Divorce is a time that will see us at our most vulnerable, this is amplified somewhat by the complexities of going through it at around 50 or older. There is a rule of thumb which applies to the time taken in getting over divorce. The person who initiates the divorce will get over the divorce quite quickly as usually they have spent a few years building up to initiating it and it is in these preceding years that they are at most risk of depression and mental health issues. Whereas the partner who was not wanting the divorce (and likely blindsided by it ) is forced to come to terms with so many things in an instant and as such will often find that during the already traumatic divorce and separation proceedings that they may well struggle with their mental health.
Such was my own situation. I was in my mid to late forties when I was informed that my marriage was over and that there was no hope in its resuscitation. Thankfully for our teenage child, we have remained on very good terms. So does the fact that our divorce was without the animosity so often seen, mean that my state of mind was saved from mental health concerns? Yeah Right!!!! I still struggle on occasions, however thanks in part to my own previous experiences, I am able to not allow "the Black Dog" to take hold and am also aware of my early signs.
So lets have a look at what are some of the issues that can affect our mental health when going through divorce as we approach our Fifties and beyond. To begin, there is the obvious, the very fact that your relationship has come to an end. Unfortunately, many of us still feel they are in love with their partner and so the very real grief over the loss of them in your life is often enough to send your mental health spiraling down. Thoughts of " how am I going to live my life without them" are to be expected. Compound that with thoughts of why did they leave me, what did I do wrong, can I be happy ever again? ( Of course you can), whats wrong with me? etc and you are beginning to concoct a dangerous cocktail. Of course these things apply to any relationship break down at any age whether married or not.
Going through a divorce in and around your 50's, brings with it more questions and complexities. You would have been expecting to be growing old with your partner and so now your future has changed. A divorce closer to 30 will afford you a glimmer of hope for your future in your own mind.( Of course you won't think that way straight away, but knowing you have many years left will eventually fill you with hope). First of all, unless you are 120 years old or more, you still have the opportunity to find a new future and live a wonderful happy and contented life. The age of 50 need not be a stumbling block, if people such as Colonel Sanders, Ray Kroc and Morgan Freeman can become household names after 50 then surely, finding happiness again, is just a matter of living life again.
Homelessness is something, like suicide is a very hushed up dirt secret of divorce. Some figures suggest that 10% of divorces result in homelessness. So often people are left without they ability to pay rental deposits, even if they are working full time. Of course for most, this is only temporary. In most cases, unlike mine, those in and around their 50's are more financially secure so the rate of homelessness decreases.
The financial strain of divorce and the separation of assets, is very real and something that is far easier to deal with when mentally prepared for its onslaught. In my own situation, once I had to deal with the fact that I was to be divorced and would see less of my teen child, I had the separation of assets to deal with. This resulted in what was for me, one of my lowest times in my life. I faced financial ruin, due to factors beyond the control of myself or my ex. Whilst I will not offer up my financial figures, I shall give an overview of the unfortunate events that took place.Whilst I know there are many far worse than I, it is important to know that divorcees at 50 can and do bounce back, just like myself. My ex and I had originally agreed on a 50/50 split of assets, however due to laws unique to my State we were unable to utilize a private agreement. This meant that standard legal forms, the court system and lawyers were required and a 34/66 split was the best option. The intent was always for me to keep the house which was heavily mortgaged. However, luck was not on my side, a woefully high initial housing valuation, the courts taking way too long to process our application and a massive plummet of housing prices in the mean time saw me paying out 93%. ( The dollar amount remained the same but my net worth had plummeted resulting in the higher percentage) To compound my anxiety, I was legally required to pay a specified amount, an amount that was proving hard to obtain as the new house valuation meant that no lending institution would offer me a loan. My house was worth less than I now owed my ex. However, thanks to some miracles performed by my mortgage broker ( If your in Western Australia and want a great broker, let me know) and help from family I was able to narrowly avoid bankruptcy. Again, this is not meant as a "woe is me" story, but an example of the pressures divorce and separation can bring and that there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Another factor that comes in to play for divorcees in their 50's and beyond, is the fear of growing old alone. Whilst you have many years left, a common fear is to be frail , old and alone. Let me assure you that you will have many years and opportunities to rectify being alone if you want to. For every Man that gets a divorce there is a Woman doing the same thing. Sure the dating scene has changed and is intimidating, but opportunities abound. Take a look at my blog post on Ready To Date Again and you will see that the future is indeed yours.
How to deal with all this stress?
Well, I can only talk from my own experience, but as a survivor I have learnt a few things. Firstly, I would say, accept that it may be a rough ride for a little while, allow yourself time to grieve. Try to avoid spending too much time on your own to dwell on the worst case scenarios. Spend time with the right friends and family. It is vitally important that you chose carefully who you spend time with whilst in a vulnerable state. Avoid those people who whilst they maybe great friends and good people, may have a tendency to be negative. Instead, spend time with those who are great listeners, those who can listen without the need to express many of their own opinions. Resist the urge to turn to alcohol or drugs as a way to combat the way you feel and of course avoid those people who will want to become drinking buddies, the temporary relief is NOT worth the longer term effects. I am not suggesting you go all teetotal, but be aware not to see your drinking increase. Seek out friends and family who are active and sociable, having a beer or two at a mates BBQ for instance will allow you to think of things aside from your current woes. Don't become a hermit and hide away, go to the footy, visit friends, watch a movie or see a live band. What you need to be doing is avoiding the temptation to overthink things, "stew in your own thoughts" and become more depressed.
Listen to your sensible friends if they suggest you see a doctor. Do not ever feel it is a sign of weakness to seek out professional help. For most people, depression brought on by a single event ( like divorce) is both treatable and temporary after seeking help. The best place to start is your local GP who can in many cases treat you themselves, if not they can refer you to those who can.
Of course professional help need not just be medical. Don't be afraid to seek out help or advice from those in the know. Basic divorce advice can be obtained online from both government agencies and other organizations. Places like the Citizens Advice Bureau or Relationships Australia are a great place to start. But it is more than simple divorce advice that may be needed, so don't be afraid to seek advice from Divorce Lawyers ( You will need one) or Financial Advisors. It is quite likely that you may feel trapped, overwhelmed and confused so getting advice from varying experts as well as research online is a great way to clear the fog and lift the weights weighing heavy upon you.
Divorce is a new beginning, not the end.
My own post divorce journey is far from over. Yes I am still single and my financial debt could be far smaller, but I have well and truly moved on. I am, for the most part very happy. I have had the opportunity to rediscover myself and to blog about it.
I am not saying that your post divorce life will be easy, but rest assured it is far better than it seems when your in the middle of it. There are some major hurdles to face whilst going through divorce and separation, all of which you will get past, it is simply a matter of if you choose the bumpy ride or the trek through mountainous rainforest inhabited by dangerous wildlife.
Divorced and nearly 50 I rediscovered who I was.