On June 16, 2016, stay-at-home mom Jadalynn Griffin got the news from Texas State Troopers that her husband of seven years, Andy, had been killed in a traffic accident. There was only one place she could think to call in the horrific minutes following that news: her and her husband’s beloved church in Red Oak, Texas. Soon after, Sharon Verigan connected with Jadalynn on the church’s behalf, and introduced her into a circle of support.
In 2017, hundreds of thousands of women were in a state of separation, divorce, or widowhood. To add to the inherent stress of any of these situations, children are often involved. Around 75% of children of divorced couples live with their mother, and many hundreds of thousands of children lived with a single widowed mother in 2017, including 11,000 infants under 1 year old.
Where are women supposed to go for support in a desperate and lonely situation like divorce or the sudden death of a spouse? Sharon Verigan asked this very question in 2007 after the unexpected death of her father, and it inspired her to take action. Through friends, social media, and her church, Verigan has brought together a network of hundreds of women grieving a spouse or marriage. The non-profit was dubbed “Believing Restoration is Attainable,” cheekily shortened to “BRA” as a reference to their mission: “To support and uplift separated, divorced or suddenly widowed women.”
With a base of women supporting women, BRA provides Christian resources, counseling, support groups, social events, food and bill assistance, and volunteer opportunities. Jadalynn Griffin has especially enjoyed volunteering in the community, which she did on the second anniversary of her husband’s death.
“I would probably be sitting at home depressed and overcome with grief —stuck,” she admits, if she didn’t have the volunteer work and group support.
It wasn’t, and isn’t, always a smooth path. Verigan had her doubts in the beginning when trying to establish the group. Her first event, a brunch, had only 10 attendees. The vibe was wrong and awkward. Verigan considered whether she should scrap the idea — until an attendee spoke with her about her experiences and inspired her to try again. The next brunch, with a slightly tweaked plan, was the catalyst that sparked the growth of BRA.
What’s next for this growing community of supportive women? Reaching out to more divorcees, widows, and separated women who need them.
“Everybody knows somebody that is a single parent because of divorce or their husband passes away suddenly and unexpectedly,” Verigan points out.
After four years of the program, she knows all too well how many women are feeling undersupported. Her next idea for gaining awareness and funding for BRA? A sports bra line.