It is not an overstatement to say that divorce is a major life crisis. It affects every aspect of the individual – physically, emotionally, socially, mentally, psychologically and spiritually. The degree and type of impact may vary according to the circumstances or environments in which the affected parties find themselves, but everyone going through divorce experiences deep hurt.
Some divorces can be so traumatic it takes the parties ensnared a long time to recover. For most, it is a lonely journey. Lonely because it is a sensitive and intense emotional experience that is difficult to discuss, let alone go through. Well-meaning friends and family may be unsure of how to approach or help the affected parties. Some expect adults to have it all together and move on quickly. But those undergoing divorce need emotional support and encouragement, especially during and after the initial point of separation.
You are not alone: Healing with a Support Group
Healing from the pain of divorce is a process, a journey. And there is no definitive time frame for that journey. Some research suggests that it generally takes approximately 2 to 3 years, sometimes more. Recovering from divorce takes time and you can’t rush the process of healing. Because even if the legal process is similar, theexperience of divorce is unique to the individual. Each person’s road to recovery looks very different.
There are different resources that individuals going through divorce can access to get the help and support they need. At Healing Hearts@Fei Yue, the Transcending Divorce Group Support Programme (TDSP) is one such resource. It brings together people who share the common bond of experience in a journey towards healing after divorce.
The group meets 1.5 hours every month over 6 months. Each session consists of psychoeducational elements where we learn about aspects of the healing process. Time is set aside for participants to share openly about how their own experience relates to what they have learned:
What are the effects of divorce on me?
How do I deal with my anger and loneliness?
Can I forgive?
How do I recover from divorce?
How do I move on?
Set in a gender-specific, closed-door environment and always in a small group of no more than 8 persons, TSDP creates a safe space that allows participants to feel safe and confident enough to articulate their inner struggles. TDSP is also facilitated by counsellors and volunteers with lived experience who understand the struggle.
Who steers the support group?
While the facilitator guides the group, it is the participants who drive the agenda, as we have found that the insights, thoughts and reflections of fellow participants resonate more with each other. Encouraged to be vulnerable, participants learn about and identify with each other’s struggles, ending up feeling less alone. That ‘I’m not alone’ feeling is especially powerful and has ripple effects on positive affect and increased confidence, which are needed as they journey in post-divorce recovery.
What participants have said
TDSP has been well received since it began this year, with participants finding the experience helpful, affirmative, and empowering.
One said, “It is heart-warming to know that complete strangers can reach out and feel safe enough to express hurt and pain without feeling ashamed. The most comforting thing is, you know you’re being heard and understood, not judged. I can be completely myself without pretending that I am not hurting.”
Another shared his/her excitement to have found a support group like TDSP, as other programmes offering support for divorce tend to be child-centric, where co-parenting is the focus and the adults feel left on their own to deal with their pain. “Parents need to heal before they heal their children,” the participant said, acknowledging TDSP’s strengths.
A facilitator reflects
As one of the facilitators of TDSP, I observe that it doesn’t matter how long one has been divorced: the pain of it remains if left unprocessed. One of our participants was divorced more than a decade ago. And she shared how grateful she was to join the group. “I now know I am not the only one feeling this way. In fact, what I’m feeling is normal.”
Every participant has wisdom to offer the rest in the group, that emerges from her or his personal stories and lived experience. At the end of each session, the group generates ideas and shares resources to enrich each other’s healing journey, offering strength and hope to someone else, and receiving it too.
I see a stronger sense of self emerging in participants from the devastating wildfire that divorce can be, as they take stock of what is lost in the fire and chart a path towards healing, moving on, and growth.