The Beginning Experience: A Weekend Retreat for the Widowed and Divorced
by Ted S.
I just got back from a weekend program called Beginning Experience
("BE"). BE is a program for the widowed and divorced which takes you
away from all distractions, teaches you about the grieving process,
helps you find where you are in the process, shows you a way forward,
and provides an opportunity for closure. Run as a ministry of the
Catholic Church, there is some emphasis on religion. However, the
program is non-denominational and useful no matter where fall on the
continuum of Christian faith.
I attended as a way to evaluate whether I had truly closed the door on
my divorce. The program addresses all grief, and divorce is seen as the
death of a marriage. The program, in a different format, is conducted
for children who have lost a parent or whose parents divorced.
BE is run by peers, people who have been through the program before to
address their own grief. The facilitators are very careful not to give
advice; instead they help you to find your own answers through the
structure of the program and the sharing of common experiences by people
in various stages of the process.
The program is a self-discovery experience. Facilitators give brief
talks sharing their experiences as they relate to various topics
associated with grief and the grieving process. From these talks
participants go to private writing places where they write, using a
special stream-of-conscious method, answers to questions related to the
topic at hand. These questions force the participant to organize their
thoughts and confront issues about their grief. The feelings and
emotions expressed in this process are often new discoveries for the
participant. From the writing exercise participants go to small groups
where they share some of things they have written. I found that by
saying aloud the things I wrote I really had to confront them. Listening
to the others was helpful as it made me aware of things I had not
considered, and as the groups were coed, allowed me to hear things from
what I imagined to be the perspective of my ex-wife. Topics included the
grieving process, trust, forgiveness, guilt, and others.
The most useful writing exercise was to compose a “gentle letter of
closure” (not to be mailed) to my ex-wife. This letter was a culmination
of the entire experience, and allowed me to take responsibility, assign
blame, apologize, forgive, and achieve closure. It is not promised that
the weekend will bring a person through the entire grief process. A
person will learn where they are in the process and will hopefully move
forward. There were some people who were taking the course for a second
or third time that found that each Beginning Experience brought them
closer to acceptance, closure and peace.
The Beginning Experience is a very intense program, both in its pace and
in the issues and emotions one encounters. But as it is conducted far
from distractions in a loving and supportive atmosphere, I would not say
that it is hard. Perhaps the hardest part is making the decision and
commitment to attend.
BE is offered all across the United States and around the World. For more information their web site is www.beginningexperience.org.
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