Beginning Experience offers support for widowed, divorced or separated

Feb 12th, 2013 | By | Category: Featured Articles

Maureen Kallinen, Paul Forsberg, Kelly McGraw and Joan McCullough meet weekly to work through the issues of separation. McCullough is president of the local Beginning Experience group that meets weekly in Puyallup..(Joan Cronk/Senior Scene)

Maureen Kallinen, Paul Forsberg, Kelly McGraw and Joan McCullough meet
weekly to work through the issues of separation. McCullough is president of the local Beginning Experience group that meets weekly in Puyallup..(Joan Cronk/Senior Scene)

Paul Forsberg found the Beginning Experience group 10 years ago after his wife died.
“I had three sessions of grief counseling, and they just read to us. It wasn’t bad, but I wasn’t getting what I thought I needed,” he said.
He read about Beginning Experience in his church program and has been a loyal supporter ever since.
Ten years out, Forsberg said he is now in the role of giving back.
Joan McCullough is president of the local Beginning Experience group that meets every Tuesday night at Christ Episcopal Church in Puyallup at 7 p.m. The church is located at 210 Fifth St SW.
After her divorce in April 2009, McCullough said she was “prodded” to attend “by someone in my church who heard me talking about my loss.” McCullough is from New York and said the group has become part of her new family.
Most of the folks start out by attending one of the weekend retreats that are given twice a year in April and October. The retreats offer an opportunity for new folks to meet others and share their experience.
McCullough thinks the retreat is a great way for folks to start out with Beginning Experience.
“By Sunday night you have new friends and you talk about your losses. A lot of times, family doesn’t understand,” she said.
McCullough said the reason the group works is because people feel comfortable.
“Your pain is your pain, and then you walk into the group and we help each other. We cry together and we laugh together,” she said.
Beginning Experience is a Christian organization, started by a nun living in Ft. Worth, Texas. Meetings consist of checking in to see how everyone is doing.
“It is all about feelings,” said McCullough, adding that the group uses a workbook to help them work through their issues.
Kelly McGraw is newly divorced and said her therapist encouraged her to give the program a try.
“I signed up for the weekend retreat, and it was the best thing I have ever done for myself,” she said.
Forsberg stresses that the group is not a dating service.
“We bond with each other, and there have been cases where people met here, but there is a three-month period where we don’t contact any other members for dating. This is a ministry for us,’ he said.
McGraw said when she signed up for the retreat, she regretted it immediately. On her way to her first encounter at the retreat, she talked to a friend on the phone all the way down for support.
“As soon as I walked in, I locked eyes with another woman and saw myself in her. By the end of the weekend, I knew I was going to make it,” she said.
For more information on Beginning Experience, contact Joan McCullough at 253-820-3066.

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