Once considered only a problem for thirty-somethings and forty-somethings, the “silver divorce” or “gray divorce” has become more common. In recent years there’s been a surge in the divorce rates for couples over the age of 60:
“One out of three boomers will face older age unmarried,” says Susan Brown, co-director of the National Center for Family & Marriage Research at Bowling Green State University in her new study The Gray Divorce Revolution.
Being divorced at this age and stage of your life presents some unique challenges. Still, many people can thrive despite the circumstances by following a few simple steps.
Have the right team on your side
Find an attorney who specializes in divorce, as well as a financial advisor. Most women, especially, don’t know the benefits that are already available to them, such as alimony and pension after being married for more than 20 years.
When you decide to file for divorce or initiate a trial separation, make sure you document significant events. Use these events to help direct your conversation with your attorney. Document important dates like when you or your spouse moved out or made attempts to reconcile. Dates where your spouse took money from your joint account or displayed upsetting behavior, all this is important as well.
Finally, make copies of important documents like banking information, retirement documents, deeds and titles, insurance paperwork, marriage certificate, your children’s birth certificates and social security cards. These documents will help you secure the benefits you’re entitled to after the divorce.
Redefine your priorities
Going from married to single will require you to turn your focus on things that matter to you. This is the time for you to think about who you are and what you want, apart from what everyone has expected from you for so many years.
“Smart women channel their energies post-divorce into examining their life, their goals, their mistakes and how they can learn from the past… They redefine their priorities and discover what’s meaningful to them,” says Allison Patton of Lemonade Divorce.
Know when to ask for help
It could be pride, or maybe just the overwhelming need to prove to yourself and others that you can do it on your own, but many divorced women find that asking for help is one of the toughest things to do: “Surviving a divorce is hard, but, you don’t have to do it alone. Maintaining social connections and making new friends is especially important for women who divorce after 60,” says Margaret Manning of Sixtyandme.com.
If you don’t get support from friends and family, find a new hobby that allows you to meet new people. If you’re an active person, try rock climbing, or some other adventurous activity. When you try something unfamiliar, you’ll learn a new skill, boost self-confidence. This may even make the divorce process a little easier to manage.
Consider additional sources of income
It’s no secret that divorce will put a strain on your finances. In addition to living on a stricter budget, don’t rule out doing something to generate additional streams of revenue. This could include starting your own business, selling off some old collectibles, or picking up a side job in your spare time.
Learn to savor special moments
You’re going through one of the most emotional and sometimes traumatic events of your life. Find things that make you happy and incorporate them into your life. “I concentrated on being more apt to ‘savor’ things that would make me happy—anticipating a visit with a friend or going to an art gallery, or buying something online and then waiting for a time to open it,” says Peg Streep, with Psychology Today.
Don’t discount the importance of support groups
One of the most valuable resources you can have while going through a divorce is a group where you can share your concerns, fears, and hopes. The concerns of a divorced single in their 60’s are vastly different than the concerns of their younger counterparts. There’s less time to save for retirement and the job market can be much harder to break into, especially if you’ve spent the last 40 years maintaining a home, family finances and suddenly find yourself job hunting. Look for a support group specific to you and what you’re struggling with, to get the most benefit.
You got this!
The idea of starting over at this point in your life can seem daunting. Remember, you will make it through, but that doesn’t mean it will be easy as you figure it all out. Know that, make peace with that, and use these tips to cope as you get divorced.