Author Archive: Erica

8 Easter Gifts for Grandkids that last longer than Chocolate

Toys, books and games are great if you want to give your grandkids an alternative to Easter eggs and keep them entertained at Easter. Some of the following toys can also make great prizes in an Easter egg hunt.  Your grandkids will have great fun without overindulging in chocolate and becoming hyperactive and irritable.

1. Where’s the Bunny?: An Egg-cellent Search Book

Easter is coming and the rabbits are decorating chocolate eggs to deliver. The eggs fall down the rabbit hole and land in Fairyland. Children go on an enchanting journey through their favorite fairy tales to find the bunny, 10 eggs and a few chirping chicks. 

alternative easter gifts

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2. Plush Girl Easter Bunny Basket Tote

The plush girl tote basket  is crafted from soft poly-cotton fabric and features an adorable white girl bunny with rosy cheeks . The soft polka dot handle is easy for little hands to hold and your grandchild will enjoy filling up the tote with Easter goodies on an Easter egg hunt.

easter bunny

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3. Beatrix Potter Peter Rabbit Jack-in-The-Box

A classic jack-in-the-box musical toy will appeal to grandkids who love Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Peter the Rabbit. The box is made of durable, sturdy metal and the pop-up is a  plush puppet.  The toy plays “Pop-goes-the-weasel” when it pops up.  

easter gift for grandchildren

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4. Dig-a-Dozen Dino Egg Dig Kit

Kids can excavate a toy dinosaur like a T-Rex from a dozen dino eggs with a chisel and brushes. This kit is suitable for kids of six and older. It includes 12 cards that describe the history and characteristics of each dinosaur. Your grandkids will love digging in an egg and slowly uncovering the dino inside.  After digging up the dino, they match it with a card to learn more about it.

Dino egg

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5. Inflatable Bunny Ears Ring Toss Game

The whole family can join in the fun with the inflatable bunny ears ring toss game. All you have to do is toss the 12 rings onto the bunny ears for a fun Easter activity. The package includes three Easter bunny ear hats in purple, pink and yellow and twelve inflatable rings in pink, blue, green and purple.

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6. The Original Egg-mazing Easter Egg Decorating Kit

The Original Egg-mazing Easter egg decorating kit spins hard-boiled eggs so that kids can decorate them. The kit includes the spinner and eight quick drying non-toxic markers.  It makes the whole process of decorating real eggs a much less messy one and is suitable for kids of six years and older. The spinner requires four AA batteries which aren’t included.

non-chocolate easter gift

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7. Hide and Squeak Eggs

Any grandkid over eighteen months will enjoy this toy egg box that contains six colorful squeaking eggs to play with. They encourage shape and color recognition and the shells crack open to reveal colorful chicks inside.  The chicks chirp when their heads are pressed.

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8. Toy Easter eggs filled with construction vehicles

If you have grandsons of three years or over, a 12-pack of Easter eggs filled with different pull-back construction vehicles with movable parts will be a great source of entertainment. The Easter eggs are three inches in length and come in six different colors. The vehicles include dump trucks, forklifts, a cement mixer, a bulldozer and an excavator.  Just pull the vehicle back and let it go forward naturally and the smooth wheels keep it running. The Easter eggs and toys are made of safe materials.

toy vehicles in easter eggs 

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Easter gifts

Coping with the Curved Ball of Covid-19

typewriter Covid-19  Coronavirus has jolted us off-balance and as many of us have never faced a crisis of this nature before, we don’t know how to respond. For many, a sense of security, safety and certainty has disappeared.

Don’t give in to fear

We all have assumptions of how life should be and when something as unexpected as this happens, it’s a struggle to get our minds around it. Many people are living in fear about what the future holds and this fear can be all-consuming. It can cause such a state of stress in our bodies that it undermines our immunity and makes us more susceptible.

When expectations and reality differ

Developing resilience isn’t fun. It requires learning how to deal with setbacks, disappointments and derailed plans. Some days are very hard going but it can also be a time to learn about yourself that you wouldn’t have had if circumstances were normal. If you expect life to conform to your expectations, which are often built on false assumptions, it can easily cause frustration and self-pity. When your expectations and your reality are so different, the ground shifts underneath you and you can either fall or find positive ways to deal with your reality.

