Written by Mike McManus
In the 1980s Steve Grissom experienced a divorce he did not want. He was shattered. He was buffeted between lawyers and courts, attorneys charging huge fees. The impact on his child was devastating. It was the worst experience of his life. Eventually in 1989 he got through it with a divorce decree. However, the problems did not cease. Stress continued over custody, visitation and money.
When he looked for books or articles on how to recover from a divorce, he found little. Grissom did remarry in 1991, and in time his life stabilized.
As a television executive in Raleigh, N.C. he decided to create a resource to help others deal with the pain he had experienced in a series of videos (now DVDs) to help people in his situation recover from an unwanted divorce. The result was a 13-part series he called “DivorceCare” released in 1994.
He wrote a workbook for participants to help individuals deal with their difficult emotions of grief over loss, anger at their ex for abandoning their vows “for better, for worse” and the need to help their children with similar emotions. Thousands of churches bought the “teach out of the box” kit and began offering “DivorceCare” classes to hurting ex-husbands and ex-wives.
“You don’t have to go through it alone,” headlines one of their summaries. “Most people will tell you that separation and divorce are the most painful and stressful experiences they’ve ever faced. It’s a confusing time when you feel isolated and have lots of questions about issues you’ve never faced before.”
DivorceCare groups meet weekly to help people face those challenges and move toward rebuilding their lives. Each DivorceCare Session has two distinct elements:
- Seminar with Experts. The group watches a DVD of 30-40 minutes which features experts on such topics as Facing my Anger, Facing my Depression and What Does the Owner’s Manual Say, which explores what the Bible says about divorce. One expert is H. Norman Wright, author of more than 50 books on marriage.
- Support Group With Focus. DivorceCare participants then discuss what was presented in that week’s DVD seminar, and what’s going on in their lives.
I went online and to find a Divorce Care group near me. I typed in my Zip Code, and sure enough, up popped 6 groups currently meeting, and 18 groups about to begin. Most are held in Protestant churches of diverse denominations, but one was in a hospital.
Some churches began using the series with a different goal – to persuade couples considering divorce to reconsider. Grissom heard of cases of marriages that were saved, though that was not DivorceCare’s goal.
That made him think, “Why not create a video series aimed at helping couples considering divorce to reconsider? He released a five-part series, “Before You Divorce” in 1996. Sales were not great, however. When he asked pastors why, one replied, “No one wants to walk out of the church library with a kit headlined BEFORE YOU DIVORCE.
Grissom changed the name to CHOOSING WISELY…Before You Divorce, the latter part of which is in very small writing!
The first segment describes divorce as “An Out-of-Control Train,” in which one or both partners hire an attorney. Separation occurs, with legal documents to follow. One or both spouses begin a new relationship. “The momentum accelerates quickly as attorneys build walls between the couple.”
The program outlines how to “put on the brakes to stop the train.” Grissom appears on camera to say this is not “marriage enrichment” to improve communication.
They don’t even try to persuade viewers not to divorce. “Our purpose is to help you make the decision on whether to divorce or to stay together, a decision that will shape the rest of your life.” he says.
The series is stark. One woman says, “I saw him in the restaurant with other women.” Her spouse responds, “We started having arguments and objects were being thrown.” Grissom declares, “There’s no such thing as a friendly divorce, a civil divorce. A divorce attorney admits, “Divorce is war.”
The course is also Biblical. Participants are led through a daily Bible study, some of which is surprising. Psalm 66: “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened; but God has surely listened and heard my voice in prayer.” People are asked to make a commitment to Christ as part of their decision-making process.