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Tearing up her ugly divorce - Brooklyn Paper

Tearing up her ugly divorce

My newly divorced South Slope friend — let’s just call her Linda — was over at my house. She was angry at her ex-husband and really stressed out over all the changes in her life.

“You have to try this exercise,” I told her. “You take a piece of paper and rip it up into chunks, all the while envisioning your ex-husband and your relationship with him.”

I had learned about this healing exercise from Marianne Gunther, a fellow Park Sloper who is also a Licensed Creative Art Therapist who is starting up a support group for divorcing women.

I handed her an old copy of The Brooklyn Paper that was lying around the house.

“Just don’t rip up the page with my column on it!” I told her.

She tore apart the front page instead with a true viciousness. Good, get those feelings out, I thought.

“Next, pick up all the little pieces of shredded paper,” I told her. “And glue them back together into a picture.” I left her alone for a few moments to create in peace and quiet. Whatever came out would be something new, a clean page, so to speak.

When she finished I looked at what she had done. It looked suspiciously like an axe, I thought. No, maybe more like a judge’s gavel. Oh dear.

The exercise is one of the techniques that Gunther plans to use in her upcoming Divorce Support Group for Women. I decided that my friend ought to join this group, rather than relying on my less-than-expert direction.

In fact, I could have used this myself, when I got divorced almost three years ago.

According to Gunther, divorce is a true grief process and people who are going through it need to experience all the stages of grieving, just as if someone dear had died. Unfortunately, most people sidestep those feelings and translate them into anger or diffuse the feelings with litigation.

“How do you make your life about more than this?” asks Gunther. “I’m not going to spend the rest of my days reacting to my ex-husband, so how can I mourn the loss and move on?”

When Gunther herself divorced back in 2001, she belonged to a women’s support group in Park Slope that saved her sanity. That group, which met at the Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture, no longer exists. So she met with the director and offered to start up a new group.

This group will meet once a week at the Ethical Culture building on Prospect Park West, between First and Second streets. Women will get together and, guided by Gunther, support each other, get practical information and referrals, and use art-therapy techniques to both process and contain their feelings. The fee for each meeting is $25.

Looking at my friend’s collage, I decided that she must still be in the “process” part of things, rather than the “contain” part.

“Try it again,” I suggested. I gave her a copy of one of this newspaper’s bitter rivals to rip up (editor’s note: How did such a rag get into your house, Wendy?). “Here, I’ll help you.”

We both ripped the pages with glee, tossing the little pieces of paper about my living room. We gathered them up together and put them in a pile for her to start gluing. When she was all finished, I came over to the table where she was working and took a look.

It looked just like a dollar sign now. Progress, I thought, not perfect — but progress.

If you are interested in joining this group, call (347) 628-9279 or e-mail listeningart@yahoo.com.

Wendy Ponte is a freelance writer and parenting expert who lives in Park Slope.

The Kitchen Sink

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