Embrace adversity

Embrace adversity as a part of the journey of life. The way you face the curved balls will determine how well you cope with them. You can either face adversity with pessimism and see limitations, or face it with optimism and see opportunities. When you’re determined to learn from any experience, you can use all your resources to explore possibilities.

Every adversity can hold the seed of an equal or greater benefit, even it is difficult to see amidst the disruption. It may not be obvious at first but even the most difficult problems usually have solutions.

Find hope in your new reality

When faced with any radical change in circumstances, it’s natural to feel a flood of emotions. You need to process what you’re feeling but you also need to commit to finding the hope and promise hidden within your new reality.

Curved balls are inevitable

Your plans may be linear but life is not. When you accept that curved balls are inevitable, you learn to trust in your ability to handle them and to find a way to turn them into a catalyst for improvement.

The pandemic may have impacted your livelihood and turned your life upside down but you don’t have to give in and get caught up in futility. In fact, you may just uncover a new path that’s more rewarding than your old one.

8 Affordable Anti-aging Skincare Products for over-50s

affordable anti-aging products

A woman’s skin goes through major changes after menopause when estrogen levels dip.  The structure of the skin changes completely and although the top layer becomes thinner, the epidermis becomes more impenetrable. It’s essential to use the right skin products  if you want to slow down the signs of aging and minimize any skin damage you already have.

If you think that anti-aging skincare products cost a fortune, you will be pleasantly surprised to discover that many products selling for under $25 on Amazon contain ingredients such as hyaluronic acid and retinol which are recommended by top dermatologists.

Hyaluronic acid occurs naturally in the body and it attracts and retains water to keep the skin hydrated.  It promotes healthier, more supple skin.  Retinol exfoliates the skin and increases collagen production. It is a  powerful anti-aging tool and can make your skin look younger, brighter and more radiant.

Avon Anew Clinical Line Eraser with Retinol

anti-aging skin productToday interviewed professionals about the anti-aging products they actually use to keep their skin looking young. Dermatologist Dr Kim Nichols, recommends this product for those who have not used retinol before. She says you only need to use a small amount of the product and that you you should always use retinol with a moisturiser.  Retinol can minimize fine lines and winkles, diminish dark spots and reduce inflammation.

Over 50s who use this product say it softens the lines between their eyebrows and reduces the deep lines on their upper lips.

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Pure Hyaluronic Acid Serum by Cosmedica Skincare

Susan Harmsworth, skincare expert and ESPA founder, was interviewed by Good Housekeeping for some advice on skincare in your 50s. She recommends layering products for maximum benefit. For instance, she suggests using a  lightweight serum under your moisturizer.

Hyaluronic acid serumPure Hyaluronic Acid Serum contains a 100 percent pure hyaluronic acid serum formula with proven anti-aging skincare properties. It will make your skin visibly softer, plumper and smoother.

The serum is gentle and effective, suitable for even those with sensitive skin. It is also vegan, paraben-free and contains no oils, dyes, fragrances or fillers.

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Belei Triple-Peptide Eye Cream

anti-aging eye creamBelei eye cream is another product that works well under your makeup and is formulated without fragrances, sulphates, phthalates or parabens.

The tri-peptide blend of hyaluronic acid, caffeine and aloe vera firms your skin, smooths fine lines, reduces dark circles and puffiness.   The cream has a lightweight texture and suits all skin types. A little goes a long way and all you have to do is apply a small amount gently under and around your eyes every day.

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Face Moisturizer by Olay Regenerist

anti-aging moisturizer

This red jar contains the go-to moisturizer for millions of consumers. The product is infused with vitamin B3, collagen boosting amino-peptides, hyaluronic acid and antioxidants. It removes dead skin cells and penetrates deeply through the layers of the skin. Used as the last step in your skincare routine, this moisturizer visibly diminishes fine lines and wrinkles.

