‘It changes everything in your life’ New support group programme helps adults and eventually children recover from pain and shame of divorce
Torn apart ‘in ways I could not imagine’
A divorced man, who asked to remain anonymous, wrote to The Royal Gazette to describe the emotional and financial hardship involved after their marriage ended. Here is his story:
My divorce was the most traumatic and horrific event of my life.
In one legal manoeuvre there was the loss of someone I once loved, the loss of an intact family, the loss of dreams for the future; all to be replaced by a life in crisis mine. I was torn apart in ways I could not imagine or foresee. In a vortex of chaos I lost family and friends, my career and in return I was overwhelmed by embarrassment, confusion, riddled with shame and an unbearable sense of despair. Years of financial planning evaporated in legal fees and divorce settlement and a career that had some promise nosedived in redundancy. I was lost in gaping emotional wounds. The trauma left behind by the hurricane of divorce was an intense pain that seemed to be present every day.
The emotional whirlwinds of anger, confusion and depression affecting me and my children felt like they would never subside. Every day divorce presented a reality that the most horrific event of my life would not be going anywhere. It was with me when I went to bed, when I woke in the morning there was no escaping the emotional damage caused by divorce. Dr Jim A Talley says, “The reality is that divorce is the most painful thing you can go through because it impacts so much of your life. There’s no way around or easy way out. And everybody is looking for a painless way out of this whole situation.”
There is hope. Against this bleak backdrop I found healing and saw that it was possible to recover and be restored to a whole and vibrant life. With help and guidance the slow process of moment to moment, day by day healing began.
The DivorceCare programme gave me a thorough understanding and experience in healing and recovery. There were no shortcuts and no stone was left unturned. The programme provided insight into the dynamics of divorce, the accompanying anger, loneliness and depression. It addressed the affect of divorce on my finances, future relationships and possibly my faith. Most importantly, the DivorceCare programme stressed the need for forgiveness and where possible, some form of reconciliation with my ex-spouse. I gained insights and was made aware of things to avoid and the behaviours to embrace that would affect lasting change and genuine healing.
I was able to rebuild and reclaim my life with real hope today again, looking to the future.
DivorceCare will be on offer in July, thanks to the New Life Church of Nazarene in Smith’s. For more information visit www.newlifebda.org or call 236-5694.
Canadian novelist Margaret Atwood once said: “A divorce is like an amputation: you survive it, but there's less of you”.
Pastor Ernest Peets, Jr, of New Life Church of the Nazarene, couldn’t agree more. He has launched DivorceCare a ten to 12 week support group programme gearing to help adults, and eventually children, recover from the pain and shame of divorce.
The free programme is expected to start in the first week of July.
Dr Peets said divorce was probably one of the most painful processes someone could ever go through. “It changes everything in your life. It’s a very difficult process for people to go through and navigate.
“The effects of divorce are long lasting as it can effect children from generation to generation.”
In addition to the initial hurts and scars involved, the process on average costs $30,000. Outside of the division of possessions and property, it can lead to separation of the family unit, particularly children, he said.
“A lot of people going through divorce are experiencing pain, loneliness, isolation and financially they are overburdened.
“No one really wins in divorce except the lawyers who make out with thousands of dollars,” he said.
According to Dr Peets, the Island’s divorce and family courts were “over run” with issues relating to marriage, divorce, separation and other parental issues. While he admitted this was of concern, he said the church community wanted to be part of the solution.
“Usually the church is seen in the beginning of the relationship, such as the wedding and taking the pictures, but there is lots of life that happens after that.
“In some situations because of choices or circumstances divorce does happen and I do believe the church can play a vital role in helping some find support and healing.”
Dr Peets is happily married today, but understands the complex emotions experienced by children of divorce.
He was 20-years-old and in college when his parents decided to end their marriage. “I didn’t see it coming,” he said.
“When I heard the news I was very conflicted about what was transpiring because I wanted my parents to be happy, but at the same time it changed everything I had planned for my future and what I thought life was going to be like going forward.”
His wife Julie’s parents also got divorced when she was eight-years-old. Before getting married in 1997, the two made a promise to do whatever necessary to make the union work. They now have four children, ranging in age from two to 12.
“We wanted to break the cycle for our life so our four children could build something in their relationships going forward.”
This will be the first time DivorceCare will be operated on the Island. It consists of small support groups of ten to 12 people who are experiencing separation or divorce; and intends to get all participants on the road to recovery and experiencing wholeness again.
Another counselling programme for children age five to 12 is also expected to be on offer later in the future. “What we found is a lot of children blame themselves because of what transpires in their parents relationship and try to do their best to fix the marriage,” said Dr Peets.
The children’s programme will consist of simple activities that allow children to communicate their feelings and better understand what’s happening between their mum and dad.
Dr Peets will be co-facilitating some adult groups, along with volunteers who have been through DivorceCare in other jurisdictions before.
The programme has a twofold mission, according to Dr Peets. Firstly, to alleviate some of the negative effects of the divorce, such as depression and a feeling of isolation; and to assist the family, particularly children, whose parents are going through separation and divorce.
“The ultimate goal in the end is to assist the parents in creating a co-parenting plan. After marriage is dissolved we can still have two parents who are at least amicable and keep the child as it’s primary focus.”
The programme will be sponsored by recently formed The Counselling Centre; individuals who need more intensive work can get additional support from the group, Dr Peets said.
DivorceCare is expected to run each Thursday, starting the first week in July, for 90 minutes each session. It is free of charge, but donations are accepted.
For more information or to register call the church office in Smith’s on 236-5694.
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