What’s it like setting up a new Restored Lives Course?

Are you thinking of setting up a course?

We are always looking for volunteers to set up new courses in their area. It is most often run by churches although it has also been run by community groups in lounges, pubs and even in a bakery! This year, Restored Lives has been working with Familias, the Catholic Marriage and Family Life organisation to train some new volunteer course leaders.

Sue attended one of the training sessions and has subsequently set up a course in Sheffield, below she shares her experience of what it has been like.

From Challenge to Gift

Preparing for the course

At the end of the training day in Hallam, I was approached by one of the participants. She thought she could do with going on the Restored Lives course herself and said if I would lead it she would help! She had been sponsored by her priest to attend the training day, and at the time I was delivering a parenting course in her parish.

I spoke to the priest and between the three of us, we agreed on some dates. As co-ordinator for Marriage and Family Life in the Diocese of Hallam, I was able to produce posters and flyers, using Restored Lives logo and distribute them to the nineteen parishes in the deanery and upload them to the website. Publicity in the Diocesan newspaper ensured that everyone knew about the course. It was hugely encouraging when I saw the course advertised on www.restoredlives.org – the first one to take place in Yorkshire & Humberside region!

I started to download the materials, print them off and purchase the DVDs (I was unsure about internet connection) and familiarise myself with them. I soon realised that I would need to dedicate time on a weekly basis to prepare for each session.

Guests registered

Five people signed up, three from the host parish, one from a nearby parish and one from another deanery, prompted by her priest.

From their application forms, I knew that four of them had been divorced for 2-3 years, my support person had been divorced for 5 years, and I think it is important to tell you that I had been separated and later divorced for 35 years. Fifteen children between us.

Running the course

As the time drew nearer to the start date I immersed myself in the content of the course and as it took me back it to my own experience I was reminded that these five people were wounded, had suffered huge injury, damage, impairment, harm and hurt at every level of their being, and perhaps most of all on their self-esteem, confidence and belief in themselves.

All of their relationships had been impacted – children, family, in-laws, neighbours and colleagues because everyone has an opinion when a marriage breaks down!

As the course progressed this was confirmed. The value of the course is its structure and framework to which I faithfully adhered (I alternated between the DVD presentation and the prescribed text but always played the personal stories and did the exercises) and so:

  • Week 1  – Acknowledged the feelings; many still raw; with strategies for managing them (not denial).
  • Week 2 – Looked at communication and resolving conflict with our ex (very differently for how we had done before as we no longer had this intimate relationship)
  • Week 3 – Was the one that daunted me most – forgiveness or letting go. We kept returning to this one to unpick it!
  • Week 4 –  Managing other relationships and I don’t mean new ones!
    I mean with parents who may be hugely disappointed in us or for us; in-laws who may seem to be taking sides (still grandparents) with mutual friends (managing Facebook). All may need boundaries about what to talk about, when and with whom. And lastly managing the co-parenting relationship (listening and using “I” messages – I feel, I need, my position.)
  • Week 5 –  Legal issues – Because the group had already embarked on their chosen paths I gave them the handout and then used the session to revise the previous strategies and ask how/if they were using them and their value. At the end of this session, my support person offered to provide a simple meal to for the final session and this was quickly followed by ‘Shall I bring some wine”.
  • Week 6 – Being single and moving forward Although I had set up the DVD with a view to showing some of it, it was not used but the meal allowed us to talk about the theme (building meaningful relationships) with skills used in the course of course! – understanding our feelings and becoming self-aware; being able to communicate by expressing ourselves well, and being able to resolve conflict (with letting go being the final step).

Finishing the course

Before the course started I had been acutely aware of the physician’s mantra ‘First do no harm’. We had started with their feelings on the first session and this the final session asked what recovery looked like. When I heard the responses I knew I had done more good than harm.
I ended the session with an anointing ritual and the giving of gifts.
A compass to keep you on course
Glue to keep you sticking to the issues
A tea bag to refresh you
A bath cube to relax you
A candle to light your way
An elastic band for flexibility
Sweets to keep you ‘sweet’
A heart to keep you loving
A butterfly – a symbol of change, resurrection, transformation

I believe the course will help them to mend, repair, revive, provide them with new vigour and energy and replace something that has been lost or stolen from them with something different and perhaps undreamt of.

What had started as a challenge had miraculously become a gift, wrapped carefully, thoughtfully and prayerfully with my own experience.