Divorce sucks, no two ways about it. I've been there. I actually had a "nice" divorce and it still was awful. That being said, I couldn't be happier right now.
If you find yourself divorced later in life, does it suck more? Actually, no...it doesn't have to. I won't lie to you and tell you it will be easy. It won't. But that doesn't mean you can't do it. You can.
The truth is this: So much of your life has been spent as a couple and now you are no longer coupled up. It's going to be hard to stop saying "we" after so many years. It's going to feel as if you are the only single person amidst all of your old friends. Trust me, you aren't the only one.
What's painful today could be an opportunity to be happier tomorrow. Divorce can be an opportunity to change, no matter what your age. The key is to refocus. You can stay home, sulk and whine and lament on everything that you used to have, or can use this moment to make a positive change. You can choose to see it as an opportunity to reinvent yourself. It is all in the attitude.
Give yourself some time to grieve, then make a plan to move on. Here's how:
1. Bury It - It's over. Resolve here and now to bury the past that you cannot change. If you spend your time rehashing the last 18 years and bemoan everything you went through in your marriage, you will never move forward. Write down the top ten things that went wrong. Read it and take note to steer clear of those mistakes again (and beware, this can happen easily in a rebound relationship). Now trash it. Say goodbye to the past and take out a new piece of paper; this is your future. This doesn't mean you didn't enjoy many good years together or you didn't raise wonderful children. It just means this chapter is closing and you are opening a new one.
2. Goal-Tending - Now that you have buried the past, set your sights on the wonderful future that awaits you. Get a new sheet a paper and write down ten things you have always wanted to do. Set a plan for doing them. There is nothing holding you back now. This is your opportunity to start fresh. Dream big! The great news about divorcing later in life is the wisdom you have gained over the years. You are smart enough to know what you want. You are experienced enough to plan it. This is your opportunity to start fresh. Dream big!
3. Enjoy Your Friends - Take advantage of your new free time and make plans with your friends. Call up that old friend you haven't seen in ages and get together. Although it may seem like all of your friends are coupled up, you know they are longing for some quality friend time. You may find that your long term couple friends are in divided camps. It doesn't have to be that way. Can you decide with your ex that everyone can be friends? Just because you and your ex couldn't work it out doesn't mean that people have to take sides. If you let everyone know it's cool, you can squash the awkwardness that comes from splitting. Keeping yourself busy the weeks and months after divorce is a good thing. So make lots of plans. You can get your mind off of the divorce and it allows you talk about other things. Do you hear that? When you go out with your friends, talk about other things -not your divorce.
4. Make New Friends - Does this frighten you a little? It shouldn't! Making new friends is not limited to young people. There are plenty of opportunities to make new friends, you just have to put yourself out there to get them. Do a search for college friends on Facebook, get great at tweeting, start connecting with other amateur photographers on Instagram. Seek out a divorce support group, start a breakfast club, volunteer at an organization you're passionate about. Find a book club, a running club or wine club -- whatever your interest. Take that art class you have always wanted to take. You can even find a Meetup group for singles in your age group. This can help you focus on other things that interest you. Don't let the divorce define you, you are a complex individual with many interests.
5. Take Advantage of Your Age - The great thing about being your age is not having to deal with the inexperience you had in your 20s! You have been there, done that. You know how to get things done. Just because someone may have done your laundry for years or planned dinner or scheduled all the fun events, just because they are no longer in your life, it doesn't mean you don't know how to do these things. No one is going look at you and think, "Oh gosh, how is the laundry going to get done now?" There isn't anyone thinking you won't be able to get out of the house. Here's something fun: think back to when you left your parents' house after high school. Think of the excitement of being out on your own. A place to yourself. I'm sure you dreamt of having ice cream for breakfast and doing whatever you wanted. Get that excitement back. It's your turn to get back out on your own. Go back to that place of excitement, but with adult eyes. Dare to make new and exciting goals -- and to make a banana split tomorrow morning!
6. Work Out - Working out has numerous benefits. The first being it helps you cope with stress. People that work out will sleep better, relax better and have improved health. Not to mention, it can motivate or revigorate your sex life! Find a gym you love or get some workout DVD's or just start walking outside every day. Invite your daughter and her kids to join you, see if a neighbor you'd like to get to know is interested in a weekly class. Or consider it a good chance to spend quality time solo.
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7. Meditate - In less than 5 minutes a day, you can do something for yourself that will prepare for the next phase in your life. Meditation has hundreds of benefits. This powerful tool will help you navigate life's most stressful events, including divorce. Researchers from MIT and Harvard have found that meditation can relieve stress and pain and actually change the brain. How great is that?! The new you is going to be smarter, better and more relaxed! There is a gentleman named Artie Wu who runs Preside Meditation. His website is free to join and he explains meditation in the simplest form. He has quick and easy exercises to get you started with meditation. It is much simpler than you think and the benefits are amazing!
Just remember, asking for help is okay too. If you find that you are having a really tough time dealing with your feelings after a divorce, seek some professional help. It's okay. Get with someone and make a plan to deal with your feelings and work to a place that you can move forward.
You can do it! You can survive your divorce at any age -- look how many people have not only survived, but thrived! (Did you know that 42% of Robert Frost's anthologized poems were written after he was 50?) Put your positive hat on and take the first step. I know that when you look back just a few months from now, you won't believe how far you've come.
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Marina Sbrochi is the IPPY award-winning author of Stop Looking for a Husband: Find the Love of Your Life. Read more of her work at www.stoplookingforahusband.com.