Divorce is never easy, but especially a divorce that happens after a long marriage. Once you get to the age of 50, you think you’ll spend the rest of your life with someone, so it’s tough to start over when that future is gone. If you’re wondering how to start over after divorce at 50, here are some tips.
Starting over after divorce at 50 will involve several stages. First, you need to accept what happened and give yourself time to grieve. Then, you can start discovering yourself again, finding simple ways to enjoy life, connecting with old friends, and finally finding love again.
All of this is easy to say but much harder to do when you’re in the middle of that situation. But, if you give yourself time and learn to live a full life again step by step, this can be made easier. If you want to learn about specific steps to take in this process, read on.
Surviving the Initial Blow
This is probably the hardest part of the journey. If you were the one who started the divorce, you might find it hard to accept that you will also feel grief and deal with everything your partner is dealing with as well. If you’re the other party, though, you could be dealing with feelings of betrayal or anger.
Survival is an important stage, though. This is where you learn to accept what has happened and build a healthy foundation for your new life. Here’s what to do.
Take Care of Financial Matters
It’s a good idea to start with practical matters. This will decrease your stress and anxiety, and you’ll be able to move on without worrying about these aspects of the divorce. Then you can focus on healing.
Once the divorce proceedings are over, you’ll know how much money you have, whether you have a home or not, etc. If you don’t have a job at the moment, start searching. Even something simple will keep you from fretting over finances.
You can get a financial advisor to help you sift through your expenses, taxes, and other financial tasks. Your lawyer can help you deal with legal matters. It’s best to seek out help from professionals since you probably won’t be in the state to make important decisions like these.
See a Therapist
While your friends and family can be there to listen to you vent, they won’t know how to help you deal with your emotions. So, just like you would hire a financial counselor for your finances, hire someone to help you with your mind and heart.
Seeking help from a therapist is not a sign of weakness, but rather of strength. Talk to them about your thoughts and feelings at the moment. They will listen and help you unpack all of that baggage. Upon that, they will be able to give you constructive advice on what to do and how to survive this time.
Talking it out with a professional can help you let go of a lot of that anger, disappointment, fear, betrayal, guilt, etc. Even if you don’t feel a lot at the moment, it’s still a good idea to see someone who can help you out. The effects of grief may not hit you right away, but they will at some point and it’s a good idea to be prepared.
Take Care of Your Children’s Emotions
At the time of unpacking your own emotions and grief, you also have to take care of your children’s feelings. Despite the fact that they might be grown-ups with their own lives, your divorce will hit them hard, as research shows.
So, dedicate some time to them. Ask them how they feel about the divorce. They may hold resentment towards your partner or you, and your job is to protect the other party, no matter how hard it may be. You shouldn’t blame anyone.
Explain to them why this happened — if appropriate — and help them through the process. It can be truly difficult for them to accept that their parents no longer love each other. It disillusions them in a way because kids look up to their parents in many ways, especially when finding love and forming their own marriage.
At the same time, this will be difficult for you. You have to deal with someone else’s feelings while still struggling with your own. But, it’s an important part of the process if you want to maintain a good relationship with your children.
Give Yourself Time
Some people may think that they need to change their life immediately — move, travel, find a new partner, etc. but it’s not healthy. Losing marriage is like losing a person, and you need time to grieve.
Take it slowly. If you’re not ready to change too much in your life right now, don’t do it. No matter what your friends or family may say, you need to tune into your own body and mind and make sure that you are always doing the right thing for you.
Understand that this loss will take time to blow over in your mind and heart. You shouldn’t force it, and you shouldn’t have doubts if it lasts longer for you than for others. If you want to live a full and healthy life, later on, you need the right foundation.
So, if you are doing your best to keep it together, but you end up crying through the night, know that it’s okay. Day by day, you’ll start to feel better.
Learn to Rely on Yourself
Most people learn to rely on their partners for various things. Marriage, after all, takes compatible skills. If one partner cooks well, the other will rarely cook, but they will fix things around the house, or deal with the bills.
