A year after Melanie's divorce was final, she felt stuck. Melanie thought she was beginning to feel better, but in reality she wasn't.
At the urging of Spiritual Development Pastor Steve Hinkle at Grace Bible Church in Minooka, Melanie attended Divorce Care, a 14-week support group that helps people navigate the ups and downs of divorce.
"It helped me through the process and helped me move on," Melanie said. "I felt like I wasn't alone."
Divorce Care includes a video program run by professionals, with on-site local leaders to facilitate the support group, Hinkle said.
Those who run the support group have gone through divorce themselves and have found hope. They have experienced the pain and loss themselves and have the heart for others going through a difficult time.
Grace Bible Church has been offering Divorce Care support groups for six years. A new program begins Aug. 25 and runs weekly through Dec. 8.
Divorce doesn't only affect the adults; kids experience all sorts of emotions as well. Melanie's 9-year-old son attended Divorce Care For Kids at the same time.
"It teaches kids to talk about their feelings and helps explains things that are going on," Melanie said.
The group made a huge difference for her son, she said. The ratio of kids to adults is low, so it was like Melanie's son had a personal mentor.
Each week there is a topic to work on, snacks and games.
"They even talked about finances, and how mom or dad might not be able to go to McDonald's all the time," Melanie said of the kids group.
The third support group in the restoration ministry at Grace is Grief Share, new this year, and is designed to support those who have lost a spouse, child, family member or friend.
Loss of a loved one can create confusion and isolation. Questions may arise that they may have never faced before.
Some people who suffered losses were attending Divorce Care because there were many similar issues, Hinkle said. So they brought in Grief Share.
All the support groups run simultaneously so kids and adults are in their own support group at the same time. There is also a nursery available for kids younger than 5.
Hinkle's own parents divorced when he was young and he wishes there was a program like Divorce Care for Kids back then. He attended Divorce Care himself after marrying his wife, who was divorced and had four children.
The support group made him a better father, he said, and a better husband because he was able to understand what she had gone through.
Participating in the support groups has changed the lives of Melanie and her son. She learned to deal with the emotions associated with separation and divorce. Her son learned how to express his feelings, communicate and understand that God has a plan for them, another path. The family now has hope and optimism.
"I am grateful that we had a safe place to share what we were going through," she said. "Most of all, we knew we weren't alone."
• Kris Stadalsky writes about people and issues in areas southwest of Joliet. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.