No longer alone: The value of a divorce support groupWritten by Gary Koenig
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Hugging popcorn buckets and jumbo Cherry Cokes like a couple of circus bears, my friend Don and I found seats at the movie theatre. Prior to the lights dimming, we discussed our latest mishaps while living alone and lamented the cozy couples scattered around us.
We gobbled popcorn as we waited for our action movie to start. The characters were sure to pound, crash or explode – we considered it therapy.
Don and I had each been married for over 25 years before going through divorces. We had grown kids, were business owners and suddenly found ourselves alone on weekends, which we once spent with our families. Now, Saturday night movies together were the highlight of the week.
Afterward, we’d go to a little Chinese place with green plaster dragons on magenta walls. The waitresses were always so friendly, and we craved a kind woman’s voice.
One night, while mocking our good fortunes from the cellophane-wrapped cookies, Don proclaimed, "You know, I really enjoy our going to the movies and all, but I have to tell you that I like women. I mean, I really like women."
It was time to do something. We needed other people.
We decided to attend a DivorceCare class. Don and I walked into a room with 20 folding chairs set up in a circle with a couple of Kleenex boxes in the middle of the floor. A box was kicked across the floor like a hockey puck to the person who needed it most when telling his or her story.
The head of the class was an energetic, blond woman in her early 50s who was a tell-it-like-it-is, yet understanding, teacher. She had been through a tough divorce, which was one reason she could teach a healing class. She kept us in line, despite our mixed motives for coming through the door. As it turns out, everyone there was at a different stage of loss, and the group setting provided a sanctuary where we could vent in confidence. We were growing – together.
The class taught us how to build a new Christ-centred life. We participated over the next 12 weeks, listening to each other’s stories and watching videos about finances, anger, children and forgiveness.
One Sunday after class, two women approached Don and me. They told us how much they missed going out to dinner and to the movies. We suggested the entire class go out as a group. Everyone loved the idea. From then on, the men and women took turns deciding the Saturday activity. Sometimes we went roller-skating (looking like a bunch of teenagers), other times to dinner and a movie. We had so much fun that strangers asked to join The Group – as we soon became known.
For a unique season of my life, The Group was a source of encouragement. It’s tough to feel alone with 20 people singing Happy Birthday over a giant, iced chocolate-chip cookie. We emailed Bible verses and prayed for each other over the phone. We helped each other with the practical stuff, too. The guys volunteered to help the women shovel snow or move furniture. The women gave washing, sewing and cooking tips to the men. We stood by each other.
Our teacher also encouraged same-sex friendships, so we worked to cultivate them. Sometimes the women would meet on Friday nights for prayer and discussion. The guys went out for pizza.
Whatever the evening activity, we capped it off with stories over chips and salsa at a casual restaurant. Many shared, some cried, but mostly we laughed. We were healing – together.
In 2 Corinthians 1:4, we’re told to comfort others with the comfort we ourselves have received. The Group did just that, and we, in turn, brought the same solace to others.
The DivorceCare ministry is available internationally. To find a group near you, visit Divorcecare.org.
Website references do not constitute blanket endorsement or complete agreement by Focus on the Family Canada.
Gary Koenig enjoys Saturdays with The Group in Elkhorn, Nebraska, at the time of publication.
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