Life is good. You’re breezing along now, having adjusted to the empty nest, with a good job and comfortable finances. Out of the blue, your husband comes home and says he wants a divorce. Whoa, what? Your world just came to a full stop.
Gray divorce is on the rise. The divorce rate for people age 50 and older has doubled, with this part of the population making up a growing share of U.S. marital splits. By 2015, one in four people getting divorced was 50 or older, up from one in ten in 1990, according to sociologist Susan Brown, co-director of the National Center for Family & Marriage Research at Bowling Green State University.* A younger friend of mine was totally stumped by this statistic. Why, after so many years of adjusting to someone, would there be divorce when reaching age 50, 60, or beyond?
The failure of the marriage may have begun long before the day your husband (or you) asked for divorce. That’s the case with mine anyway. I guesstimate, in hindsight, mine was about 20 years before the divorce was final. Nevertheless, it was an earth shaking revelation to me that divorce was eminent. It changed the course of the rest of my life.
Some women have accepted marital abuse in one form or another, due to raising the kids and needing the financial help during those years. When the kids leave, the marriage has not provided the support and care to keep going.
We are all living longer! This means that when you reach your 60’s you think ahead to life twenty years in the future or so. That’s a long time, and spending your last days with someone you no longer love or can be with, makes gray divorce a heavily considered option.
Research has shown that with the stigma of divorce decreasing, those who have gown unsatisfied with their marriages may be more likely to use the time and opportunity to pursue their own interests. *
The devastation that comes with a late in life heartbreak can be endured and turned into positive outcomes. It’s possible to find incredible peace where there was chaos, or set in motion changes in you that you never realized needed to happen. A change could be better health, as your blood pressure stabilizes and you begin to focus on taking care of you. Maybe you personally grow in financial management, or figure out interests and strengths never tapped into before, or just enjoy the feeling of self care, making your own decisions on how that would look. Occasionally, people find love again where they NEVER thought they could.
However, right now, if your heart feels broken, those things seem unreachable. If you are feeling forever down, unable to snap back, feeling drained of energy or courage to start life over, here’s a few suggestions to try:
1. If you’ve ever had a broken bone, then you know how long it takes to heal. You eat right, do your exercises, and are patient as your body does what it can to fix the break. You can’t rush the healing, but you can help it along. Please remind yourself, it’s the same with divorce. You feel broken. Do what you can to eat right, do exercises of thought or physical exercises, and be patient. Believe you are healing, because you are. Slow but sure.
2. Locate that part within you where there is even the tiniest piece of joy. It could be thoughts of your grandchildren, or your pet, or how the sun feels on your skin when you take a walk. Stop right now and think about it. Search for it. Is this feeling located deep within your heart, your center, your head? Now take that feeling and expand it to make it bigger. Imagine expanding the joy until your whole body feels it. Then, stay with that feeling for as long as you can maintain it. This is using imagery to lighten your mood.
3. Please treat yourself as you would a dear friend. Would you berate, put down, or speak harshly to them? Would you constantly review their mistakes so that they never forget them? You may be your only best friend right now. Speak calmly, lovingly, and patiently to yourself as you heal. Catch yourself when you say a demeaning statement about yourself. Then stop and say, “I’m sorry, (insert your name here) that’s not true,” and replace it with a loving statement. This is reprograming yourself to be kind to the best friend you may have, YOU.
4. Reach out to others when you’re ready. Do you have a friend or family member who can help? Maybe you don’t or just don’t want to open yourself up in that way to those in your life circle. Try therapists who specialize in divorce recovery, divorce recovery groups, or a divorce life coach. These people have devoted themselves to help YOU and others recover from this serious life challenge. Tap into their knowledge and allow yourself a time and place to share your pain, thus helping the recovery process.
Thousands of women have started over and found everyday happiness. You probably know a few of these women. You will be one of them.
Linda Ward, Certified Life Coach