How to make surviving divorce easier by making use of a support network
Finding the right support during divorce can be challenging to say the least. Friends who you thought would be there aren’t, family is in upheaval and not necessarily available to you due to their own pain, and best friends—who are always amazing—will get worn thin in time.
Professionals like therapists, clergy and coaches can be immensely helpful, but something even more powerful that can help you heal: Talking to others who are going through the same thing you are (different details but similar pain). 12-step programs are based on this concept. It’s the power of groups.
What’s interesting is that, on their own, the sad, depressed and lost divorcing person will often flounder, but there seems to be a magic that happens when two or more divorcing people get together. Each one can hold and comfort the other emotionally and, as a result, they both get stronger.
Of course, there is always the concern that the person you connect with might bring you down but this possibility seems to decrease the more people you bring into the mix. Somehow, a survival instinct kicks in and everyone wants to bolster the others in the group. And it is in helping others that you are helped. I suppose it’s one of those, “We teach what we need to learn,” moments.
I’ve been holding divorce support groups for over 15 years now. I know it works. In fact, I tell the women who come to my groups that I have no doubt that they will heal.
How can I be so sure?
Well, for one thing, the fact that you’re in my office tells me you want to feel better and I know that those who want to feel better will put the work in to feel better. Those who don’t want to feel better (consciously or unconsciously) will sit at home, isolate, review the pain of the loss over and over, and will stay in the pain.
But there is also what I believe is a synergistic healing effect by coming together on a regular basis, checking in on how the previous week or two weeks were, and having your process witnessed by others. Having the structure in place is much like having scaffolding around a construction zone: It helps you reach the difficult emotional places.
The American Psychological Association has studied the effectiveness of group(link is external) and they have found that when individuals with a common identity and shared purpose come together, the healing is profoundly greater than what even the most skilled individual therapist can provide.
If you are struggling with the grief from your divorce, I urge you to consider joining a divorce support group. There are often programs at local churches or mental healthorganizations.
It may take some research and you may have to travel a bit, but keep looking.
It’s the difference between healing alone, on your own timetable, versus with others who understand your pain, will never get tired of your story, and who walk with you arm in arm into your new life chapter.
[Susan Pease Padua]