It was a Sunday night and I stood at the edge of the dance floor next to Dee. She’d recently learned about my separation and told me about a support group, DivorceCare for people going through divorce.
“I think you’d find the group really helpful. I’ve been leading the one in my church for years and we have people of many ages and situations participate.”
I watched the couples swing dancing and considered my schedule– filled with part-time work as a UNC research nurse, caring for my grandson two days a week, visiting my mother in my hometown, writing, and taking care of my home.
“I don’t have time for that,” I said, thanking her for letting me know but insisting that the support of my therapist and family and friends was sufficient.
Two weeks later, another woman, Dusty– who didn’t know about my conversation with Dee, asked me how I’d made it through the holidays. She listened to the description of my ups and downs on the how am I doing meter.
“You need to go to a DivorceCare group,” she said. “I went through the program twice and it really helped me.”
“I don’t have time,” I told her. “Besides, I have all of you who’ve been through it.” Since I first told my dancing friends about my separation, many had shared their experiences.
“Yes, but most of us went through it a while ago. In a group, you’ll be with those who are going through it at the same time as you.”
I tried to give her the same pushback that I gave Dee, but I know Dusty better and she wasn’t buying it.
“You just have to do it,” she said, with caring firmness in her voice. “You need to for yourself— this is the time to take care of you. Nothing else is more important.”
I hesitated, then gave in.
“Okay. I’ll check on it,” I promised, then each of us found a dance partner.
The next day, I looked at the DivorceCare web site and found that it’s a network of thousands of divorce recovery support groups meeting worldwide. Their goal is to “help you find help for your hurts, discover hope for the future and experience God’s healing.” Its founder and host for the course videos, Steve Grissom created the program after going through divorce himself.
I was surprised at how many churches in my area hosted the groups. Fortunately, there was one on Tuesdays when I could go. The program ran for thirteen weekly sessions
Later, it occurred to me that I’d had the same, “I don’t have time for that,” response years before when I learned I had to be treated for breast cancer. After the reality sank in and I filled my calendar with the projected eight months of treatment, I thought of my busy life as a working mother of teenage sons. How would I fit all those appointments in and continue to work and carry on with family life?
Of course no one has time for cancer; it was my way of saying I resented what cancer was forcing me to do, how I would be spending my time.
At the five-year-post-cancer mark, I needed to be treated for lymphedema. In chapter five of my memoir, I explained to Sharon, the spiritual leader of a Catholic retreat center, my feelings about having to undergo treatment:
“And now, I just found out I have to get treatment for this arm,” I said, holding my left arm up. “I don’t have time for that. It’s not how I want to spend my summer. I thought I was done with cancer.” (He Heard My Voice, p. 101)
Again, I resented what cancer had caused in my life– and specifically in my arm.
Now, I look at my initial response to my diagnosis, and then to the consequence of lymphedema, and see that like the unexpected event of cancer in my life, my marital split has caused changes that I resent. Yes, I have a busy life but part of me not wanting to go to the DivorceCare group is it’s not how I want to spend my time.
I never thought I would be in this situation; I never thought I would have cancer, either.
I remember back to Sharon’s question at the retreat center. She’d asked me, “Don’t you think you deserve to be taken care of?” In that moment, I’d considered my busy life (some things don’t change!) and what it meant to slow down and take care of me.
Thinking about this season in my life, I know I can’t rush this working through and healing from the separation I didn’t expect; it will take the time it needs.
In the past two weeks, I’ve attended meetings with the 10 people in our group of eight women and two men. The couple that leads our group had each experienced divorce and later found each other. The that of “I don’t have time for that” has now become a caring circle of fellow travelers on an unintended path. Our stories are different but we’re all hurting in similar ways and finding comfort and hope as we begin to know each other.
I feel hopeful that we’ll all experience growth and healing over the course of our time as a group.
How About You?
Have you ever had a time in your life when you participated in a support group? How did you benefit?
Is there an area of your life in which you could benefit from participating in a support group now?
My memoir can be purchased in ebook and paperback on Amazon.