Tucson Lifestyle — September 2014
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Divorce: Charting A Course To Recovery
Kimbery Schmitz

The unfortunate reality is that a significant amount of metaphorical ripping results from a divorce. Hearts, homes and trust are broken, families and ways of life are uprooted.

There are many things to be tended to during and after divorce: matters of the heart and the business of separation. Often the process looks and feels like opposing winds battering the sails of a ship limping through choppy waters with a broken hull. Unless a couple is one of the extremely lucky few to have a healthy, amicable and mutually beneficial breakup, the calmer waters may seem impossible to reach from within the storm. But they can be found. Sometimes it takes a lot of paddling to get to them, but they are out there, as are resources to help divorcing or separating people find them.

Jessamyn Schaller, Ph.D., Assistant Professor at the University of Arizona Eller College of Management, studies the human side of the economy, and more specifically, the effects of recession on the family. She concludes that divorce rates spike during recovery from economic recession due to the “pent-up demand for divorce” that isn’t feasibly attained when households are struggling financially. She explains that these demands are being legally realized more in the last two years as the economy and, therefore, households recover from financial crisis. Bonnie Kneller, LCSW, a Tucson-based, private practice, licensed, certified social worker/psychotherapist specializing in divorce, blended family, and relationship counseling, anecdotally cites that the two most significant factors in divorce are infidelity and financial strain — the latter often begetting the former.

There are many Tucsonans who are experiencing what Kneller equates to a kind of profound loss. She explains that “divorce is the death of a family and the death of a relationship ... it is losing someone you love — losing a dream that you love. It can take 1-5 years to recover.” As cliché as it sounds, as with all things, time (and concerted effort toward recovery) does heal the pain and distress that divorce can bring.

There could not be a more poignant statement applied to recovery from divorce than that of Mitch Albom, who wrote, “All endings are also beginnings. We just don’t know it at the time.” People considering, experiencing or rebounding from divorce have a variety of tools available to assist with the process of beginning again. Locally based counselor-led groups, video/ Workbook-based peer group workshops, and one-on-one therapy are available to help adults, children, and teens navigate to those calm waters of recovery.

For more than 30 years, donation-supported Divorce Recovery has offered a variety of services to Tucson families. Trained facilitators, who often are licensed counselors, lead group sessions for adults and children. Offerings include a Financial Life After Loss session led by a certified financial planner, as well as an Education for Life series featuring a variety of guest speakers. Craig Wunderlich, Divorce Recovery chairman of the board and facilitator, advises that recovery programs offer “incredible opportunities for growth. There is hope of recovery and becoming a stronger person and carrying on.” He maintains that, “It is important to have a community of people going through the same thing. Support groups can offer something that often people can’t get from straight counseling: the camaraderie, the opportunity to vent, and just get things off your chest.”

Many local churches offer beneficial spiritually based (not Necessarily religion-based) counseling. Ken and Lynette Weber have facilitated a Divorce Care program at Faith Community Church for 17 years. The 13-week sessions integrate the use of videos featuring counselors, therapists and program veterans, workbook documentation and peer group discussions. Sessions are designed for adults but facilitators offer references for, and encourage the use of, resources for children and teens. Of the program, Ken says, “At the end of the 13 weeks, it’s amazing how much people come together. Their situations may all be different, but at the end each person is finding his or her way to become ruthlessly, morally, honest with themselves and looking forward, rather than back.” He attributes the growth and success of Faith Community Church’s Divorce Care program to the spiritually guided approach to finding and achieving forgiveness. He says, “Yes, God hates divorce. But, He can deal with it. And so can you.”

For those less comfortable in a group setting, one-on-one counseling may offer a preferred path to recovery. Bonnie Kneller, LCSW, and Julie Konigsberg, LCSW, DCSW, are two local therapists Who were very helpful in compiling this article. They are among numerous counselors you can find through an Internet search. A very comprehensive list of vetted professionals specializing in divorce care can be found (and even sorted by zip code) on Psychology Today’s website: http://therapists.psychologytoday.com. Keep in mind that counselors and therapists are not a one-size-fits-all deal. Good therapists will welcome an interview from potential clients to ensure the relationship will be a fit. If at any time you feel that a counselor’s approach isn’t for you or that the working relationship is not in alignment with your communication style or goals, seek another resource with which you are more comfortable.

The time during and after a divorce can be confusing, stressful and emotionally charged. As Ken Weber explains, “When the marriage dissolves, it’s not like a nice perforated piece of paper that you can just pull apart. It is a tearing away. People are left wondering what just happened.” An overwhelming consensus among experts is that the key to putting the pieces back together and forging ahead is to get help. Those who use the multitude of resources available, be they any of these mentioned here or other healthy alternatives to shape a new beginning, will in time find recovery.

