Help Through the Pain of Divorce

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Approximately 25,000 people in Orange County divorced last year. Statistics indicate that almost 50% of first-time marriages fail, and 65% of second marriages end in divorce. Untold numbers of people in our community have been deeply affected by divorce and could benefit from wise guidance and counsel to help with the painful process.

At the Divorce Recovery Workshop held at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, that help is available. In the last 30 years, more than 15,000 people have benefitted from the healing program.

“It was exactly what I needed, when I needed it. It was definitely a profound experience for me,” explained Shelly Archer. “I had loved ones around me who wanted to help, but there is nothing like being with people who really get it, who listen to you and truly understand. You need the support of someone who understands what you’re going through.”

Shelly’s marriage ended after seven years, and she had a 3-month-old baby to tend to, besides the pain of divorce.

“Divorce Recovery was such a healing process for me; you’re in such a fragile state, especially at first,” Shelly said. “I went through it a couple of times and then facilitated. It was great; you learn more and more each time. You don’t sit around and bash your ex; it’s an educational forum. The combination of education from the lecture format and then getting to the personal side of it all in small groups is the best of both worlds; the balance of the two is perfect. I recommend it any time I can.”

Gary Harber also found DRW so helpful that he participated twice and then became a facilitator.

“I’ve facilitated ever since I went through it; this will be my 11th time,” Gary said. “A friend recommended it and it was life changing for me. I divorced after being married 29 years and had two adult kids. It helped me stop beating myself up and feeling like a failure. It also provided a wonderful community for me.”

“I carry brochures about DRW with me,” Gary continued. “Once I got on an elevator on the 12th floor of a building, and a woman got on who was teary and I could tell she was holding papers from a divorce lawyer. We ended up stopping on every floor and talking the whole time. By the bottom floor I’d given her a brochure, and she ended up coming.

“People are very vulnerable, and can be very shy and scared at first. St. Andrew’s gives us a nice, huge comfortable room; it’s a safe environment to come to. DRW is a positive thing to do with a negative.”

The Divorce Recovery Workshop began in 1981 when Dr. Bill Flanagan became an associate pastor at St. Andrew’s, coming form a church in Colorado where he had developed the program. The seminar is for divorced and separated people of all ages. It is held twice a year – the next starts Sept. 15. DRW is recommended by pastors, attorneys, marriage counselors and psychologists as well as participants.

Dr. John Fry, an elder at St. Andrew’s who is now the speaker for the program, first attended DRW when he went through a divorce.

“I went through DRW myself in 1987 and it helped me tremendously to move forward and grow through my divorce,” Dr. Fry said. “I am a psychologist with a private practice, and one of y specialties is stress management. Bill asked me to speak the fourth night of the workshop series on coping with the stress of divorce and I did that over 30 times, as well as being a small group leader 14 times. Two years ago Bill told me he had terminal cancer and asked if I’d take over for him, which I’m honored to do. The creator of this wonderful program passed away a year ago.”

“DRW is a two-hour program; I speak in the first part, and then there’s a small group experience, but people don’t have to talk if they don’t want to,” Dr. Fry continued. “People can walk in the first night, but we suggest preregistering because we try to tailor the small groups to people dealing with similar things such as custody issues. Only a small percentage attends St. Andrew’s. We have people with all sorts of faith positions as well as no faith. This program is a wonderful healing experience; I’ve seen people really move forward and lose their resentment, fear and depression. DRW is a critically important ministry, and we are growing in numbers. People come from all over.”

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Cindy can be reached at [email protected].

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