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Reaching out Beyond Friends and Family

Cultivating community and finding support groups to lessen your loneliness

“The need for connection and community is primal, as fundamental as the need for air, water, and food.”

Dean Ornish

The emotional roller coaster ride during and after a divorce can be difficult to endure, especially if you feel like you’re riding alone. You’re doing your best to keep it together and put on a brave face, but there are days when you struggle to make it through and wonder how long this emotional strain will last.

At some point, you will need empathy from others. Empathy is the ability to hear someone in the middle of struggle and respond to them with understanding and compassion. This may not come solely from friends or family. You could receive empathy from people with whom you may not feel particularly close.  Likewise, you may get less empathy from the people in your life you’d most expect to support you right now. Be assured that if this happens, it likely has more to do with them and less with you. Maybe they’ve never experienced divorce, and just aren’t sure what to say.

That’s where divorce support groups come in. Finding a support network can help you find those people who get it, and who won’t let you stay on the roller coaster alone. It’s not a weakness to ask for and get support, and it’s often invaluable for your healing process. The Avail Exchange is a great place to get started–and hey, you’re already here! 

LINDA’S STORY

While the stress and strain of divorce can make you feel like you want to withdraw, this is a time when you need others. It can be life changing. “When I made new friends who were living a healthy lifestyle and did a lot of physically challenging things, my life completely changed. I became stronger, more independent, and grief and anxiety disappeared.” (Linda)

GETTING PRACTICAL

There are lots of places to find support; after all, over half of American marriages end in divorce, so plenty of people have experienced what you’re going through! 

Support groups are a a great option, and the benefits of a support group are many. These groups bring together people have been through a divorce, or are going through a divorce, and can relate to what you’re experiencing. They often offer a safe, non-judgmental environment where you can share openly and not feel like you’re burdening others; a consistent place where others listen and give honest feedback; and, a place to feel validated and understood, because your feelings are normal. Divorce support groups can facilitate healing, as they’re often run by licensed professionals, divorce coaches, therapists, or other trained facilitators. You may make a new friend or two, and you will certainly feel less alone.

Yet there are many other ways to find support, too.  In the midst of a divorce you may not have the time or energy to research groups, call and ask questions, find childcare, or travel to attend a group. In this case, finding support online is a great option. The Avail Community is here for you, as are Facebook groups, Meetup.com groups, and other online resources where you can access support immediately and with minimal effort.

BE AWARE

There are all kinds of support groups with different approaches. Pay special attention to the group’s affiliation and the leader. Who’s in charge? What is their background and experience? Also, consider privacy issues. How is your privacy protected? Is confidentiality a priority for the group?

REMEMBER

Think about what you need most when selecting a group. Things to consider:

  • Is the group single sex or coed?
  • Is there a religious affiliation to the group that you’re comfortable with?
  • Is there a focus on specific topics such as anger management, legal advice, self-esteem, anxiety, and others.
  • How are the meetings run? Pay attention to the structure, and the stated outcome or intention.
  • Is there a curriculum or is the group more casual and flexible?
  • Be conscious of any agenda that may seek to take advantage of individuals in a vulnerable transformative state. If anything about the group or its individual leaders feels coercive or threatening to you in any way, get out. Trust your gut.
  • Be true to yourself.

TAKE ACTION

You can find a support group through an online search for both virtual and in-person groups. You can also do a  search of local community centers or religious institutions.. You could also ask a social worker, attorney, or therapist for recommendations or talk with friends who have gone through a divorce. Once you find a group that seems like a good fit, keep an open mind and attend a meeting or two.

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