When Fred got divorced in 2004, he felt extreme isolation. Many of his friends remained in touch solely with his ex-wife, while others didn’t seem to empathize with his sense of loss.
“I had nowhere to go,” he said.
Fred attended services at Shelter Rock Church in Manhasset, where a staff member mentioned Divorce Care, the congregation’s support group for those undergoing or having recently undergone divorce. He went to his first meeting the following Friday, and came back for every available session over the next four and a half years.
He spoke on condition that his last name be omitted.
“I found people who could actually understand what I was going through,” he said. “I heard people sharing their stories and I poured out my heart as well.”
The group, affiliated with Divorce Care’s national network of support gatherings, has met at Shelter Rock Church for 12 years. The meetings are held every Friday over a period of 13 weeks in the fall and spring. Each session takes up a different divorce-related issue such as loneliness, depression or finances. Participants watch a 40-minute video, then discuss how the themes covered relate to their own experiences. Approximately 7 to 12 people attend each meeting, said Lauren-Ashley Brugger, a marriage and family therapist who helps facilitate meetings.
“There’s a lot of shame attached to divorce,” Brugger said. “It’s a difficult and complex thing to wrap your mind around unless you’re walking through it.”
After attending meetings for two years, Fred became a facilitator. “The support was so freely given to me that I wanted to give it to others,” he said.
“I know what participants are going through and I’ve come out through that valley,” he added. “So I can share my experience and say, ‘you do come out of this.’ But some days are better than others. You can’t rush the processing of a feeling.”
Brugger said, “It’s really beautiful to see all these people who are very broken and dealing with intricate things but are able to find support within one another and find positive points within their lives.”
In 2009, Fred remarried and stopped attending the support group. He was recently asked to return as a co-facilitator, however; it was an invitation he gladly accepted. He now attends with his second wife, who has also been through a divorce.