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Drunk Elephant Rise and  Glow Duo

affordable anti-aging productsDr. Jessica Weiser, another  dermatologist interviewed by Today,  discovered this gel and serum combo when she was wanting to replace her hydrating gel that was not performing well. She applies the serum and gel every morning and says the combination leaves her skin radiant and fully prepped for applying sunscreen which is the final step in her skincare routine.

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RoC Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Night Cream

anti-aging night cream

This cream is designed to work while you sleep. The one ounce tube containing anti-wrinkle retinol has been tested by dermatologists and clinically proven to reduce fine lines and wrinkles. You apply it to your face and neck at night when your skin is most receptive to repair and renewal. The formula penetrates deep within the skin’s surface to help fill in even your deep wrinkles.

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Elta MD UV Clear Facial Sunscreen Broad-Spectrum SPF 46

anti-aging sunscreenMost dermatologists strongly recommend applying sunscreen daily as a protection against aging. Exposure to UV light speeds up the natural aging process of the skin, causing rough, uneven pigmentation and wrinkles. You should be using a broad spectrum sunscreen moisturizer  on your skin all year round.

Elta MD Skincare is Amazon’s number one best-seller in the sunscreen category.  This mineral-based face sunscreen recommended by dermatologists is lightweight and the oil-free formula is good for those with sensitive skin prone to rosacea, discoloration or acne. It is a little more expensive than the other products recommended here but customers consider it worth the price with more than 4,000 customers writing reviews on Amazon of which 76 percent gave it a five star rating.

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Honey Drench Facial Mask

Anti-aging face maskThis metallic sheet mask by Beauty Co contains hyaluronic acid and collagen to firm and rejuvenate the skin.  It contains no parabens, phthalates, formaldehyde, chlorine or alcohol and is vegan and cruelty free.  It will hydrate and revive your complexion, making your skin feel much softer after use. Look gorgeous while you’re hydrating with the stunning gold pattern!

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If  you’re on a budget and think you can’t afford to spend a fortune on anti-aging skin products, think again. The above products contain the same ingredients as many more expensive ones and will make a difference to your skin as you age.

A Visit to Cabrespine in the South of France

Visit to CabrespineVisiting the South of France has been on my bucket list ever since I read Peter Mayle’s “A Year in Provence”.  Little did I know that my sister and her husband would move from South Africa to Cabrespine in France and I would be flying to visit them on the eve of my 62nd birthday.  We thought it would be a perfect opportunity for a family reunion and my brother and sister decided to fly over from England to join us.

My 85-year-old mother and I packed our suitcases and embarked on one of the longest and most tiring journeys we had ever undertaken. We departed from Cape Town International Airport and arrived in Istanbul 11 hours later. After a layover of eight hours, we took another three hour flight to Toulouse where my brother-in-law and sister picked us up.

I had seen many photos but nothing prepared me for what I experienced as we drove from the airport in Toulouse. On route I was immediately impressed by the flowers – huge fields of sunflowers and flower boxes in the streets of every little village we passed through.

Cabrespine is a tiny village in the Minervois, home to about 150 inhabitants, and it swells to almost double the size during the summer months with seasonal visitors. The village nestles in the gorges of the river Clamoux that flows down from the Pic de Nore, the highest point of the Black Mountain (Montaigne Noir)

Eventually we were going up the narrow winding roads from Carcassonne to Cabrespine.  My sister and brother-in-law’s home is situated in a street right at the top of the village with most of the other houses lying in the valley below.

From the ancient walls outside, there was little indication of what to expect inside the home. On entering the blue front door with greenery hanging over it and plants surrounding it, we went through a welcoming entrance hall into a lovely dining area and up some stairs to a large bedroom.

I immediately flung open the windows and took in the view of the forests across the valley.   I was exhausted after our travels and it didn’t take long before I collapsed and I only woke up at 11 o’clock the next morning.

After coffee, we took a quick walk along the narrow cobbled streets of the village, admiring the thick walls,  large, solid wooden doors and colorful shutters on all the buildings.