But, when a divorce happens, you have to learn to deal with all of it on your own. And while some may still go to other people for help, you’ll feel much better if you learn how to do all of these things on your own. This is an important step in the process of starting over.
So, if you don’t cook, learn some simple recipes that you like. If you don’t know how to fix things, learn that. If you aren’t sure how to clean, handle bills, mow the lawn, or anything similar, take the time to learn it.
You’ll be grateful to yourself later on, and you’ll appreciate the feelings of independence. Fortunately, the internet is vast and there are tips on basically anything you want to do.
Don’t Make Rash Decisions
People tend to make choices they wouldn’t usually make when grieving or dealing with a divorce. So, you might end up selling your house and moving halfway across the country on a whim. Don’t do that.
Mistakes are bound to happen — it’s life, after all. However, do your best to avoid changing things too quickly. This goes for everything, from getting a new haircut, to dealing with financial matters.
If you get an idea, let it sit overnight or for a certain amount of time. If it still makes sense after, when you are feeling a bit better, then do it. You can avoid many mistakes in this way and make your life easier.
Let Go of Negative Emotions
Use the time after your divorce to let go of any negative emotions. This can be anger, disappointment, fear, anxiety, etc. All of this can’t do you any good and it’s only preventing you from living your best life.
A therapist can help, but you also have to work on it yourself. If it helps, talk to your ex-partner. Tell them how you feel. Ask them about the reasons behind the divorce. In most cases, it won’t be you. It will likely be something else, some underlying issue you may have forgotten or you know about, but you chose to ignore.
This can give you a better perspective and show that divorce is probably for the best. Most divorces after 50 don’t happen on a whim, but rather for the best of both parties. Look deep inside your heart — were you actually happy? Were you satisfied with your life or was it just a habit and comfort zone?
You might realize that divorce was in the best interest of your mental and physical health and that you can have a better future — and with that, you can let go of some of that negative emotional burden.
The next natural stage of this process is learning to move on. The divorce is settled, you’re seeing a therapist, you have your life together in some ways, perhaps, but there’s more work to do.
Most marriages involve a lot of compromises. You have probably changed a lot from the person you used to be, and you have likely stopped doing some of the things you’ve loved because of your marriage. Even happily married people sometimes lose a part of themselves over time.
This stage is specifically about rediscovering who you used to be and finding out who you want to be now. So, let’s dive in.
Start a Journal
Journaling can help you release all of those negative emotions you still may be carrying and it’s a way of monitoring your mental health. You may figure out your triggers — what makes you feel bad — and things that make you happy.
A journal is an important tool in self-discovery. Make sure that you do it every day, whenever you feel like it. For instance, you can just write freely, let your thoughts roam around, and land on the page. You can also set a theme for yourself—for example, a page on who you used to be before you got married.
Another good theme would be how you felt during your marriage. All of this is helpful for you in learning what to do next and finding some solace in your own thoughts.
Meditation is incredibly beneficial for your mental health, so you should make sure that you incorporate it into your daily routine. Take a few minutes in the morning while your coffee brews to just sit in silence and breathe deeply.
Keep your focus on the breath and whenever your thoughts start straying away from your breath, gently go back to it. Even five minutes a day can help you improve your stress response, decrease anxiety, and become a happier, more focused person. Meditation can also help you live in the present moment and embrace it, whatever it may be.
This is crucial in the time after the divorce. Many people try to fight how they feel, but this does damage to their mental health. Instead, meditation can teach you to accept your feelings. For example, if you feel sad, accept that you’re feeling sad. If you’re worried, accept that you are feeling worried. If you can do something about it, do it right away. If you can’t, let go.
The same goes for feeling happy. Accept that you’re feeling happy and live in that moment — don’t fear how you’ll feel later.
Spend Time Alone
Married people often forget how it is to be truly alone — not lonely, just alone. So, your next task on this journey is to learn to spend time alone. This is an important step in self-discovery.
And it can be incredibly fun sometimes. Other times, it will feel heartbreaking. The point is to listen to yourself. Is it a bad day? Then, do something that will make it better. If being alone will make you feel better, then do that.
