Whether you are in the middle of getting a divorce or in the period of time immediately following one, chances are you’re experiencing feelings of grief and anger – and you may even be feeling like no one understands what you’re going through. During this time, getting involved with a divorce support group may give you the opportunity to connect with other people who are going through similar situations.
It’s important to remember that a divorce support group is not the same thing as attending group therapy. The latter is often run by a trained and licensed marriage and family therapist, whereas divorce support groups can be offered by anyone regardless of their professional background. Support groups are often designed to provide a place where people can talk about their feelings and experiences in an understanding environment that does not involve therapeutic treatment.
Finding the divorce support group that is right for you
If you’re wondering how to find a divorce support group in your area, there are a variety of paths to take. First, consider contacting your local mental health center as they may offer support groups or provide a listing of available resources. This information may even be listed on their website. If you are currently treating with a medical or mental health professional, asking for their recommendations is important as they may be able to direct you to a support group that fits your specific needs. Secondly, ask family and friends for their suggestions; you may be pleasantly surprised by how much they may be able to help you! Lastly, take a look at community bulletin boards in your local library, newspaper, community center, grocery store or place of worship. These, along with online listings, are popular places for support groups to share their meeting times and locations.
Know what you’re looking for
With a little research, you’re certain to find at least one, if not several divorce support groups in your area. But how do you know which one is right for you? Before attending any meetings, it’s important for you to define what YOU want to get out of the the group. Are you looking for peer support to improve your self-esteem? Perhaps you are looking for suggestions from other parents handling a divorce with children? Maybe you simply want to connect with other people who have undergone a similar experience and make new friends? There are no right or wrong answers, but knowing your expectations will help you to find a divorce support group that will be satisfying and beneficial.
Preparing for your first meeting
Once you’ve found a support group that looks promising, be prepared to ask a few questions of the group leader and other group members. Questions you may want to consider asking include:
- What is the format of the meeting? Are there designated times for introductions, questions, and discussion? Some meetings may be very structured while others loosely organized.
- Is the meeting style one where all attendees are encouraged to speak or only those who feel like talking?
- Does the meeting often run past its stated end time?
- What is the group’s policy or rule about confidentiality when it comes to yourself, your children, and the people you may wish to talk about?
- How large, or small, are most meetings? Is the group growing or shrinking in members?
- Who is the leader? What is their background and what brought them to offering this group?
After a meeting, evaluate your experience
After your first meeting, take some time to think about it – is the group a good fit for you and your needs? Were other members supportive? Did you feel comfortable with the leader’s style? Were you able to relate to the opinions shared by others? There’s no need to rush to an answer, take your time to think about it and maybe even write down a few thoughts or questions you might have. You could even make a list of things you liked and didn’t like about the group. This kind of comparison will be helpful if you have several divorce support groups in your area and are visiting more than one. If you don’t find a group that is it good fit for you right away, don’t worry. Keep your eyes and ears open – and don’t discount starting your own group if you feel your particular needs are not served by current offerings! Chance are, there are other people in your community who feel the same way and would be happy to join with you for mutual support.