Bras are common support tools and, though one new organization by the same name does just that, sometimes women just need a little more help.
The nonprofit, Believing Restoration is Attainable — better known as BRA —impacts the lives of widowed and divorced women.
Sharon Verigan, the founder of Believing Restoration is Attainable, lost her father in 2007.
“I talked to him on New Year’s Eve and didn’t hear from him all New Year’s Day," Verigan shared. "I had a dream that night he had passed away. I had someone go to his apartment, and he had."
The tragic experience made Verigan more empathetic and admitted she would not have been able to grieve the death without support.
About four years ago, Verigan established BRA with the help of several women. “People were placed in my life at the right time,” Sharon relayed.
The BRA community connects through a private Facebook page that consists of women in Ellis County and other states. This serves as an online support system, and the local ladies engage in person once a month at a brunch. The gathering incorporates a guest speaker and activities to strengthen the mind and spirit.
At the first brunch, there were about 10 people, but Verigan was not really feeling it. An attendee of the first brunch enlightened Verigan about her experience, and it inspired Verigan to follow up with another event. She went about the vibe of the brunch a little differently the next time, “and it blew up.”
What started as 10 women, evolved into 20 and then to 40.
One of those women is Jadalynn Griffin. She joined BRA after the unexpected death of her husband, Andy Griffin, in 2004.
“He was the party," Jadalynn recalled. "He was just as much caring as he was fun and he loved without limits. He was probably the best thing that ever happened to me."
Andy was a truck driver who transported vehicles. On June 16, 2016, he was outside of his truck in Tyler where he was hit by another car and died. They had just celebrated their seventh wedding anniversary 10 days earlier.
Jadalynn was “blindsided” by the sudden death. He had just returned from vacation with their child and served at church that Sunday together.
Within minutes of Texas State Troopers delivering the news of her husband’s death, she called The Oaks Church. Verigan and her husband arrived on behalf of the church.
Verigan connected with Jadalynn at church, and private messaged her on Facebook to invite her to BRA. She immediately got involved with grief share for support. There was no one in her life which she could relate to.
“I needed someone who understood what I was going through. The next month in May was the first meeting I went to [with BRA]," Jadalynn relayed.
She is also part of a private BRA page for specifically widowed women. Jadalynn shared that about an eighth of the BRA group are widows.
“They are never judgmental. And sometimes a smell will throw you into an abyss of grief that you can’t move through," Jadalynn explained.
The widowed women understood the financial losses, too. Before Andy's death, Jadalynn was a stay at home mom.
When reflecting on the impact BRA made to her life the past two years, the resources it provided were significant in her grieving process. BRA hosted a Christmas, monthly events with speakers and made resources available such as grocery assistance. The program has also opened volunteering opportunities. Jadalynn said her time spent volunteering relieved her of some pain.
On the anniversary of Andy's death this year, instead of "staying in bed all day crying," she collected boxes of goods from Urban Wells in the heat.
“I would probably be sitting at home depressed and overcome with grief —stuck," she expressed.
The organization as a whole, "I feel they propelled me forward.”
Verigan shared how she talks a lot of the women into joining the first brunch or get together. Jadalynn admitted she was one of them. Her advice to other widows and divorcees is to "just do it."
“We’ve all been there. We need to be there for each other, and nobody walks alone unless they want to. But there is no need to. We are all stronger together, and where one person is weak, the other person is strong," Jadalynn advocated.
Urban Well magazine conducts a monthly food pantry to provide groceries to families in BRA. PAWS for Reflection Ranch and Verigan's dear friend, Brenda Elledge, help provide counseling. United Way West Ellis County plays a role in providing aid to the women, too.
Verigan disclosed that she is undergoing counseling at PAWS with the MANE program every Saturday. “It has been so amazing,” she shared.
Donations toward BRA contribute to counseling and the transition assistance. If a woman is in dire need of help whether that be with groceries, a car payment, rent, or counseling for themselves or their children, BRA contributes to those direct needs. Also, during the holidays they try to make new memories and gather the women for pictures, a meal, and gifts.
Sharon affirmed that the organization is not for women of domestic abuse.
Verigan does not consider an organized person or a party planner, but she has always been dedicated to social work. The program was established four years ago, and she has a vision for helping women everywhere. Her goal is to create a sports bra line to fund the organization.
“Everybody knows somebody that is a single parent because of divorce or their husband passes away suddenly and unexpectedly. Everybody knows someone," Verigan said. "When you are thinking about helping a charity if you can help with $10 a month because you know somebody who you wouldn’t want to be in their shoes and if you would put on their shoes for a minute, it’s hard.”
Ashley Ford | @aford_news | 469-517-1450