People find life after divorce and death

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Feelings of loss, helplessness, hopelessness, anger and loneliness can be all too familiar to those who have experienced a separation, divorce or the death of a loved one. Many parishes in the Arlington Diocese offer support and guidance for those suffering in the aftermath of loss and looking to move their lives. One annual program, Rebuilding, is beginning this month. 

Rebuilding, a program sponsored by the Office for Family Life, is a nine-part series designed for adults who want to rebuild their lives after their marriages have ended. Every winter, St. Martin de Porres Senior Center in Alexandria hosts the program, and this year it will begin Feb. 26. 

"I volunteered to become one of the facilitators after attending Coping and Rebuilding because I found hope. I wanted to help others the same way others helped me." Alicia Waning, parishioner of St. Theresa Church in Ashburn

Another diocesan program is called Coping. It's a six-part series that takes place in the fall and supports people who have experienced immediate trauma. Although about half of the attendees of Rebuilding come from Coping, there are no prerequisites for either program.

In Rebuilding, attendees will hear testimonials, eat dinner and discuss chapters from the books Rebuilding: When Your Relationship Ends and Widow to Widow

“Some people feel there is no hope, and exposing them to people who have been through it (shows) there’s life after your spouse passes away or when your marriage ends,” said Joe Walker, coordinator of Rebuilding. 

Walker had been married for about four years when he divorced in 2006. With three small children and not knowing where to go, he saw an ad for Coping in a church bulletin and registered. Walker was surrounded by others who were suffering from the loss of a spouse, too. His outlook improved and inspired him to enroll in Rebuilding. 

About 30 to 40 people attend Rebuilding annually, with a ratio of two-thirds separated or divorced and one-third widowed. Each Sunday night begins with prayer and a potluck dinner, followed by the coordinator leading the discussion and sometimes a guest speaker. Discussions use “rebuilding blocks,” based from the program’s reading material, to address the process of grieving, acceptance and adjustment. Later, people gather in small groups led by a facilitator. It’s in the small groups where participants find the most help, listening and hearing stories similar to their own.

Walker’s involvement with Coping and Rebuilding continued when he became a facilitator in 2007 and coordinator in 2009.

“Being a single dad isn’t the easiest thing in the world,” he said. “But (Coping and Rebuilding) helped me to understand that I am capable of taking care of myself on my own.”

Walker’s story is not unique. Many facilitators in Rebuilding and Coping are former participants. Often people find a new community that understands and supports them. 

“I volunteered to become one of the facilitators for these programs after attending Coping and Rebuilding because I found hope,” said Alicia Waning, a parishioner of St. Theresa Church in Ashburn. “I wanted to help others the same way others helped me.”

Waning and her husband, Bob, were married for more than 41 years. They co-founded Retrouvaille of Northern Virginia to help couples improve their communication skills. When Bob died of cancer in 2012, Alicia felt as if a part of her died with him. 

“Being able to share with other widows/widowers who were experiencing similar thoughts and feelings, allowed me to see that there was hope for me,” she said.

“(People) will find a friendly group,” said Marian Delmore, a parishioner of Church of the Nativity in Burke. “The important thing about Rebuilding is you have other people to talk to, you’re not alone.”

Delmore entered Rebuilding in 1995 after her husband died unexpectedly from a heart attack. She volunteered as a facilitator for Coping in 1996, and then as a facilitator for Rebuilding in 2007.

Rebuilding and Coping started in the Washington area in 1989. Since then, more parish-based ministries have begun, including St. Veronica Church in Chantilly and Good Shepherd Church in Alexandria who offer monthly discussion groups for the divorced and separated. St. John Neumann Church in Reston and St. Mark Church in Vienna have eight-week programs for divorced. St. Mary of Sorrows Church in Fairfax holds a biweekly support group called “Sharing Hope.” Several other parishes provide quarterly retreats for divorced called “Mornings of Mercy.”

“Many of my original Coping and Rebuilding peers are now my best friends,” said Waning. “On many occasions, I find it easier to confide my most intimate thoughts, fears and feelings with my widow/widower friends than my own family.”

“It was a very positive experience,” said Delmore. “It just helped me to feel more grounded and (learn) that there are ways you can rediscover a part of yourself.”

Find out more

Go to copingrebuilding.com or call 703/596-2673. Go to here to find out more information on diocesan ministries.

 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017

@cbergeronACH