The day after I said goodbye to my ex-husband at the airport — no, wait … the day after I gave my ex-husband the finger in the crowded airport terminal — I attended a meeting of a divorce support group. I’d found the group listed in the local newspaper between “Cross-Dressers of Las Vegas” and “Friends and Family of Incarcerated People.” And I thought I had problems.
I had just moved to Las Vegas the week before. As I sat in a circle of strangers waiting for my turn to share, I glanced at the “Absolutely No Swearing” sign hanging from the ceiling and thought, This will be a challenge.
“I’m Linda,” I began. “I have no husband, no job, and you people are my only friends.” Everyone laughed at my pathetic truth.
Divorced & Widowed Adjustment, Inc. is a nonprofit organization that provides a forum for individuals to express the range of emotions and concerns brought on by the loss of a relationship. Founded by longtime Las Vegan Park Baker 32 years ago — when there were a mere handful of self-help groups in the community — the organization is the longest running of its kind in this area. Baker originally intended to offer support to individuals experiencing a divorce or separation; a few years later, he realized a similar need existed for those who had lost a partner by death. Today the organization holds meetings for divorced and separated people twice a week; a bereavement group gathers weekly.
Both groups are open to anyone. No dues or fees are charged, and newcomers are always welcome. Though the programs are held at local churches, Divorced & Widowed Adjustment, Inc. is not associated with any religious doctrine and attendees are asked to avoid raising religious issues or legal matters at the meetings.
The organization is staffed by volunteer facilitators. Local resident Ken L., who sought help from the group after his own divorce, has been leading the Monday night meetings for divorced and separated folks at the Community Lutheran Church (3720 E. Tropicana Ave.) for about 15 years now. Ken recommends individuals attend a minimum of six times to determine whether the group is right for them.
“I’d like to see people come for a year,” Ken says. “It doesn’t matter what the person’s age, education or level of success — people are devastated emotionally. Typically, it takes at least a year to fully heal.”
I attended Ken’s meetings for almost a year and a half, and the organization helped me tremendously. When I came to town, I didn’t know a soul — I wasn’t kidding when I said the people in that circle were my only friends. I was thousands of miles from anyone who had ever loved me and I remember feeling terribly alone. Through the group I made friendships that have lasted longer than the marriage that led me to them, and when I found the nerve to try stand-up comedy for the first time, at age 46, my friends from the group were there in the audience to support me.
Recently I returned to a Monday night meeting to mark the fifth anniversary of my initial visit, back in 2003. As I sat and listened to the others vent their frustrations, I felt relieved to be so far past that “open wound” stage. When my turn to share came this time, I told of how I now enjoy a loving relationship with my ex in New Zealand and joked that living in separate hemispheres can do amazing things for a couple.
I also mentioned my adventures in stand-up and my immersion in the writing world: the book I wrote, my tenure as vice president of the Henderson’s Writers’ Group, and my many speaking engagements at writing events. They all seemed interested in the fact that I’ll have a humorous essay on post-divorce dating published this fall in “Chicken Soup for the Divorced Soul.” At the risk of sounding like the Pollyanna I can sometimes be, I concluded with the sentiment that maybe everything really does happen for a reason, because the truth is, I doubt I could boast my record of accomplishments had the crazy Kiwi and I stayed together.
At the end of each meeting everyone links arms for a group hug because, Ken explained, it may be the only hug some people get all week. As we collectively embraced, I sent positive wishes to everyone, hoping they come out the other side of the experience as well as I did. And by giving the group a chance to do its magic, I’m sure they will.
For a schedule of support-group sessions or to find out more about Divorced & Widowed Adjustment, Inc., visit the Web site or call (702) 735-5544.