Online resources

(Women): http://www.divorcesupport.com; https://www.firstwivesworld.com; http://www.midlifedivorcerecovery.com (Men): http://www.dadsdivorce.com (All): http://www.christian-divorce-support-online.com; http://ojar.com; http:// www.dailystrength.org; http://www.supportgroups.com; http://divorcedex.com

Recommended Reading

After the Affair: Healing the Pain and Rebuilding Trust When a Partner Has Been Unfaithful. Janis A. Spring. William Morrow; 2nd edition (September 4, 2012) ; Rebuilding When Your Relationship Ends. Dr. Bruce Fisher and Dr. Robert Alberti. Impact Publishers, Inc.; 3rd edition (January 1, 2005); Coming Apart: Why Relationships End and How to Live Through the Ending of Yours. Daphne Rose Kingma. Conari Press; 02 edition (February 1, 2000); Uncoupling: Turning Points in Intimate Relationships. Diane Vaughan. Vintage (September 5, 1990)

Signs to Look For

Signs children and teens are struggling with divorce/ separation related issues:

• Dropping grades • Overly emotional

• Sexually acting out • Fighting

• Anger • Drastic changes in demeanor and appearance

* If children involved in a divorce or separation exhibit these behaviors, consult any of the resources listed here or school counselors to find an objective individual or group where they feel safe to communicate openly.

(Source: Craig Wunderlich, Cholla High School Social Worker and chairman of the board/facilitator at Divorce Recovery Tucson)

A common perception is that the divorce rate in the U.S. has rested at about 50 percent for the last 30 years. Meanwhile, number-crunching researchers have boldly declared that the rate of legal divorce has declined since the 1980s. Around 1996, statisticians’ pencils began dropping as several states halted reporting and the Census Bureau ceased collecting accurate numbers on legal divorce rates. According to available data from the National Vital Statistics System published by the Center for Disease Control, Arizona sticks pretty close to national averages. The national average rates per 1,000 people in 2011, 2006, and 2001 were 3.6, 3.7, and 4.0 respectively. These figures exclude data from California, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, and Minnesota in 2011 and 2006, and data from California, Iowa, Louisiana, and Oklahoma in 2006. Meanwhile, the divorce rates in Arizona per 1,000 people in 2011, 2006, and 2001 were 3.9, 4.0, and 4.0 respectively. (Source: CDC/NCHS National Vital Statistics System.)

More recent statistical and survey information seems to be at odds, favoring higher divorce rates than previously presented, especially when age adjustment is introduced. In a paper published in April 2014, in the journal Demography, titled “Breaking Up is Hard to Count,” researchers Sheila Kennedy and Steven Ruggles applied information gleaned from the American Community Survey. After review, the researchers rebuked the previously accepted conclusions that divorce rates had declined by 20 percent and asserted that the decline is a mere 2.2 percent. Here’s the clincher, “...when you control for the change in the age of population between 1980 and today — the population of married men and women is considerably older now — the divorce rate has actually risen 40 percent,” writes Institute for Family Studies blogger and author Kay Hymowitz in a post titled “Divorce. It’s Way Bigger Than We Thought.” An upside of the new findings is that younger married couples, previously considered higher breakup risks, are experiencing more stability in their marriages than their older peers when they were the same age. Just when you feel you’re getting a grasp of the whole picture, the researchers throw in information on cohabitators. Kennedy and Ruggles suggest that lower divorce rates in younger couples may be the result of young couples choosing to live together rather than officially tying the knot. Cohabitation situations have proven markedly less stable than marriages, thus providing yet more non-legal separation into the pool. (Source: Hymowitz, Kay. March 24, 2014. FamilyStudies.org. Divorce. It’s Way Bigger than We Thought. Http://family-studies.org/divorce-its-waybigger- than-we-thought.)

Expert Advice

1 Get help. When considering a divorce, people are often so caught up in the emotional part it’s difficult to think clearly. It’s important to have an objective source of advice.

2 Look at expenses and income to figure out what you need to do to live within your means. Ask a friend, accountant or money manager to assist if necessary.

3 Seek out people who have been through divorce to talk things over with. It’s helpful to have somebody who really understands what you are going through.

4 Do not put your children in the middle; that only causes anxiety and stress for them.

5 Find an impartial individual or support group for children to talk with about a divorce or separation that affects them.

(Provided by Craig Wunderlich, Cholla High School Social Worker and chairman of the board/facilitator at Divorce Recovery Tucson and Bonnie Kneller, LCSW, a Tucson-based, private practice, licensed, certified social worker/ psychotherapist.)