Divorce Support and Healing Group at the Church to begin March 10

Divorce Support and Healing

Reaching out to divorced residents: Shawn Gardner starts divorce support group

By: Julie Butler, New Canaan Advertiser Managing Editor

This article was published in The New Canaan Advertiser on February 13, 2014.

“I feel as if divorce in New Canaan is treated like a disease. People feel sorry for you, but don’t want to catch it.”

This is how Shawn Gardner, a resident with 12-year-old twin daughters, feels about being a divorced person in town.

“As many know, divorce is a frightening thing,” she said. “When my now ex-husband and I separated in 2007, there were no [divorce] support groups and I wandered around in a haze of despair, confusion, fear and isolation. It was just awful. My friends and family meant well, but most were not equipped to assist in a healthy recovery, often offering such advice as ‘just get out there and date,’ or ‘take him to the cleaners,’ or ‘go out and spend money.’ Without sounding too corny, it was through God’s grace that I found my path to healing.

Gardner said that someone tipped off her minister at the Congregational Church of New Canaan, the Rev. Chris Delmar, that she was suffering.

“She came to just ‘be’ with me on several occasions and that small amount of listening, love and care nudged me onto the road of healing,” said Gardner, whose divorce was finalized in 2011.

“After finally recovering — many therapy sessions and years later — I thought, with the divorce rate so high, why isn’t there more support offered in New Canaan? Is it because the whole ‘family town’ image won’t allow for it?” Gardner asked. Who knows, but I felt that something had to be done. I couldn’t imagine letting people suffer like I did. I am a single mother who works full-time as a real estate agent, so the idea of adding one more thing on my plate was like putting a hole in my head. But God’s work isn’t always convenient,” she laughed.

Turning pain into action

Last spring, moved by something she said she couldn’t quite put her finger on, she went to her church, (the Congregational Church) and tossed about the idea of a divorce support program. It has taken nine months and many hours of planning, but it’s finally ready to launch.

“The Divorce Support and Healing Program is a Christian, faith-based recovery program intended to provide a safe and confidential haven to support healing from the pain of divorce,” said Gardner. “Currently, there are no such support groups in our community addressing this need.”

The group is open to both church and nonchurch members, males as well as females.

The free, eight-week program will begin on Monday, March 10*, in the parlor of the church, from 7-8:30 p.m. Complimentary child care is available for participants. *Please note the day change.

“The program is open to anyone who is in the divorce process or has been through a divorce, but needs healing,” said Gardner, a trained Stephen Minister, who will facilitate the group along with Nicole Zasowski, a licensed counselor from The Center for Hope and Renewal in Greenwich.

“We will be allowing people to join through the second week, and then it will be closed.”

Common issues for divorcees

According to Gardner, there are many issues that face the newly-divorced (and even notso- newly divorced) individual: anger; resentment; confusion; financial hardship; guilt; remorse; social isolation; profound loss, both emotionally and materially; a sense of being overwhelmed; loneliness, and depression. The program will address all of these issues, in addition to topics such as young and adult children’s issues, navigating the dynamics of a re-defined family, letting go of resentment and working with your ex-spouse.

The first 45 minutes of each session will address the challenges of divorce and healthy ways to handle them, and the second 45 minutes will be open for group discussion.

The group will also be held under strict confidentiality.

“Confidentiality and trust are the linchpins of this program,” said Gardner. “Without it, healing may be compromised. The program is grounded from a Christian-based perspective, but is designed to honor everyone — no matter where they are on the faith spectrum.”

More info: Shawn Gardner at 203-273-1212, or shawn@shawngardner.com, or Rev. Chris Delmar at 203-966-2651, ext. 2, or chrisd@godsacre.org

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