After that it was time to head off to the shops so that I could find a plug to connect to the internet. It’s fortunate that I am able to continue with my online writing wherever I go!   canal du midiI was delighted to see boats lined up waiting at a lock on the Canal du Midi. People were riding bikes on a cycling track alongside the river.

Cabrespine is not far from Carcassonne which is famous for its huge, fortified, hilltop castle and this is where we decided to go for my birthday celebration. The view of the massive towers as we approached was an unforgettable sight. Once inside, I felt a little cheated by the contrast between what we had seen outside and the commercialism inside.   We had fun, though – eating pizza, drinking wine and people-watching.

Basilica stained glass

After browsing through the shops, we rested on benches at the Basilica, and admired the world famous stained glass windows.

I had been told that in August all the little villages have annual fairs and I was looking forward to attending one. On a walk around the village, I saw a noticeboard advertising a band called Angel.  My brother had arrived by then and we went down to the playground of the local school to see what was happening. It was a surreal experience to hear sixties music bouncing off the ancient walls and see people dancing with such abandon.  We may have missed out on the meules et frites (mussels and chips) but we drank some beer and soon threw aside our inhibitions and joined in, dancing late into the night.

Ancient bathOn a walk through the village, I came across what looked like a big bath and didn’t realize its significance until I attended a movie night and watched an old movie by Pierre Maguelon, a French actor who lived in Cabrespine. It revealed what life had been like in Cabrespine when the inhabitants lived off the land. In the movie,  the women of the village were seen gathered at the bath doing their washing.

Some lovely hiking trails start from the village. From my sister’s home you can see the Roc de l’Aigle, rock of the Eagle, and hiking  from the village takes you past the Gouffre de Giant or giant chasm of Cabrespine. We didn’t fit in a visit to the world famous caves this time but I will definitely do so on my next visit.

LavalOne of my favorite walks in Cabrespine was a short one along a forest road that leads to the hamlet of Laval. This is a little corner of paradise with its houses covered in foliage and a bridge over a river with many natural pools.

For wonderful swims in the hot weather, a lake in the village of Pradelle was our favorite swimming spot. It was a long, scenic, winding drive to reach Pradelle and that swim in the lake was quite spectacular.

The short drives around the Cabrespine area were as delightful as the destinations – steep, winding roads, forests and atmospheric mist lifting to reveal quaint buildings and lush vegetation. A longer drive up to the summit of the Pic de Nore gave us a magnificent panoramic view of the valleys below with the Pyrenees in the background.

When our time in Cabrespine was drawing to a close, we knew we couldn’t leave without a meal at the Caput Spina Restaurant. Its modern interior is unexpected considering its rustic surroundings and the quality of its food was excellent. Taha, the owner, and his partner, Melani, were very welcoming and helpful. Our choices for the night were written on a blackboard and I enjoyed my pork stirfry – a mouthwatering combination of textures and flavors.

As I was traveling on a budget, I couldn’t afford more than one meal out but I loved the simple fare we ate every day –  lovely chewy baguettes I couldn’t stop eating, a magnificent wheel of soft brie and some delicious salami bought at a stall at the Carcassonne market.

I was so grateful to be able to experience Cabrespine in a non-touristy way – meeting and chatting with people my sister had made friends with in the village. There is not a single shop in the village – an aspect many may consider a disadvantage but I enjoyed the absence of commercialism and the opportunity to identify with a way of life that has long disappeared in most places today.

E-readers for over 50s

It appears that many people over 50 have overcome their initial prejudice  about e-books. Many of them already own one or are considering purchasing one. I was one of those who resisted the idea of using an e-reader, despite pressure from my children to buy one. I have loved reading books all my life – examining the cover and feeling the pages is part of the experience. And then, of course, there’s that lovely book smell! My son was insistent that I was missing out on many benefits but I wasn’t convinced.

It was only when I was about to go on a trip to France that he managed to persuade me that taking an e-reader with me was a good idea. He bought me a standard Kindle and downloaded a number of books written by my favorite authors. When I travel, the weight of the books I want to take along is always an issue. I saw the advantage of being able to carry my slim, light Kindle filled with interesting e-books in my hand luggage.

