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Stage One After a Gray Divorce: Survive

Eventually I learned that I was going through a grieving process. I was mourning the death of my plan, my vision of the future, the assumption that my wife and I would live out our days together.
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If you're currently going through a divorce, or have recently gone through one, chances are good you're feeling pretty bad. In fact, you may be at one of your lowest points ever.

Been there, felt that.

Though I didn't drive my split, I embraced it. I moved into my new place optimistic about the future, knowing I'd be better off.

And then I got hit by a wall of pain. I felt like crap.

Eventually I learned that I was going through a grieving process. I was mourning the death of my plan, my vision of the future, the assumption that my wife and I would live out our days together.

Working through my divorce inspired me to start DivorcedOver50.com. And my work on the site led me to develop the "Roadmap Through a Divorce Over 50," which is explained generally here. The Roadmap has three stages, Survive, Revive and Thrive, with each stage consisting of several steps

For anyone over 50 in the midst of their divorce, or who's Divorce Curious ("Di-Curious"), here's a more detailed look at the steps in the first stage, Survive:

You need to grieve, but recognize that life goes on.

Your marriage started on a tremendous high note, with love, attraction, commitment, celebration. But all of that is gone now. Replaced by feelings of loss -- loss of companionship, loss of multiple forms of support and loss of your future hopes and dreams.

Of course it hurts. How could it not?

That pain is not only natural, it's a crucial part of the healing process. It helps you let go of the old relationship, and move forward. Though we all naturally try to avoid pain, it's important to embrace it; suppression only prolongs the process. Talking about your pain with family, friends, or a professional can provide some comfort.

Additionally, avoid getting bogged down with blame and anger. You still have a future, and though your old version won't happen, there's every reason to believe one just as good, or better, will take its place.

Deal with the legal and financial matters.

You should seek legal and financial/tax advice from professionals, but here's a head start:

When allowed by state law, some couples begin with legal separation rather than divorce. Legal separation provides financial protection against debts your spouse may run up, while giving you some time to decide if you really want The Big D. You may also select this route so one of you can stay on the other's health insurance, or to extend your marriage long enough to qualify for Social Security benefits.

On the financial side, it's easy to say, "This stuff is confusing, I hate numbers, I can't deal with it." You've got to fight that urge or you'll likely regret it later. You need a complete picture of your finances, and should consider hiring a forensic accountant if you suspect your spouse is hiding assets.

Your house may be a source of comfort amidst the divorce turmoil, but you need to analyze whether it truly makes sense to keep it. Will you be able to pay the mortgage, upkeep and taxes as an individual? Moving out is hard, but you might be better off in a smaller, less expensive place.

Understand that you're no longer an "us" or "we," you're an "I" and "me."

The first time you fill out a form post-divorce, chances are good you'll start to check the "Married" box out of habit. It'll take time to accept that you're now divorced, but there's no longer a stigma attached to it. In fact, Gray Divorce is booming, so feel good about being trendy.

And there's similarly no stigma to pursuing fun activities solo. Some people shy away from seeing a movie or dining out alone, assuming they won't like it as much, and will be seen as a loser. Don't fall prey to that thinking. You're going through a tough time -- you need, and deserve, all the fun and distractions you can find.

Maintain your health.

In those awful, early stages of a divorce, it's so easy to seek comfort in food, drink and maybe worse. Again, fight that feeling. You need to eat right, exercise and avoid overindulging.

Your doctor, a nutritionist, a trainer or even the right website can provide a diet and exercise program. Remember, these feelings are temporary. You will move through this stage, and may eventually be ready for new romance. If you let yourself go now, you'll just have that much more to make up for later.

Deal with the friends.

Unlike a court order dividing your assets, there is no controlling authority for dividing the friends you and your ex shared. Losing a friend in your divorce will be yet another source of pain. Accept that it's out of your control; you can't make someone want to be your friend. Grieve the loss, then move on.

Don't neglect your children's feelings.

Your young adult children won't face the same issues that little kids do, but never assume your divorce isn't difficult for them. They may be dealing with discomfort, guilt, anger and confusion. Make sure you retain the parent-child relationship, never asking them to play friend, parent, or mediator for you, nor asking them to choose sides.

Don't make the same mistake twice.

Considering the pain you've endured, and all the uncertainty you face, it would be so easy to jump into a relationship with the first new person who comes along. Except that new person will probably be just like your old person -- you'd likely be drawn to the familiar, overlooking the fact you just proved you and "the familiar" aren't a good match. Resist this urge -- you need to take some time to be single, and to work on yourself.

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Working on yourself is the theme of the next stage, Revive. We'll look at it more fully in an upcoming post.

For more content of interest to anyone who is Divorced Over 50, or whose marriage is at a point where divorce is a possibility, please visit DivorcedOver50.com.



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