Surviving And Thriving After A Gray Divorce — 6 Helpful Tips
Divorcing after age 50, known as “Gray Divorce” can be a very traumatic experience. It can turn your life upside down and it can affect your children, your emotional well being, your self-esteem and possibly your financial circumstances.
Unfortunately Gray Divorce has become quite common. In my practice I have found that many couples and individuals in this age bracket are taking stock of themselves or re-evaluating their lives. Some are starting to feel their mortality and worry that time is running out.
They wonder if they have accomplished enough or if they are missing out on living life to the fullest in terms of career, adventure, financial status and relationship satisfaction. In other words they have found themselves being snared by the all too common demon known as the middle-age crisis.
This is particularly difficult if one partner feels the crisis and the other doesn’t. If you have been blindsided by a discontent spouse who suddenly announces that they want out, something (or someone) new and different, you know it can be devastating.
If you happen to be a woman, you are likely dealing with menopause around this same time, which can cause its own physical and emotional turbulence. Other major adjustments for 50 somethings may be children moving out (empty nest syndrome) and aging parents needing more support. Certainly not the best time to be coping with a divorce, and the resulting additional upheaval in your life.
Your self-esteem may be bruised right now, and you may wonder how you can possibly start dating again, or if anyone will find you interesting and attractive. Perhaps you are concerned about your couples-friendships becoming strained.
If any of this sounds familiar, I want to reassure you that you can and will survive. True there will be a period of grieving for life as you knew it, even if it wasn’t the greatest marriage. And yes there will be healing work to do. But the end of an unhealthy, loveless or toxic marriage can also the beginning of a fulfilling and exciting new chapter in your life.
Here are some helpful tips to guide the way:
1. Acknowledge Your Emotions. Feel your feelings and allow yourself to grieve. It is never healthy to bury those emotions, as they will only creep up later if not dealt with. Talk to a trusted friend or write your thoughts down in a journal.
2. Practice Self Care. Get a good nights sleep and choose healthy snacks and meals. Replace soda with water or tea. Get some exercise everyday. Take a nature walk or crank up some dancing music in your living room!
3. Have a Routine. The worst thing you can do is hang out in your PJs all day. Get up, make the bed, shower and have breakfast every day! Schedule at least one activity, errand or small project daily. Productivity is the enemy of depression!
4. Connect with Others. Seek supportive, like-minded friendships and eliminate toxic ones. Many communities have meet-up groups based on hobbies: hiking, movies, photography etc. Consider a book club. Volunteer.
5. Silence your Inner Critic. Replace any negative and blaming self-talk and false beliefs with a positive and encouraging script. Think about what you would say to a good friend. Write is down if that helps and repeat often!
6. Nurture your Soul. Add joyful activities to your daily life. Buy yourself flowers, read an uplifting book or watch a favorite movie. Start a gratitude journal and jot down everything you are thankful for from your children and pets to that delicious piece of cheesecake waiting in your fridge!
You may feel like you will never dig out of this dark place, but you absolutely can! Don’t hesitate to reach out for professional help if you are feeling stuck. A good therapist can offer compassion, resources and support throughout this difficult journey.
Gradually the curtain will lift and you will enter a stage of re-invention that will allow you to create a joyful future full of rich experiences and relationships!
BabitaSpinelli, LP, JD is a renown Psychotherapist and Certified Coach. She provides an empowering space for clients to explore what holds them back, while challenging them to make changes to help them reach their goals. Babita works with individuals who are experiencing significant life transitions and couples looking to rebuild their relationship. Babita is the recipient of the 2019 New York Psychotherapist Award and is frequently featured in the media as a relationship expert. She is a Certified Gottman Level 2 Therapist, Collaborative Divorce Coach and Parent Coordinator. Babita’s therapy and coaching services are global and provided virtually. Learn more about Babita on her website, Opening the Doors Psychotherapy.