I experimented a bit with my Kindle before I left and when I pulled it out on the long flight to Istanbul,  I was already familiar with the basics of how to use it. I remembered a flight overseas when I was seventeen and had forgotten to pack any reading material in my hand luggage. That flight was interminable! Now, I had more than enough good books to keep me happy for the long flight.

Today’s best e-readers can match  (and even beat) the print book experience. Clear, crisp text, long-lasting batteries, waterproofing, integrated backlights, and best of all, being able to have a library at your fingertips.  I have discovered that it is dangerously easy to buy new books!

When picking out an e-reader, one of the main considerations is how easy it will be to find the books you’re looking for. With my Kindle, I have access to a huge selection from the Kindle library with extras like Kindle Unlimited, a million free classics and Goodreads recommendations.  If you want to purchase a newer product or an e-reader from a smaller brand, just make sure you’ll be able to download books by your favorite authors.

Amazon Kindle

I have the original Amazon Kindle. It is small, very light at 161g and does most of what I need it to do.   The battery lasts a long time and it has 4GB of storage. This standard Kindle is a beginner-friendly basic option. I’m glad I started off with this version but I am likely to upgrade in the future. 

Pros: Affordable; light; accessibility to many books
Cons: No built-in light; no waterproofing; basic styling

e-reader

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The Kindle Paperwhite

This is the bestselling e-reader for good reasons. It is not the cheapest but it probably the most affordable for what it offers.

The curved design with a soft matte finish is great to hold for long reading sessions. It is not  the lightest option as it weighs 205g but it is still quite light enough. It has a sharp 300ppi touchscreen display and a long battery life. It has a built-in front light which is great for reading in bed at night.

The latest version of the Paperwhite is waterproof, has an improved design and allows you to listen to audiobooks over Bluetooth. I can’t read in the bath with my Kindle and this is one reason I would consider upgrading to the waterproof Kindle Paperwhite. Amazon has said that it can be submerged in water for up to 60 minutes – so it’s safe to read in the bathtub or on the beach!

Pros: Good value for money; waterproof; built-in reading light
Cons: No color temperature controls

e-reader for over 50s

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The Kindle Oasis

The Kindle Oasis is the luxury option in the Kindle series. Instead of the functional, plastic look, you get an anodized aluminum face and ergonomic, asymmetrical weighting that allows you to hold it comfortably in your hand. At 194g, it is light enough to use on-the-go and has handy page turn buttons  to the side of the 7-inch 300ppi touchscreen display. It has an adaptive light sensor that automatically adjusts brightness. The base model gets you 8GM of storage. The Kindle Oasis costs nearly twice as much as the Paperwhite but it is a beautiful accessory that is likely to be on your wishlist.

Pros: Sleek design; more storage; waterproof
Cons: Expensive;  no light color tweaking

e-reader for over 50s

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The Kobo Clara

Amazon may dominate when it comes to ebooks but Kobo is a strong competitor. Kobo’s e-readers do have some features you won’t find on Kindles: the ability to borrow books from the Overdrive library system directly on the device and native support for Pocket articles.

The new Kobo Clara HD is similar in size, dimension and weight to the standard Kindle and it is a little cheaper than the Kindle Paperwhite. It’s not quite as ergonomic as the Paperwhite but more pleasing to handle than the standard Kindle as it has curved corners and a textured back. It has a 6-inch 300ppi touchscreen and the library and store setup is similar to the Kindle.

An advantage is that you can adjust the brightness and the color temperature of the built-in front light. Set your usual bedtime and the Clara HD adjusts the color of the light gradually from a bright white to a color rather like candlelight. It’s ideal if you’re worried about the impact of blue light on your sleep. It has 8GB of storage, a week long battery life and plenty of opportunities for customizing your reading experience.

Pros: Great features; light and portable; color temperature controls
Cons: Not quite as good as Kindle store for books; no water resistance

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Final thoughts

There you have it! Three choices of e-readers from Kindle and one from Koba. I must say that the option I favor is the Kindle Paperwhite and I don’t think it will be long before I decide to move on from my standard Kindle. 

