One hundred forty eight women from in and around Fairfield County have found laughter where there once were tears, roses in a bush of thorns. Together, they have rebuilt and restored- not only their personal lives, but the lives of their families. The women all have something in common: divorce.
Divorced Women and Wine, is the brainchild of Ridgefield elementary school paraprofessional, Connie Johnson. The dynamic group helps women cope with the stress of divorce by providing them with friendship, fun and a realm of support services. Johnson chuckles as she admits, “I started the group for selfish reasons and had no noble cause in mind. I wanted to meet women that I could have fun with when my kids were not with me. I had no idea it would help so many women.”
In the confidential company of one another, the ladies share stories, thoughts and life’s struggles. They find solace in one another; sometimes laughing, sometimes crying and lots of times doing a little of both. “My first meeting, I thought I’d go home and cry. I laughed until I nearly peed in my pants,” says Sherman.
The logistics of the Friday evening gatherings are simple. “I email the group to see if anyone wants to host and limit the group to the first 10-12 women who sign up. We like to keep it intimate,” says Johnson. The homes of members are the meeting venues; the ladies bring wine and the host provides some finger food. “The agenda is what everyone brings to the meeting,” says Johnson. Women of all ages and walks of life are part of the group. “We have women in their twenties and women in their sixties,” says Johnson.
Lifelong friendships have been created through Divorced Women and Wine. “To have people behind me was tremendous. I had one divorced friend before this group. These are my best friends,” says Kristen Sherman of North Salem. Tracey Iaizzi of Bethel, an IT director for a local publishing company agrees, “I joined the group because I needed female friends who I could connect with. I couldn’t ask for more- to have all of these girl friends that I love spending time with. I’ve never laughed more.”
In addition to regularly scheduled meetings, the ladies plan other fun outings including First Friday’s at the Aldrich, concerts in Ballard Park, movies and happy hours. At the time of this interview, some of the members were in the midst of planning a White Water Rafting trip. “It’s made me break out of my comfort zone, “says Sherman. In fact, the ladies have a mantra, in the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, “Do one thing that scares you every day.”
But being there for each other goes beyond lending a compassionate ear. “Barbara is helping me find a job,” says Sherman. “I was a homemaker for 17 years and I’m trying to get back into the swing of things,” she adds. “It won’t be long,” pipes in Financial Advisor, Barbara McMahon. The group shares vital resources that span from qualified divorce attorneys to career opportunities and counseling services.
“When you’re in it, you can’t see. You wonder how you’ll ever get through it – from the kids to the logistics and lack of finances,” says Mc Mahon. Empowering each other, the members of the group pick up broken pieces and put their lives back together.
“It’s painful, but through support and a lot of laughing, you can get out the on the other side,” says Johnson.
*This story appeared in Ridgefield Magazine.
*Photograph by caryn leigh posnansky
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