Divorce among older Americans is on the rise. Time Magazine reports that between 1990 and 2010, divorce rates doubled for individuals over the age of 50, making “grey divorce” or senior divorce higher and more rampant than any other age group.
To some, this statistic may be shocking, but it is increasingly common for older Americans to end dissatisfying marriages in pursuit of freedom and personal happiness.
The Rise in Senior Divorce Rates
Baby boomers differ greatly from previous generations of married people in that they are living healthier, longer lives. This longevity, in addition to a divorce being far less stigmatized than it was in the past, has lead in part to the higher rates of marital breakdown.
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Time also reports that for many couples divorcing later in life, there is no “severe discord” or smoking gun that prompts the end of their union. Rather, “it seems like empty-nesters, having finished that joint project known as raising the kids, now find they don’t have so much in common.” Other factors contributing to the rise of grey divorce include:
Differing hobbies and interests
Increased financial freedom for women – many women no longer have to choose between a bad marriage and poverty
Life changes, such as retirement and the resulting increase in time spent together
Ongoing marital dissatisfaction
Tips for Managing the Grief of Grey Divorce
Divorce is a painful experience no matter what stage of life you’re in. It can be especially difficult for seniors who have spent most of their life with one person, only to separate in their golden years. In fact, many people experiencing a senior divorce compare their mourning process to that of the death of a loved one. For many people, the demise of a relationship is a death: the death of life as they know it, of their goals for the future and their self-confidence and trust in others.
If you or someone you know is facing a late-life divorce, check out the following tips to help manage feelings of grief:
Accept support: Turning to family and friends for comfort in your time of need will not only remind you that you are still loved, it will also provide you an outlet to express your desires, fears and feelings. Family therapy and formal support groups can provide an impartial point of view and “help you cope with the many emotions of a marriage ending.”
Be kind to yourself: Facing the reality of your loss can be difficult and at times, unbearable. The American Psychological Association suggests letting go of the “could’ve, should’ve, would’ve” thought process and instead, embrace your feelings and know that they are natural and normal. Remember that a bad day does not mean you’ve had a setback in your grieving process, and you are more capable than you could possibly imagine.
Be willing to trust again: The American Psychological Association explains that “there are learning and growing opportunities” that stem from the pain of divorce “that will take you to better places.” Being open and willing to take a hard look at the situation – both the joyful and the raw experiences – will empower you to understand where things went wrong and allow you to place trust in yourself and others again.
Be you: Reclaiming your own voice and independence may feel strange after so many years of being half of a couple, however by discovering a personality that is “truly you” and pursuing hobbies and interested that are “truly yours,” you will become the independent person you were always meant to be.
Focus on your health: During the early stages of grief, you may be inclined to numb your pain and find comfort in food, television or under the covers. Eating well will provide your body with essential nutrients, making you feel less foggy and unwell, and give you energy. Start small by taking a walk around the block to encourage the flow of endorphins, which will also improve your mood.
Give and seek forgiveness: This task may be difficult, but it is essential in freeing yourself from the prison of anger, regret and resentment that often comes with divorce. Your ex-spouse may not deserve to be forgiven, however, you deserve to be empowered, happy and liberated!
Remember divorce does not equal failure: During the immediate aftermath of a divorce, it can be impossible to remember that not all love stories are meant to stand the test of time. An article published in the Huffington Post entitled “Navigating the 3 Stages of Divorce After 50” emphasizes the importance of “recognizing your marriage wasn’t a failure, it just ran its course.” All life experiences have two sides: you can share great experiences together, such as the birth of children, yet also grow apart and become two incompatible people. There is also personal growth that can rise from the ashes of a divorce. The American Psychological Association suggests keeping in mind that “the depth of a loss means you experienced something truly meaningful.”