   

 

10 Christmas gift ideas for your young adult children

Christmas is approaching fast and you may be having some difficulty deciding what to buy for your young adult children. It’s not quite as easy as choosing gifts for kiddies. A good bet is to choose a gift that’s both practical and stylish. Here are some good options your young adult children will love.

Lunch bag kit
This lunch packing bag is a stylish and practical option for your daughter. It is insulated and contains a matching shaker bottle and two re-usable containers.
Case for iPhone Xs and X
The clear, sleek stylish design of this case for an iPhone Xs or iPhone X offers awesome protection. Your son or daughter will  find easy to install and remove. 
The latest technology is always a winner with your adult son. This 3rd generation Echo Dot is a new and improved smart speaker.  He will be able to to voice control his music by streaming songs through the speaker and much more. 
Dual Jet Bath Spa
With the dual jet bath spa, your daughter can easily transform her bath into a luxury spa experience.
Jewelry holding tree stand
Your daughter will appreciate this Orchid-inspired gun-mental jewelry holder with a leaf-shaped base to hold her rings. 
Wireless, durable headphones in satin silver that fold up are a stylish, practical gift your son or daughter will appreciate.  These headphones have up to 40 hours of battery life. 
Your son or daughter will enjoy lounging on the bed with this tablet holder. It fits just about any tablet and holds it at a suitable position for hands-free viewing.  
Help your son or daughter to win the daily battle with the snooze button. This alarm is only deactivated feet are placed on the rug.  
Air fryer
If you’re worried your adult son is eating too much fried food, buy him this hot air fryer that uses little to no oil. He can make chicken, fries and other food he enjoys in a healthy way. 

Your son or daughter can entertain friends by creating crushed ice slushees with soda, or enjoy making cocktails like pina coladas.  The two shaving settings offer coarse or finely shaved ice, while the stirring paddle effortlessly mixes crushed ice for a delicious drink. 
Christmas gifts for young adult children

Divorce brain: How to put the “wise owl” back in control

The ‘fight or flight’ response has been with us as a species from our earliest beginnings. It’s a survival mechanism that causes our bodies to respond to perceived threat.  When you feel threatened, the brain starts preparing the body for action and it goes into a state of heightened alert. Those in the initial stages of divorce often experience the ‘fight or flight’ response. It may kick in when having a conversation with an ex, visiting the lawyer’s offices, going to court and is even triggered by painful memories.

What happens in the brain in ‘fight or flight’ mode?

  • Releases cortisol
  • Releases adrenaline
  • Releases glucose
  • Heart and lung action accelerates
  • Digestion slows down
  • Blood vessels to crucial muscles dilate

What do you experience when your body goes into ‘fight or flight’ mode?

Your heart rate goes up, your pupils dilate, you perspire and your mouth feels dry. Your neck and shoulders muscles tense up and your breathing becomes faster and shallower.

amygdala barking dogDeep in the center of the limbic brain is the amygdala, which acts like a guard dog. Its function for centuries has been to protect us when our lives are threatened.  The trouble is that in these modern times the guard dog is not so good at discerning whether you are really in a life or death situation.  It doesn’t know the difference between a fear that exists in your mind or a real event.  The “fight or flight” response is triggered even when you are not under any real threat.

When you react in response to the guard dog’s alarm, you may find yourself acting in ways you are ashamed of afterwards, lashing out at those around you and using language you have never used in your life before.  prefontal cortex or wise owl

The biggest part of your brain is the  “thinking” brain or the prefrontal cortex. This part of the brain is located right behind the forehead and is often described as the ‘wise old owl’. Planning, reasoning, problem solving, decision making and impulse control all take place in this part of the brain.

How do we put the “wise old owl” back in control?

You are not meant to stay in a “fight or flight” state for long periods of time. When stressors are constantly present, you are overexposed to cortisol and other stress hormones that can disrupt almost all of your body’s processes . Here are some well-known ways to help put the “wise old owl” part of your brain back in control.

