Divorce is an epidemic that causes as much pain as any disease -- so why don't we treat it that way?

It was fifteen minutes past starting time when I began introducing myself to the group, waiting to ensure everyone had arrived. A knock came at the door. I opened the door, certain these two young handsome men in their early 30’s were in the wrong room. “Can I help you?” I asked, they must have mistaken this room for another group. “We’re here for Divorce Support.” “Yes, of course,” I said, trying to regain my composure. “Please come in and welcome.” 

You would think I would be shockproof after 12 years of holding support groups. But these two young men just threw me. The epidemic of broken marriages continues.

They should be living the life of love with young families, planning vacations with the kids and life with great expectations for their future. But they were here, like the ten others in the group, hurting and disoriented by their impending divorce.

There is no “average” model couple of those going through divorce. It hits every married age. I’ve seen less than three years and over forty years married. The time married does not dictate the pain. Some married for fewer years suffer more profoundly than those married with all those years of memories. There is no “average” divorce, but there are normal reactions and expected pain.

The first few weeks in the support group are all about allowing the pain to work itself out. The participants literally can’t see the other side of this pain. Miraculously, they reach out to a group of strangers who they only know by the name “Divorce Support Anonymous.” They are desperate for help and hope that only those who know the pain understand.           

“If a disease were to afflict the majority of a populace, spreading pain and dysfunction throughout all age groups, we would be frantically searching for reasons and solutions. Yet this particular scourge has become so endemic that it is virtually ignored. The scourge is divorce."

Amid all this pain, it’s normal for us to wonder, “How can I help the epidemic?” Here are a few ideas:

Honor marriage. If your marriage is in trouble, get help earlier rather than later. Put resources into your marriage instead of planning a divorce. I remember our marriage counselor telling us, “You do know that you are here ten years too late?”

Support those going through divorce. If you know someone going through a divorce, support them. Unlike losing a loved one through death, people disappear and say nothing, because they don’t know what to say. So, those who are divorcing feel even more alone. No one sends flowers or brings a divorce casserole. The divorcing may be so devastated they don’t know how or where to find resources they need. Find a resource and send it to them. Be like my retired pastor who came up to me and asked directly. “How can I pray for you?”

Fill in the gap. If you see children who have uninvolved fathers or mothers, lend a hand. You will be contributing into your better society. Fold them into your family events. Give them healthy role models.

George Gallup Jr. states correctly this epidemic: “If a disease were to afflict the majority of a populace, spreading pain and dysfunction throughout all age groups, we would be frantically searching for reasons and solutions. Yet this particular scourge has become so endemic that it is virtually ignored. The scourge is divorce, an oddly neglected topic in a nation that has the worst record of broken marriages in the entire world. Divorce is the ‘root problem’ in our country and is the cause of any number of social ills.”           

The two young men worked their way through the ten weeks of support better equipped to handle the difficult months ahead. Group support is a powerful way to address the epidemic because it shows us we are not “diseased” going through divorce, and that others share our darkest experiences and give us hope through this traumatic time of life.

Kathey Batey is a domestic mediator, author of the book Suddenly Single and the creator of Divorce Support Anonymous, a local and online support group. Connect with her at DivorceSupportAnonymous.com for more resources and details.