Alone time can entail many things. You could read a book, watch a movie, play a video game, listen to music, etc. You could go crazy and play your favorite music, getting a drink, and dancing around the house. You could take a bath with wine and your favorite book.
You could do some gardening or take a long walk alone. You could go to a restaurant alone or have a cup of coffee in your favorite cafe.
Basically, being alone means learning to do regular things alone. Some people are afraid of this — looking stupid, being bored, etc. But don’t be. This is a part of your learning process, and it may just be enjoyable.
Spend Time With Friends
Being with others is just as important as being alone. After a divorce, your friend base may be smaller, but it’s important to stay connected with the friends you do have.
Of course, make sure that you spend time with people who are good for you and who you like. They shouldn’t be toxic to you. If you enjoy spending time with them, you should do it. Go out for drinks, invite them over for coffee, do some activities together, etc.
You can also reconnect with old friends. This could help you learn about yourself. Friends can keep you company when you need it and they can boost your mood.
Live a Healthier Lifestyle
An important part of healing emotionally is taking care of your physical health. People in marriage sometimes forget how important this is, so you can take this time to remember it and do your health some good.
There are many forms of exercise that people over 50 can do. Your choice of exercise will depend on what you like and what you can safely do.
Consider aerobic as the first step on your journey to better fitness. Aerobic exercise can involve walking, running, swimming, etc. Swimming could especially be good for you since it works on your entire body while being gentle on your bones and joints.
Strength exercise is also important, so head to a gym and find someone to help you come up with a good plan of action. Strength exercise can help you perform daily activities with ease, retain independence long into your golden years, and have a better life quality.
With a good exercise program, you also have to remember to eat healthy food.
For one, you should eat plenty of fruit and vegetables. Avoid junk food and sweets, especially carbonated drinks. Drink water instead. Eat lean meats, healthy cereals, etc. All of this will help your body work better and your mind as well. You’ll feel more confident if you take control of this part of your life.
The period after the divorce is often characterized by emotional eating, but you should be able to kick the habit with the help of your therapist.
Get Enough Sleep
Sleep is incredibly important for your mental health. So, make sure that you fall asleep at an appropriate time and allow yourself to sleep for at least 8 hours. This will help you relieve stress and anxiety, feel better during the day, and be more energetic.
If you have trouble sleeping, get some professional help.
Find a Community
Being a part of the community of people that have gone through the same thing as you can help you move on more quickly. There might be a divorce support group in your city, but if there isn’t, you can find Facebook groups dedicated to this and meet people there.
See if anyone in your network has gone through the same thing as you. They may be able to help you out and give you some tips. If they aren’t able to help you, they can listen to you and allow you to vent. You can do the same for them.
Being around people who understand you and your current emotions will help you live through your divorce with more ease. As a bonus, you can make new friends or even potential partners. But, wait to connect with someone romantically until you are completely ready.
As mentioned, many married people forget about who they are when they get married and have children. But, now that you are free, you have plenty of time to rediscover who you used to be. This is an important step to take before discovering who you want to be right now.
For example, you may have liked spicy food before you got married, but your partner hated it, so you stopped eating it. Use this time to enjoy it again.
Perhaps you’ve always wanted to write or to paint, but you never had the time. Why don’t you sign up for a writing class or a painting class?
How about your clothes? Is there a certain style you used to love, but you avoided it all this time. Now is the perfect time to revisit it and see how it works for you. The same goes for most things in life, from friends to passions, from style to food. Whatever it is that you have to let go of in favor of your marriage or kids, this is the time to go back to it.
You may find that you enjoy it just as much, if not more than before. But, you may find out that you don’t like it as much now. It’s all a part of the journey and your self-discovery.
If you want to, you can write down what you liked and disliked and use it for future reference.
Try New Things
As the next stage, you should try new things. Be playful and include both the things that seem interesting to you and those things that completely put you outside of your comfort zone.
