Rhonda Blaylock knows how difficult it can be to move on after a divorce.
She also knows moving on is much more than the act of entering another relationship: It’s reaching a place of emotional health so that past scars don’t inhibit future success.
A key part of the healing process following her divorce in 1994 was a class called Fresh Start — and it made such an impact that when she met her future husband, Kim Blaylock, in 2008, she suggested he also take the course while he was going through a divorce.
“I’d been married for 15 years, and Kim had been married for 25,” she says. “That’s a lot to grieve. There are a lot of dreams that are crushed and taken from you in divorce.”
The couple married in 2010 and the next year began facilitating their own Fresh Start course, wanting to help others experience the healing they each had. Classes are free and currently take place at 7 p.m. on Tuesdays at Reach Church, 3500 N. Village Dr. Suite 160 in St. Joseph.
Rhonda notes the course is based on Christ-centered, biblical curriculum that offers guidance through the stages of grief following divorce.
“We help you go through that grieving process positively, rather than in a way that could get you in more trouble,” she says, adding that people can join the class at any point in its 15-session cycle and continue until they’ve attended all of the lessons.
In addition to its focus on emotional recovery, Fresh Start also teaches practical skills for navigating life post-divorce. These encompass topics such as forgiveness, sexuality, single parenting and communicating with ex-spouses.
On the last point, for example, the Blaylocks remind class members that it’s OK to sometimes ignore a phone call from an ex if you’re not mentally and emotionally prepared to deal with that interaction. And when you do call back, it’s often helpful to have a script planned for addressing the necessary topic — as well as a mindset that makes it possible to stay calm in the event things get heated.
“You cannot believe how much power that takes back,” Rhonda says. “They’re not pushing your buttons, because you’re in control.”
She adds that class members fill out a survey that includes a question about whether they’ve been involved in an abortion. Anyone who has can attend a Fresh Start class focused specifically on the issues that can come with that and also have the option of enrolling in an entirely separate course focused on post-abortion healing.
“I personally have had an abortion, and that’s part of what ruined my first marriage,” Rhonda notes. “It can cause undercurrents in a relationship that reach up and suck you down.”
The feedback the Blaylocks have received about Fresh Start has been overwhelmingly positive, and they’ve even had class members who are experiencing an especially difficult time go through the course twice.
Many members are referred by pastors or people who work in social services, and the Blaylocks would like to also be able to reach people in the court system as they’re going through the divorce process.
After all, more open doors mean more people they can help heal.
“We’re going to restore their value, repurpose their life, resolve old issues and prepare them for their future,” Rhonda says.
Anyone who would like more information on the course can visit its Facebook page, Fresh Start Ministry SJMO, or call the Blaylocks at 816-689-0120.