Program Director, Paula J. Michalak, LPC, facilitates the Going Solo support group for women ending a long-term relationship

Program Director, Paula J. Michalak, MA LPC, facilitates the Going Solo support group for women ending a long-term relationship

Relationships. That’s the hottest topic at The Women’s Center: Relationships with parents, pets, partners, children, and friends. No matter who it is, the end of a long-term relationship almost always involves loss.

Divorce is unique in that a woman’s go-to source-of-support is often the same person she is separating from.

“I didn’t know who else to call,” she says. “I just found out this morning.”

Questions about what to do next are frequently fielded by Women’s Center Program Director, Paula Johnson Michalak, who has years of professional experience with divorce.

“The impression I get [from the women who contact us],” says Paula, “is bewilderment. Women are usually in shock. They are struggling to accept the death of a dream and overwhelmed by all the complications going forward.”

“If they have kids, they’re worried about the emotional and economic impact on their children – loss of the house, for example, and having to change schools and make new friends when stability matters most. They are wondering – especially if they don’t access to the family finances – how they are going to pay for it all.

“Even if the decision is not a surprise (two-thirds of divorces are actually initiated by women), divorce is usually the last resort, arrived at after a long and painful process. The more they’ve invested in the relationship, the harder it is to let go.”

Going Solo support group participants are looking for the opportunity to talk to someone who understands; to make new friends; and to reexamine their values and goals. They can also attend workshops, taught by a family law attorney and a financial adviser, that offer an overview of what typically takes place in divorce or mediation.

Not everyone follows through with the legal process. Some never married in the first place, and so there’s no paperwork to fill out. Others may have reasons – religious or financial – not to officially split up. But everyone benefits from the opportunity to share, reflect, and accommodate to their loss.

“Once women get through the mourning and loss stage,” Paula explains, “they often experience an exhilarating sense of freedom. Even if they still have challenges, there is a liberating realization that they can craft a new dream.”