Take up a dancing class, for example — especially so if you are embarrassed by your dancing skills. Of course, if you truly hate it, stop doing it after a while. But give it a few tries before giving up. It might just be enjoyable for you. Try to play a new instrument, learn a new skill, try new food.
You will probably hate some of the things you try, but it’s important to put yourself out there. Test things out; see how they fit. You may just find that these new things are who you are right now.
People, after a certain point in their life, start to believe that the person they are at the moment is all they will ever be. But the truth is that nothing is set in stone and people evolve all the time. You may have been a closed-off accountant with no social life and afraid of anything past the routine.
But, now you might be a fun yoga teacher who has plenty of friends and constantly has adventures.
Create a Bucket List
This is a good step towards learning who you are. Write down all of the things that you’ve always wanted to do and some that you’ve only recently realized that you wanted to try. For example, solo travel is a good idea.
Create a list of countries that you want to visit. Create a list of things that you want to do — for example, go sky diving or learn how to surf. You may not do half of these things, but it’s a good idea to try. Do as many as you possibly can.
Don’t be afraid to dream big and do some things that you previously thought were outrageous.
After moving on, you should be feeling fresh and like your new life is finally taking form. Enjoy it — you’ve come a long way and this warrants a celebration.
You may still feel sad sometimes, and that’s still okay. Negative feelings are a part of life. You may not have it all figured out, but you’re getting there. It’s all about the journey.
The next steps you need to take are more of a continuation of what you’ve already done, but they are worth noting.
Make New Friends
Through your new experiences, you’ll have many opportunities to meet new people. Don’t waste that opportunity and not make any connections. Who knows, you may just meet your new best friend on one of your solo trips.
So, make new friends whenever possible. Meet with them when you can. Don’t tie yourself to them too much, but always be open to new friendships, spending time with them, etc. Life is too short not to meet all of the amazing people that are out there.
Put Yourself First
This is probably the most important thing you need to remember as you start over, especially so if you plan on meeting someone new.
You’ve done a lot of work on yourself in the time behind you, so don’t waste all of that hard work. If you’ve found new interests, likes and dislikes, don’t forget about them as soon as you find a partner. Have a strong stance and don’t compromise on things that are important to you.
No one is worth it. No matter how good they are. Your priorities should be at the top of your list, especially after all you’ve been through. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be open for love or compromise, but that you should think carefully before allowing someone to change who you are.
Start Looking for Love
People are different. Some will be ready for new love right away. Some will never be ready and they’ll spend the rest of their lives happy and alone. Some will need more time. All of it is perfectly okay.
If you are ready to look for a new relationship right now, take your time with it. You can start online dating, or try the old-fashioned way. Let your friends know so they can set you up on blind dates. You may just meet someone on one of your trips or in one of your classes and activities.
Enjoy the process and don’t rush it. Think carefully about who you want in your life. Even just dating can be fun.
Divorce after 50 can be heartbreaking. But it may be even harder to pick up the pieces after everything is said and done. This guide gives you some simple tips, step-by-step on how to survive divorce, and move on.
The timeline is irrelevant here. It may take you only days to recover and start discovering yourself. It may take years. Both cases — and everything in between — are okay. Take your time, be kind, and patient to yourself.
- NCBI: The effects of improving sleep on mental health (OASIS): a randomized controlled trial with mediation analysis
- NCBI: Food, Mood, and Brain Health: Implications for the Modern Clinician
- NCBI: Exercise for Mental Health
- NCBI: Social Relationships and Health: A Flashpoint for Health Policy
- NCBI: Meditation: Process and effects
- NCBI: Journaling as Therapy
- NCBI: Divorce and Health: Current Trends and Future Directions
- NCBI: Parental divorce or separation and children’s mental health
- NCBI: The impact of family structure on the health of children: Effects of divorce
- PubMed: Models of Divorce Therapy: An Overview
- PubMed: Gray Divorce: Explaining Midlife Marital Splits
- Oxford Academic: The Gray Divorce Revolution: Rising Divorce Among Middle-Aged and Older Adults, 1990–2010