It was International Women’s Day last week. Do you remember Think Pink! in the 70’s, when International Women’s Day was a brand new celebration, marked by groups of women gathering to talk about equal opportunity? The young women in my life shake their heads in disbelief when I talk about work in the 60’s, the struggle to earn a portion of what our male counterparts automatically received, the necessity of hiding a pregnancy until the last possible bulge because it meant instant ‘layoff’ for the expectant mom.

Maternity leave? I hope young families across this country, as they enjoy a full year’s maternity leave, give some thanks to their mothers, who’ve fought for the right to go back to work after giving birth to their babies. Heck, these same women were struggling for the right to work at all.

And now we fast forward to the early part of the 21st century and part of me has to wonder how much progress we’ve made.

I’m thinking now about Canadians starting over. I’m thinking about a full morning devoted to workshops for the newly (and not so newly) divorced. Next Saturday is the second in a year’s worth of monthly seminars called “Fresh Start” and offered through Georgian College every month this year.

I met recently with Jackie Ramler, a human dynamo whose business is steeped in “starting over.”

Jackie tells me that Canadian marriages are ending at the rate of 37% these days, with the average marriage breaking apart at the 14 year mark. She says, in fact, that the the most common age for marriage breakup right now is 55. Managing divorce, managing change, grief, and new beginnings has become a growth industry!

As I contemplate this, I can’t help but remember Iris Murdoch’s ground-breaking fight for half of the family farm when her marriage ended in the early 70’s. She won her lawsuit and life changed for women (and their divorcing husbands) at that day forward.

Past. Present. Past. Present. Struggles for equality. Struggles for the right to leave with something after 30 years of marriage. It seems centuries ago that that lawsuit and its resultant decision made its impact!

And so, what’s so great about Fresh Start Saturday? Well, if we’re putting a positive spin on this (and Jackie Ramler certainly does), Fresh Start is just that. It’s the opportunity to reposition one’s attitude and reality, sitting with like-minded people whose marriages have ended and who want to move forward with a positive attitude. Jackie says the series has been assembled by a number of professionals who work with the newly separated and divorced and who want to help ease the transition.

“People fall into three categories,” she says... those looking at their options, those still in shock, and those who are battleworn from the process.” She says the day is organized by three lawyers, two financial advisors, three parenting plan specialists and four family coaches.

Fresh Start is all about learning how to grieve the loss, how to create a positive environment for children as they move into their new family reality, how to manage this change with emotional health, rather than bitter anger and resentment.

Jackie’s work helps the separated or divorced person look at how they’re dividing their assets. She wants to make sure that neither party is shortchanged. Jackie’s specialty is looking at assets and their value over the long term. She examines care of children, cost of education, amortization of support and what it all means in the brave new world.

Fiona Rooney, psychotherapist who specializes in loss and grief, discusses grief in its entirety, what it feels like, what positive outcomes can occur.

Dr. Peter Marshall discusses the family, the entire package and what happens to individuals during and after separation and divorce. He helps people learn how to manage their feelings so their kids can thrive in healthy environments.

Jake and Wilma Hoeppner give a preview of their 13 week divorce care program which is designed to process and ultimately enhance and heal the divorce experience.

It’s interesting to note among the growing numbers of pre-retirees--the baby boomers--when divorce occurs, the battling kids are often adults themselves, hyper vigilant about their parents’ estates.

And what does all this mean as the newly single person moves into a new relationship?

Certainly Fresh Start is a product of our age. It sounds like a proactive offering to what can often be a permanent scar on the souls of everyone in a family.

Bravo to those professionals who’ve banded together to present solutions to people.

Thanks, Jackie, for sharing the journey.

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