Nobody gets married planning to get divorced. Yet half of all marriages end that way. Despite being commonplace, divorce is a new experience for every person who goes through it. Because so many aspects of divorce took them by surprise, four local women formed a nonprofit organization, Blue Iris Divorce Resources for Women, to help women through the various stages and issues of divorce by providing support and practical information.
When Audrey Morrison went through her divorce while living in Chicago, she heard about an organization that helped guide women through the financial, physical and emotional aspects of divorce. She found it very helpful. When she and her three children moved to Stapleton 3 years ago, she began meeting other divorced women. At a book club, Morrison met Janis Carey and Stephanie Williams who live in Stapleton and Kaitlin Clark, who lives in Park Hill and told them about the Chicago organization. The women, who were at various stages of the divorce process and had seven children between them, agreed there was a need for a similar program in Denver.
That initial conversation last February progressed to the formation of a Colorado nonprofit. To identify the most relevant topics, focus groups were held, asking women what they wish they’d known when going through their divorce.
Blue Iris’s events are only open to women. However, information provided on the website is intended to be a resource for men and women. “We’re not anti-men at all, we just want the atmosphere to feel safe for women,” explains Morrison. They feel a similar organization would be helpful to men.
The name Blue Iris is based on creating a feeling of peace and hope. “Nobody is going to say divorce isn’t hard, but there is hope on the other side and there’s light,” explains Morrison. “We wanted to convey the feeling that even though it’s difficult, you will get through it and it’s not all negative.” Although started by women who live in Stapleton and Park Hill, the intention is to reach out to women throughout the Denver metro area. “We feel very lucky that we met each other and can support each other, but we know there are other women out there in that ‘alone’ stage.”
Morrison remembers feeling that isolation when she lived in Chicago and didn’t know anyone else who was divorced. “It’s such a difficult time because, usually when you’re married, your friends are married and you might not know anyone who is divorced. You feel alone and afraid and you aren’t sure how to proceed.”
Blue Iris’s first quarterly event, “Divorce 101” on Nov. 1, will be an overview of things to be considered in the course of a divorce. Additional workshops throughout the year will cover specialized topics including “Should I Stay or Should I Go?”; issues on co-parenting and taking care of yourself; refinancing or getting a new home; qualifying for a mortgage and managing finances. There will also be therapists to talk about coping mechanisms for the women and their children. And, there will be other women who are going through similar experiences. “Hearing other people’s stories helps you realize you can get through it, taking it one step at a time and one issue at a time,” says Clark. “We don’t want it to be ‘let’s sit around complaining about our ex-husbands’ or how hard it is,” says Carey. “We really want Blue Iris to be empowering and positive.”
The Blue Iris founders shared some of the aspects of divorce that took them by surprise:
“I’ve realized you still have quite a relationship with your ex, even after you get a divorce,” says Williams. “At some point, I reframed my thinking from ‘we’re going to live separate lives’ to ‘we’re just going to have a different kind of relationship.’ It really helped me when I realized that.” She adds, “In some ways, I talk to my ex-husband now more than before because we’re coordinating a lot of stuff that I mostly just took care of before.”
Carey found there can be a big difference between what is on paper in a settlement agreement and what actually transpires in practice after the divorce. “For example, you may say you are going to split the kids’ expenses 50/50. But when you get into living life as a co-parent, you’re questioning which expenses are necessary and which are not.”
When Morrison was beginning her divorce journey, she was especially worried about her young children. But someone told her that divorce for kids becomes “their story and can help them become who they need to be in the world,” she recounts, adding that the experience might manifest itself in becoming more organized because of having to go back and forth between their parents’ homes. “Good can come of it and they can grow from that. It’s not something we’re doing to them; it’s making them who they are going to be as adults.”
For Clark, it was the transition from having a life built with a partner to being on her own that surprised her. “Seeing ways I needed to grow was nerve-racking but it was empowering. For each new thing I found I was capable of, I grew more and more empowered and know my value and my worth so much more than I ever could have.”
The Blue Iris Divorce Resources for Women website is www.theblueiris.org. It is a Colorado nonprofit organization with pending 501(c)(3) status.