Each year in the United States, more than 800,000 people suddenly lose a spouse who departs this earthly life, for many of them their best friend. Other people, more than 50% of all marriages in our country, see their marriages end in divorce. These are different kinds of pain, but both bring about grief and an intense feeling of loss. Children and family members are impacted in an intense way because of the pain of losing a Dad or Mom in their home and in the daily contact of their lives. I frequently encounter people who have been through the pain and the grief of losing the person who was the closest to them in death, or the pain and the difficulty of seeing your family ripped apart-or so it seems to many-by the feelings of heartache and abandonment from a spouse leaving in divorce. Even though the kinds of pain that people experience in these kinds of separation are different, the sense of loss is real and so are the effects on the person left in its wake. Unless someone has yet been through the death of a spouse or the pain of divorce or abandonment, it can be difficult to feel that you are giving someone the consolation, the encouragement, the caring help they need when they are reaching out in their own cry for help.
This past weekend (October 3rd-5th) at diaconate formation I was especially pleased to learn about a program that can help people who have been through the loss of a spouse in death or the pain and difficulties inherent in civil divorce or separation in a way that perhaps a singular priest, deacon, or lay catechist may not be able to do. Admittedly, I can see it as a resource that I may use in my future ministry because there is no doubt that I will encounter widowed, separated, and divorced people because I already encounter them in our parish RCIA program. While the Synod of Bishops on the family is meeting in Rome to discuss pastoral and spiritual challenges to families worldwide, Beginning Experience is a program that can help men and women who have been through the loss of a spouse (whether through widowhood or divorce/abandonment) by connecting them with others who have been through similar experiences. It helps them experience community and hope, and most importantly, it helps those dealing with the loss of a spouse understand that they are not alone. Others who are trying to live out their faith in Jesus Christ have been through very similar experiences.
A Beginning Experience weekend takes place from Friday evening to Sunday afternoon, and I’ve been told that what happens there can be life-changing, and I hope one day to see some of that for myself. I have no problem recommending the program even on this blog because after my encounter at formation with just a few of the people whose lives have been touched by this program, I can see that it can do for those who have undergone the loss of a spouse something that an individual cleric or lay minister could never do, and that is to empower them with the community that they need to begin their healing. It helps bring some closure, peace, and allows those grieving this loss to be able to look to the future and move forward.
If you are suffering from the loss of a spouse from widowhood, divorce, or abandonment, consider giving Beginning Experience a try and see if you can be open to the Holy Spirit to give you peace through such an experience. You can e-mail Beginning Experience of East Tennessee simply by clicking on the link I have provided in-text or copying and pasting it as needed, or by calling 423-843-3219. May God bless and comfort you.