Divorce at any time of life can feel like you have been hit by a bus but the older we are, the harder it can be to cope because we feel like we have totally lost our identity and our life is no longer going in the direction we had planned. A divorce can be one of the most stressful and traumatic experiences of your life, second only to losing a loved one and you will go through the 5 stages of grief. The first stage is denial. That shock of knowing you are splitting from the person you thought you were going to spend the rest of your life with can feel like your world is over. You can feel confused, isolated and scared and your emotions can be all over the place. It is perfectly normal to feel like this in the initial stages. All sorts of questions will be going through your mind such as how will I survive financially and will I be on my own forever? It is so important at this stage to find yourself a “Breakup Support” team that can be by your side helping you navigate the rollercoaster. Finding a good family lawyer/McKenzie Friend and financial adviser can help give you reassurance and many will offer free initial consultations like I do as a McKenzie Friend. Surround yourself with family and friends but be careful not to spend too much time with friends that allow you to keep telling your sad story as this will not help you recover. It may be nice to keep replaying your story and getting sympathy initially, but in the long run this will slow down you moving forward. It is so important to get moving and find yourself an exercise buddy as this will release our natural feel good hormones. Even if it’s a friend knocking for you and walking around the block together as this will make you leave the house. Finally I recommend you find yourself a Divorce Coach likemyself to help you navigate through the practicalities of divorce and the emotional support to keep you continually moving forward, however small those steps are and speed up the recovery process. Being single does not mean it is the end of the world. In fact, it can mean you can now do all the things that you never have ornever been allowed too!! Small changes initially can help you start to feel back in control such as changing the furniture in your home or trying a new hairstyle. These small changes over a period of time can add up to you making huge leaps forward over time. Maybe there is a hobby that you have always wanted to do or that you can simply watch what you want on the television.
Once you have started the divorce process, you may find that mutual friends are left confused asto who’s “side” to take. Pre empt this by communicating with your mutual friends and being honest with them. You will naturally have ones that will side with you and others that will side with your ex and gender tends to take precedent here. Accepting that you will lose friends but that these will be the friends that you are meant to lose and actually you will be left with an even tighter set of loyal and supportive friends. Remember it is not their fault and avoid gossiping about your ex as this won’t serve anyone other than slow down your recovery and make your friends feel uncomfortable. When older children and grandchildren are involved, it’s really important to remember they will allbe looking to you to be their role model and will mirror your reactions to the split. Where possible, telling your children and the grandchildren together as a united front can set precedent from the start as it is not their fault and they may feel guilty and unsure how to react to the news. Reassuring them that you both still love them and try not to get emotional as this will just inflame an already awkward and difficult situation. Be honest with them that there will be changes but keep it simple and focus on the benefits and positives. Older children may feel like they must pick sides but telling them together can help eradicate those feelings because no one ever wins if sides have to be taken. Remember what is more important here, to be right or to be happy and have happy children and grandchildren? You are the adult here and although your children may be older, it can still come as a shock to them and they may feel like their security has been rocked so its really important to reassure them. This in turn will mean you are not left comforting them when you are already feeling fragile.
If you have been left and there was someone else involved, you can become stuck in the second stage of the grief cycle and that is anger. Betrayal can cause many issues such as low self esteem, loss of confidence and questions about the whole marriage. There will be answers you may never know and you have no control over what your ex partner does so remember to keep dialling down the negative self talk as this serves no one. It is natural to look for clues, however, it is really important to focus on doing what you can to feel better not wasting energy on answers you may never find out. Take back control and move forward at your own pace and don’t feel rushed into anything. Do not cyber stalk your ex, quiz friends and family as this will cause you even more pain and heartache.
Divorce can be a catalyst for change and a huge life overhaul as it is very rare for a divorce to occur out of the blue without any underlying issues if you are being truly honest with yourself. It can be an opportunity to rediscover your identity and I would write down a “Breakup Bucket” list and put down all the things you would like to do, places you would like to visit, dream destinations and even a career change or new business? Keep the internal dialogue as positive as possible as it can be very easy to stay in the bargaining and depression stage of the grief cycle. Recovering from your divorce is not an overnight event but a process and the length of time will be different for everyone. Dating again can be a really daunting prospect as many will be frightened of being hurt again and you may not have dated for many years! However, dating again can actually be a confidence booster and you do not need to rush into anything serious. Not over analysing and realising that there may be a Mr or Mrs Right Now as opposed to a Mr or Mrs Right can mean you can have some fun and simply good conversation rather than feel like you are going to jump straight back into a long term relationship. You may never want to get married again or have a long term relationship but this does not mean you can’t have some fun and friendly conversation even if you don’t want to have a sexual relationship. Remember you are in control and with technology and online dating, you don’t even need to leave your home and can just chat and help combat loneliness initially. There are many ways to practice safe online dating to minimise any risks. You don’t need to ever meet anyone if you do not want to but realising that there is life after divorce is really important because divorce is a common occurrence and thereare many others of your age also going through this roller coaster too.
When emotions start to keep surfacing and you are struggling to move on, it is so important to contact your friends and family or your divorce coach because although there are 5 stages of the grief cycle, with acceptance being the final one, you can rebound around all of them until you truly move forward. Doing a vision board is a great exercise to do and even to get the children and grandchildren involved because it is a great way to visualise a new and exciting future with a visual plan that you can see every day. It can feel very scary finding yourself on your own but many people, including myself, go on to lead happier and more flourishing lives. Some days will be better than others but take small steps each day and these will add up to monumental changes. I advise my clients to write a letter to themselves on a day when they are feeling positive and in control and put this in their purse or wallet and then on those down days, take it out and read it at least three times so the brain starts to rewire.
If you find yourself having a friend going through divorce, be empathetic and caring but don’t be the friend that allows them to keep re telling their sad story over and over agin month in, month out. Help your friend dial down their emotions and be there to listen and validate what they have been through and then include them in social events as they will be feeling lonely especially at weekends and in the evenings when most are usually with their partners and family. Divorce is a life changing event but it can be a life changing event for the better whatever your age. Do not suffer in silence and take baby steps each day. Facebook is a great place to know you are not the only one going through divorce with groups such as my Divorce and Breakup Support Group for Women for you to make new friends with others going through similar circumstances. Divorce need not define you, it is just the end of a chapter and can in fact be your new superpower to new found happiness.
I would love to hear your experiences of divorce over forty as this divorce rates are the highest for ages 45-49 than any other age group. Want to know more how I can help you speed up your recovery from midlife divorce, take a look at my website and see what services I offer. I help women see that divorce can be their superpower and a catalyst for a complete life redesign, whatever your age.