Divorce Boot Camp
It's been seven years since Teresa Dillon's divorce was final, and she hasn't dated anyone since then.
She might have reason to be depressed, given the breakup of a 30-year marriage.
But she remains hopeful.
"A lot of people get tired of hearing it," she says of her divorce. "And at some point you have to just move on - quit thinking about it and move on."
The Lawrence resident found solace last year in the Divorce Boot Camp, the proprietary brainchild of Suzy Brown, who lives in Kansas City, Mo. Brown brings her event to Lawrence on Jan. 26.
While some people might think divorce is a taboo subject, Dillon and Brown contend sharing the experiences with other women going through the same thing makes the process easier - especially when the marriage lasted decades.
"You want to know somebody else has gone though what you went through," Dillon says. "Being around other people, I learned things I didn't learn from reading the 100th book."
Historically, January is the most active month for divorce filings. Conventional wisdom says couples decide to keep their relationship going through one more holiday season before deciding to split up.
Brown, who received her bachelor's degree in journalism from Kansas University in 1995, knows divorce through her own experience.
She was divorced from her husband of 33 years in 2000 after he started having an affair.
"I just wanted to get through this - survive, and get on with my life," Brown says. "What I found is it's a much longer process to get through a long-term marriage divorce."
She decided to help other women, using her own experiences. She wrote a book, "Radical Recovery," on the subject. She decided to start the boot camps last year, evoking a pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstrap military image.
"Sometimes the sergeant says, 'Get a grip. Get going. Throw away your hanky,'" Brown says. "This is hard work, but the results are just phenomenal."
Brown's Boot Camp deals with a wide variety of issues, including financial responsibilities, family relations, legal considerations and the need for exercise.
She says the biggest obstacle for recovery, however, is the psychological letdown.
"I think you're just so disappointed in yourself, and you feel such a failure as a woman," Brown says. "You feel fat, you feel ugly, you feel dumb. You think, 'I've been in this relationship for 25 or 30 years, and I can't even seem to keep the most important person in my life happy. What's wrong with me?'"
Dillon, the Lawrence resident, has felt those feelings.
She found the bulk of her progress toward recovery came in a spiritual setting. Through a friend, she connected with a priest in California, whom she spoke with on the phone over six months for advice. Then, she went to a monastery in California for a week and went to Mass five times a day with monks who were praying for the world's troubles.
"It was an epiphany for me," she says. "Knowing when you live that day-to-day life (of dealing with divorce), and you're so entrenched in it. You forget there's this big world - that there's somebody out there you might end up with."
Dillon has dealt with her divorce with a group of close friends. They take a vacation together every year.
Her advice to those starting the divorce process: "I would say just to persevere. Don't give up. Things will get better - even if you don't feel like they will for a long, long time."
'It takes time'
Brown says her biggest goal in her book and Boot Camp is to let women know this bad experience could be an opportunity for them.
"I wanted women to know that, for as desperate and sad as they were in the beginning, they could transform their life through this experience and use it as something they could use to make their life better," she says. "I wanted them to understand it was their decision - there was camaraderie and other women going through it, but it was their decision to get on with the rest of their life."
Ultimately, Brown says she has hope for middle-aged women going through divorce.
"Women are so resilient," she says. "They're so optimistic that they can learn to do all these things. But it takes time."