Dean Klema of Fountain went through Beginning Experience following a divorce. The organization, he said, helped him move on and begin a new chapter of his life.
Dean Klema of Fountain went through Beginning Experience following a divorce. The organization, he said, helped him move on and begin a new chapter of his life.
February opens our minds and hearts to reflect on the love relationships of our lives. Emotional energy moves toward people who are tucked deeply in our hearts. Special tokens of love's presence are bestowed upon spouses, parents, children, relatives and special friends.

Remembrances of love relationships lost through death, separation or divorce also emerge at this time of the year.

Dean Klema of Fountain shares how an organization called Beginning Experience (BE) enabled him to move forward with his life after suffering this trauma of brokenness. He encourages readers to consider looking into BE programs where they can find assistance in the healing process. BE allows grieving people to find thoughtful closure and movement into a future of wholeness either alone or in a new relationship.

Beginning Experience's mission statement explains that the purpose of this ministry is to facilitate the grief resolution process for adults and children who have suffered a loss through death, divorce or separation. It enables them to again love themselves, others and God.

The feeling most people face at the ending of a love relationship is one Klema has witnessed in himself and in the lives of countless others.

The book "Death and Dying," in which Elisabeth Kubler-Ross outlines five stages of the grieving process, is a central component of Beginning Experience.

It is important to understand that these stages of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance cannot be rushed through and each person's individual time frame must be allowed to naturally occur.

Another view of defining grief's stages is written in "Living With An Empty Chair - A guide through grief" by Dr. Roberta Temes. This book indicates a connection with behavior patterns of those who have lost a loved one. Three stages mentioned are: numbness - mechanical functioning and social insulation; disorganization - intensely painful feelings of loss; and reorganization - a re-entry into a more "normal" social life.

No matter how the loss of love has occurred, there are many similarities shared by those grieving. Many people isolate themselves from the very people who can assist them the most in healing.

Growing up in Fillmore County and graduating from Chatfield High School in 1972, Klema headed to Rochester Vocational School to study auto mechanics. He married his high school sweetheart and settled in the Pilot Mound area. In 1997, he started his own business, Klema Repair, which is located just north of Fountain.

After 31 years of marriage and raising their two sons, divorce became a reality in Klema's life.

"It's kind of interesting," he recalled. "I actually heard about BE from my ex-wife. She had found this group in Rochester to be helpful for her and thought I would benefit from the programs they offered."

Beginning Experience was founded in 1973 when a family counselor from Forth Worth, Texas, Sister Josephine Stewart, and her friend, Jo Lamia, attended a weekend retreat for married couples with the idea of putting together a program for engaged couples.

In this time of reflection, Lamia began to deal with unaddressed issues and concerns stemming from her divorce.

The Beginning Experience website states, "During this weekend, Jo wrote out all the unfinished grief and anger from her divorce, coming to a peaceful closure on the end of her marriage. Her notebook became the seed of the Beginning Experience® ministry. Sister Josephine and other professionals in grief resolution, counseling, psychology, education and spiritual renewal, adapted Ms. Lamia's writings to outline the process for the Beginning Experience weekend."

This international ministry led by "wounded healers" - specially trained men and women who are themselves widowed, separated or divorced, (but further along in the grieving process) offers a chance for healing.

In the spring of 2005, Klema joined the "Coping with Life Alone" sessions. This 10-week support program is geared toward those whose loss is new and provides preparation for a Beginning Experience Weekend.

"Coping" sessions focus on such topics as the grief process, changes in family and other relationships, trust and coping with memories of your deceased spouse or dealing with your ex-spouse.

Klema, who is a more quiet and reserved man, was nervous about attending the first session.

"Even though I think it's best to get started right away with getting help to heal, I was apprehensive about going," he explained. "Having your life change so much is confusing but these sessions in coping helped me to start figuring out the reasons why our marriage ended and that no one person is totally to blame for a divorce."

Through the "Coping with Life Alone" session Klema was able to review questions on several different topics during quiet reflection, then small group discussion.

"Listening to how other people answer the same question I did, gave me a new perspective on how to deal with a divorce or the death of a spouse," Klema reflected. "You never are forced to 'spill your guts' and say anything, but if you do make comments, they are kept confidential. Healing comes as you let go and see yourself in new ways. You realize that you can do things you didn't think you could do alone."

Bi-annually (the next retreat weekend is April 29 to May 1), Beginning Experience Minnesota offers a unique approach to healing, which allows an opportunity for a profoundly life-changing encounter with self. At Villa Maria, just north of Lake City, adults grieving the loss of a love relationship through death, divorce or separation, who are ready to come to terms with their loss, are invited to learn ways to move forward with their lives.

Klema added, "I made my weekend in the fall of 2005. The time at the retreat center helped me to start thinking forward again. I didn't want to dwell on the past and the things that were no longer a part of my life. When you're older and have to face life alone, you're not as distracted with jobs or sports or children. Those younger years are gone and I think it's harder. I think I was sort of shell shocked. I needed more time and some help to bounce back from my loss."

He adds, "BE has helped me to get braver about going out more on my own and to do the activities I really enjoy doing. I learned how to get along with people who have different education, interests and backgrounds than I do. You really get out of it what you put into it."

Other programs he learned from and eventually helped to facilitate are "Rebuilding" using Dr. Bruce Fisher's book, and "Happiness is an Inside Job" with a book by Father John Powell. Both programs are supplemented with pre-recorded lessons and small group discussion.

A program, available for three different age groups, "Who Am I Now?" is geared toward youth who have lost a parent or intact family through death, separation or divorce. BE Minnesota is working on plans for a youth retreat in the near future.

Sister Josephine Stewart, co-founder of Beginning Experience, was in Minnesota last fall sharing in the lives of young men and women who gathered for a retreat near St. Cloud.

She said, "My big concern over all these years has been the children during the time of grief. Their parents are so into their own grief that they don't see their children's grief and then often their grief gets frozen. BE helps them get unfrozen and begin to heal."

As a teacher and an artist, Stewart understands the delicate balance needed for wholeness and wellness.

Healing from the brokenness of death, separation or divorce shattering a person's life can be followed by new beginning. When a person is removed from your life, it is important to understand there is a process of grief you will go through.

BE Minnesota is a non-profit volunteer organization dedicated to helping guide individuals through the process of grieving. No one is refused the opportunity to participate due to lack of funds.

Physical death or divorce brings the end of a tangible love relationship. The dreams and the hopes people shared disintegrate. People who have faced the loss of relationships and traveled paths of healing share their trials and offer a place for healing, using a time-tested process toward acceptance.

For more information on Beginning Experience Minnesota, the weekend retreat, April 29 to May 1, 2011, at the Villa Maria Retreat Center near Lake City, Minn., or the weekly gatherings to help with the rebuilding of your life, one may call (507) 252-9464 or e-mail info@beminnesota.org or visit the website www.beminnesota.org or visit the international site http://www.beginningexperience.org.