If you are going through a divorce, chances are that you have already allied yourself with the usual suspects: a lawyer, a therapist, family members and old friends. But one of the best resources you can draw upon to give you strength during the divorce process is a divorce support group. Perhaps you have never heard of these. They are meetings of people going through a divorce, where individuals can share their stories and express their emotions in a neutral and supportive environment. Many churches or community centers offer these groups – it just might take a bit of digging to find out where and when they are held. Joining these groups can make a significant, positive impact on your emotional well-being during your case.
These groups can offer a number of benefits. First, they can be held in person or even online, meaning that you have no excuse to not attend. Deciding to do so is a major first step, and if you take the plunge, take a moment to praise yourself. Some groups might offer events that could help you, such as bringing in professional counsellors or legal experts to provide general information about going through a divorce. Others are more traditional, encouraging its members to be open about their experiences and share solutions and stories. Some might be able to provide you with professional resources or referrals. They provide a supportive community and keep you accountable for your actions and attendance. But most of all, they comprise of people who will listen to you with an empathetic ear. Each member in that group knows exactly what you are going through. Sometimes, just being able to acknowledge that you are not alone in your suffering can be incredibly healing.
Once you decide that attending a divorce support group might be worthwhile, you will have to decide what kind of group you should attend. There are some which are faith-based. Others focus on women or men. Some focus on divorcing with children or addressing people who were involved in abusive relationships. And of course, there are general divorce groups that are not targeted at any particular demographic. You will need to determine if it is important to you have to a group that is focused on one aspect, or a more general discussion of divorce.
Divorce often destroys self-esteem, especially among women. In some cases, women who get divorced face poverty post-divorce a staggering nine times more frequently than women who remain married. A divorced woman will suffer a thirty percent drop in her income, while a man will feel only a ten percent reduction. The stress of raising a child under financial difficulties can lead to high levels of stress compounded by low self-esteem. Their mental health takes a hit, which can have a rippling effect on all aspects of their lives. Therefore, it might be beneficial for a woman who is going through a divorce to seek out a female-focused support group for divorcing parties. Women are social creatures and depend on a community to get through tough times. These kind of support groups are a natural offshoot of this tendency. Other members provide a sounding board, advice and sometimes a vote of confidence for women going through the process.
Men’s groups may be more difficult to find. The sad reality is that men feel a certain pressure from society not to be seen as weak or need external help when going through emotional trauma. Nothing could be further from the truth. Men’s support groups offer the same benefits as a women’s support group and provide comfort that they are not alone. A support group will prevent members from becoming deluded and hold them accountable for their actions. This may lead to a less combative and more cooperative divorce process. Men are also more likely to have fewer social connections outside their marriage. Once that is ending, men can find it difficult to get the kind of emotional bolstering they require since their friend group has likely halved. Men’s groups can step into this role. They can also encourage men to connect with their emotions in a healthy way. Many men can find it difficult to express themselves, especially when it comes to a divorce. Support groups offer a platform for them to do so without judgment or pressure and can provide tools for men to learn how to effectively communicate how they are feeling. This, in turn, can mean they are better parents and more able to co-parent effectively.
While there are certainly co-ed groups that can provide similar positive effects, the benefits of segregated groups cannot be understated. Men and women usually express themselves differently. Being in a group with the same sex can avoid miscommunications between members. Above all, many groups are restricted to one sex for safety reasons. There may be abuse in previous relationships. A person may not want to become vulnerable if they do not feel physically reassured. And, keeping groups to one gender reduces the chances that others are there to find a new partner or date. Most of the members of a support group are emotionally vulnerable and do not want to feel pressured by someone else to get into a relationship if they are not ready.
If you decide to join a divorce support group, find one that is facilitated by a professional. While self-guided groups are still useful, a facilitator can ensure that the meetings are productive and a safe space to share. Sometimes, when discussing divorces, previous traumas or experiences of abuse may arise or be remembered. A professional should be there to identify and support an individual feeling the effects of a long-forgotten trauma. Additionally, other mental health issues can arise during a divorce, such as anxiety or reactive depression. When a facilitator is present, they can monitor individuals suffering from these conditions and will recognize when and if they need to step in and recommend individual therapy or medication.
If you need more information about divorce, contact the Law Office of Peter Van Aulen for a free, initial consultation today at 201) 745 – 8400.