I can now say all of these years later, that there is life after divorce. And, often life is better than being entangled in an unhappy, unsatisfying or empty marriage. However, getting to this point is a process. There is no standard time frame, there is no set course. For each individual, the journey is different.
As I woman, I can relate to the issues that confront women on every step of the path of recovery. From having worked with men in my psychotherapy practice, I have learned that their struggle, though different, is equally as difficult. And, once again, recovery is a process with no set time frame.
Divorce Recovery should be a required course, when a couple gets divorced. I recently realized that when inmates are released from prison, in most cases the prisoner goes from complete incarceration to complete freedom, without any training, guidance, direction or support. Stepping out of a marriage and into a single life style can be daunting when it comes to finances, living alone, moving to a new home, not being able to sleep, not having anyone to share your decisions with, not knowing what to say to your kids to help them feel better, not knowing how to develop a new social context, and feeling the fear of the unknown without the benefit of a partner.
The DIVORCE RECOVERY PROGRAM
Since my own divorce and embarking on developing my psychotherapy and consultancy practice, I have encouraged getting targeted, focused support when recovering from an emotional devastation like divorce. The benefit of participating in a program, doing therapy, seeking counsel from clergy and/or developing and maintaining supportive connections with others ranks very high in the recovery process. Not only does it allow others to bear witness to your experience, pain and growth but it provides essential feedback, a potpourri of new and diverse ideas to consider in your process and most importantly, allows you to know for certain that others feel the same as you do, and you are not alone.
Working with divorced women, in particular, provided a great opportunity for me to formulate a Divorce Recovery Program to especially meet their very specific needs. Most substantial psychological growth results through the course of relationships; feeling connected, developing shared friendship, sharing pain and joy, building back trust, and getting invaluable feedback about your process. A “group” provides an excellent relationship context in which divorce women can recover and thrive.
Groups are forming to begin each month and run for 6 weeks each. Contact Judy@renaissance-transitions.com to get more information. Or call 847-833-9585.