The healing process after a divorce includes self-esteem building, personal reflection, spiritual growth and forgiveness. And all of these are taught by Jim and Evelyn Burnett in their DivorceCare classes.
The DivorceCare concept is taught at several area churches, including the 14-week faith-based course offered by the Burnetts. The program is designed to move divorcing or separated couples from anger to acceptance.
"I've been through it. I've been through the ups and downs and the emotional roller coaster," Evelyn said.
"When you come in there, you are all scared. ... You don't see anybody around smiling, and they don't want to talk. The biggest step for a lot of them is walking in there and admitting that ‘I need some help.'"
Evelyn started taking a DivorceCare seminar 11 years ago, and now, with husband Jim, wants to help people who may have been in a bad marriage like herself. The Burnetts teach the course at Free Chapel in Gainesville and Fountain of Faith in Flowery Branch.
Evelyn had been divorced for 20 years when she met Jim, and the two have become a teaching team for DivorceCare.
Jim started attending the class as an observer before facilitating with Evelyn. He said he has learned a lot about divorce from the course - and from the attendees.
"It takes two to get a divorce," he said. "You've got to be on the same keel all the time."
Through the course, students have the chance to meet others who understand and offer needed encouragement.
"You discover hope - that there is hope at the end of the tunnel," she said. "It's a bright light, and they don't see it because they are hurting so bad. When you have a marriage like that, one (person) begins to start breaking away, and they've already gone through all of that. That is what makes it so easy for them to walk up and say, ‘I quit.'
"Still, we have the other half that says, ‘I'm married.'"
Part of the healing process also includes the friendships that form among the participants.
"There is healing in this class, there are friendships made, there's togetherness," Evelyn said. "We just had such a good time last time, it was unbelievable."
Doug Swan, a co-facilitator for the DivorceCare course, attended the class when he and wife Millie went through a divorce.
"We were divorced for two years and through this class is how we were reconciled," Doug said. "I was at the lowest point in my life. ... Every class got me a little better. And when I first got in the class I didn't say anything, I couldn't smile, I had nothing to smile about."
But the class helped break through that barrier, he said.
"It made me turn around 360 degrees, and it gave me a purpose. And the Lord did the guiding."
And Millie, who did not attend the DivorceCare course but said she has benefitted from it, agreed.
"It changed his outlook and attitude," she said. "In December (2007) we were still seeing each other while divorced, and one day we just got up and went to church."
The couple attended Free Chapel on Christmas Day 2007. That day, the couple rededicated their life to the church and were remarried on Valentine's Day 2008 - they have now been back together for one year.
"We've had numerous reconciliations from this class," Evelyn said, adding that "reconciliation" doesn't necessarily mean the couple gets back together. "It means to get to a point where you can be sociable with each other."
The course, which costs $20, is divided into three parts: a video, support group and sessions where attendees take time for personal reflection, personal study, journaling, parental reflection and spiritual growth.
Other sessions of the course include: The Road to Healing/Finding Help, Facing My Anger, Facing My Depression, Forgiveness, Reconciliation and Moving On, Growing Closer to God.
Evelyn said the hardest session of the course is forgiveness; Jim added that "right there with that is reconciliation."