According to an article in the Washington Post, 1 in 4 people over the age of 50 experiences grey divorce and 1 in 10 over 65 are experiencing divorce. You can read the entire article here.
These people are leaving behind adult children or in some cases even adult grandchildren. Blowing apart families that thought they had a secure foundation. Plenty of tips are out there for people who are small children when their parents get divorced, but for the adult experiencing this very few resources exist. The most popular is an out of print book called A grief out of season and even the name implies that one should not be grieving for the event. Very little literature exists to assist adults, and even worse is the fact that people forget the adult was raised by the two people.
If you are one of the growing members of the world to experience grey divorce know, first of all, you are not alone. Many of us have survived, and you will too, I even run a group on Facebook for such people though it is not searchable and you need to be my friend to be added. I took this measure for the privacy of members.
Here are some things you should know about grey divorce.
- You don’t have to choose sides. Often times one or the other parent tries to pull the adult child to their side. Putting the adult in the middle of things is a difficult ordeal since we want to love and support both parents. It’s OK to say no, there’s no court system to protect you, so you need to do this yourself by setting firm boundaries and enforcing them.
- It’s OK to grieve. People seem to think that adults don’t have feelings about the death of their family. Often this gets additional stress related to holidays, sale of a home, marriage, or parents finding new partners. I’ve seen plenty of nasty articles written about adult kids but second spouses. Don’t let people tell you to “get over it.” Everyone’s reactions are different.
- Be gentle with yourself. It’s important to protect yourself and your family from the fallout, but remember Rome wasn’t built in a day, everyone will make mistakes along the way.
- Your significant other still needs you. It’s difficult to watch one’s partner go through the experience of some of the adults that have been in my coaching practice. It’s difficult to watch helplessly from the sidelines. It’s OK to ask for help from your significant other, though it is important to protect your own relationship.
- You don’t have to live with other people’s dysfunction, you can heal it. If I had one message to the world, it would be that you can heal yourself from their dysfunction. My august colleague, Mark Baer always talks about how the manner in which a marriage ends indicates how well the family will function in the future because children (even if they are adults) still make the family. These are of course wise words to live by, and unfortunately, too many people do not see those things. However, it is important to know that you as an individual don’t need to drink the crazy Kool-Aid.
I’m sure there are additions to this list, but this is a good starter list. If you have questions, feel free to leave them in the comments. This is a topic that needs a lot more discussion.