After the age of 50, many of us are facing change. True, it could be a good change, but this is not always the case.
Did you know that most marriages end after only seven years? Also, 75 percent of second marriages end in divorce. And, women usually outlive their husbands by seven years or more. So women are faced with living alone approximately one-third of their lives.
You are not alone.
How do we cope from this experience? It is not unusual for divorce or death to hit us like a ton of bricks. Even if we expect the loss, it always comes as a shock. Like a tornado, our emotions assault us. Pain, anger, fear, despair and longing engulf us. Not all at once. Getting over your grief isn’t easy. Sometimes the emotions continue for years. And during this time, we are expected to be the best parents or grandparents. You know the type. The one who sends creative gifts in the mail. Or furnishes fun trips to Disneyland, or springs for hosting an elaborate Christmas.
Sometimes, this seems too much to ask.
Here are a few tips on handling loss and getting over your grief.
– Take care of yourself as well as the kids. Show respect for yourself. Walk, jog, do yoga, meditate. Take time for long, hot baths and adult conversation.
– Seek support from groups. Sharing your story with others helps normalize your situation. After you’ve received support and learned what you can change, only then can you help your children or other loved ones.
– Reassure your children. Remind them that they are not responsible for the death or divorce of your spouse.
– Don’t dump. Work through your own emotions. Avoid dumping them on your children or other loved ones.
Other notes of wisdom from famous women follow. Although these women are no longer with us, their wisdom and courage still speak to us.
After almost 30 years of marriage, Ann Richards, former governor of Texas, met the challenge of living alone head-on. Here is what she learned from the experience:
– Get over your grief. “Get up and get out of your house!” she exclaims. “Get rid of all that stuff. Move to a smaller space — away from painful memories.
– Create boundaries. “I have established life on my own terms. I don’t ask anyone’s permission. Most holidays, she does not put up a Christmas tree but enjoys traveling with her children.
– Divorce. “I don’t mourn that passing.” However, at the time, she said the impact of divorce was devastating. But out of it she found a positive side. “I’ve never lived alone before, ever. To me, that is an enormous accomplishment.”
Through 22 years of marriage, she and her husband, Edgar, built a fulfilling life together. That is why his suicide was unexpected. As she traveled to other cities, lecturing on how to reshape your life after a loss, Joan Rivers said:
– One way she worked through her grief was to write a poison pen letter to Edgar, expressing her anger. After the letter, she immediately threw it away. But it was a powerful way to let out her grief.
– “The hell with what anyone thinks about the way you’re acting; listen to yourself.” When her agent told her that no one would hire a woman whose husband committed suicide, she refused to listen to his advice. Against what friends and investors suggested, she sold her home in Los Angeles and moved to New York City. She thought, whatever doesn’t kill me, makes me stronger.
– New York gave her instant gratification. “Oh, to see real people! The joy of walking down Madison Avenue! Leaving the memories of her old home opened her up to a new beginning. She enjoyed the pace of New York. She joked with the doorman in her building, and walked everywhere. Exercise became a daily habit. She found that moving opened up her mind and heart.
Unfortunately, Joan Rivers died about three years ago during a procedure to improve her vocal ability. However, she left a strong legacy on reshaping your life. We shall all miss her humor and indomitable spirit.
“When a person is widowed or divorced, their identity is threatened and they ask, “Who am I?” says Marilyn Dickson, grief counselor and minister. Being without a partner can make you feel vulnerable, but these feelings are temporary, she says, they are part of growing and learning to live alone. And learning to like yourself in the process.
Verdell Davis is an example. Author and grief consultant, she was happily married to a dynamic minister, until his plane crashed in the Rockies. At the time, she was promoted to be the director of a well-known preschool in Dallas. But was this what she wanted to do? Contrary to the safe, secure woman of the past, the woman who craved security as a blanket, “I wanted adventure!” She quit her job and wrote a book based on her grieving. “I let go of the trapeze I was holding without seeing one clearly in sight,” laughs Verdell. “And I’m not sure how I did it.”
When Beth and her husband divorced, she found it difficult to face her mixed emotions. Relieved of the stress of fighting, she welcomed a more peaceful environment, but on Sunday afternoons, she felt his presence in her house. As she cleaned her den, she noticed a pair of boots near the fireplace. Beside the boots was a dusty picture of a young couple standing next to a pickup truck. It was hard to believe the couple was Sam and Beth. Their innocence was touching.
Each Sunday, they’d visited their “ranch” on the edge of town. It was just a few acres. However, by mending fences and caring for their six cows, they found each other. It was while camping out under the stars that they conceived their first child. The hardscrabble land was filled with bois d’arc trees, but to Beth and Sam it was paradise. The beginning of a new life. And one they shared together.
Staring at the picture brought a pain to her heart. She wished for the way it was but knew this was the end.
After several months of struggle, Beth was able to let go.
Just like Beth, you may be able to push through your grief.
As the months pass, you may discover that, you, too, can begin getting over your grief and putting it behind you. You may gain new self-confidence, purchase a new automobile, start a new job, or buy a house — all on your own.
You may discover a new you. One who won’t compromise. Who likes herself. And who has new hope for the future. Your future.
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