There are some cultures in the world where there is no synonym for “Goodbye” in any of their languages. While departing, people say, “Please come back soon” or “may God be with you”. Even people who are leaving, say, “I will come back”. Saying goodbye in a divorce is, I believe, the most excruciating experience for most. It hurts…especially when one married for love. It hurts even more if one defied the norms and broke familial ties or moved across the state, country or the globe to be with the partner that one is divorcing or had to divorce. The pain goes up a few notches when children are involved.
The crash of shattered dreams and desperate cries of “What do I do now? Where do I go?” are echoed over and over again. As a Mediator of family disputes, I am asked these questions extremely frequently. I understand that saying goodbye to the life that was supposed to be forever, is daunting for men and women. So here are few of my observations and recommendations in general.
Professional help is abundant. But what people want in such a situation is something more. Most professionals advise the clients to “keep their emotions out”. And it is necessary for ending the marriage clinically and neatly. But what about the sea of emotions that arises with the impending loss of a relationship? Fortunately, there is still compassion out there. When one chaffs through the money making machinery of professionals and institutions, one will find help in the form of genuine support groups for men, women and children.
How to tell if a divorce support group is genuine and effective?
1. Private and safe: A true support group provides a venue and atmosphere that is private (not in a public place) and absolutely safe - physically and emotionally.
2. Confidential : Whatever is said in the group, stays in the group. This is the most important aspect of a genuine support group. None of the information that is exchanged within the group should be shared either by the leaders or the members, outside of the group.
3. Free: A genuine support group is FREE. No fees should ever be paid to join.
4. Leadership : The group is usually facilitated by one or more people who have personally experienced the trauma of divorce. Most of the talking is done by the participants, not the facilitators.
5. Gender specific: Putting together a bunch of emotional men and women together in the group when there is an inherent conflict between the genders, is counter- productive and usually turns into either a battleground or a dating venue for rebounders. A good support group is gender specific, tending to the specific needs of men and women.
6. No judgment zone: Members of a good group should be able to share everything without fear of being judged or mocked.
7. No specific referrals : It is obvious for members to ask for referrals to divorce attorneys, mediators, therapists and financial professionals. If the leadership routinely gives out the name of just one professional from each category, there might be some collusion involved. They should have a list of several professionals in each category that other members have recommended, with a caveat to the members to try them out for themselves.
With every flood, a dam is built. In case of personal catastrophe, there is always some compassionate help available for everyone. What is important is to keep faith and to find one that fits one’s needs and circumstances.