  • Take a beat and breathe slowly. stop and breathe
    You need to slow down for your mind to realize that your situation may be stressful but you are not in mortal danger. Slow breathing sends this signal to your brain. As you take deep breaths, the “wise old owl” opens up her eyes and sees that the guard puppy is not barking at any real danger. She helps the guard puppy to calm down and stop barking.
  • Wait for the ‘wise owl’ to respond.
    alarm clock
    The amygdala triggers a response very speedily (30 milliseconds). The “thinking” response takes longer (250 milliseconds).   If you delay your response, you give  the ‘wise owl’ an opportunity to take control and you will avoid irrational decisions and actions.
  • Avoid the drama.
    howling dog
    Don’t get caught up in gossip about your ex and to avoid playing “what if …” scenarios in your own head.  Drama fires up the guard dog and you start to react without thinking.
  • Change how you think about stress.
    sleeping dog
    How you think about stress and react to it makes a difference. If the amygdala reads incoming information as safe, it relaxes and puts the prefrontal cortex back in control. Optimism causes the “barking dog” to relax and dopamine levels to rise. Walking in nature, exercising, painting, and listening to music are all activities that cause relaxation and allow this to happen.
    meditateMeditating and prayer are two age-old practices that can help to keep you grounded, peaceful and able to think more clearly. Find out what works best for you and incorporate these activities into your daily routine.
  • Compassion and gratitude
    compassion
    Compassion is a function of your pre-frontal cortex. If you are exercising compassion towards yourself and others, your thinking brain is in control. As a result you have more control over your emotions and your relationship with yourself and with others improves. Gratitude also increases positive emotions, allowing the pre-frontal cortex to function properly.
  • Find the right support
    When the body releases adrenaline, it also releases oxytocin. This is the hormone that drives you to seek out physical contact and support from others. When you have support, you are able to calm down and start thinking more rationally. One of the best things you can do for yourself is to surround yourself with supportive people. Giving and receiving hugs literally helps to soothe your brain as the calming peptides flow.
  • Welcome the challenge of new experiences
    overcome challenges
    New experiences, even if you don’t want them, help your brain to grow. Learning new information and engaging in challenging new activities fires off neurons in a good way. Your divorce forces you out of your old comfort zones and habits. It presents you with a situation in which you are forced to overcome obstacles.  As you overcome them and take on new challenges, you will find that instead of constantly feeling overwhelmed, you become much better at coping and making decisions.

Your divorce can have a negative impact on your mind and body, especially  if you remain stuck in ‘fight or flight’ mode and your body is constantly flooded with stress hormones. However, it can also be a catalyst for changing your old ways of reacting to stressful situations and offer you the opportunity to develop a stronger mental attitude.

 

 

 

Facing a gray divorce? You are not alone.

birch heart

You may not be aware of it but if you are in the throes of a late-life divorce, you are part of what is being called the “grey divorce phenomenon”.  Some of the main reasons for this phenomenon are reflected in the infographic below.

gray divorce phenomenon

Statistics show that gray divorce figures are rising at a time when other divorce figures are dropping.  However, statistics can only give us a general picture and the truth is often more nuanced than the statistics suggest. It is interesting to observe trends but I think that every marriage is unique and so the reasons for divorce may be different in each case too. In many cases, it’s more than just one factor that contributes to a divorce.

We also need to remember that people often marry again after divorce and subsequent marriages appear to have a lower success rate.  The statistics are influenced by the fact that the divorce rate for people over 50 who have been married more than once is higher than for those who have only been married once.

Some research has suggested that late-life divorce is not related to retirement, children leaving home, chronic illness or education. In 2016 researchers from the National Center for Family and Marriage Research (NCFMR) reached these conclusions after studying  more than 5000 couples where one spouse was born before 1960. They also found that wealth, home ownership and the duration and quality of a marriage meant less likelihood of a gray divorce.

No matter what the reason for your gray divorce, perhaps you can take comfort from the fact that you are surrounded by many others experiencing it too. The increase in late-life divorce hasn’t escaped celebrities and they are also divorcing with increasing frequency after decades of marriage.  Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver married in 1986 and divorced in 2011. Mel and Robyn Gibson married in 1980 and divorced in 2011. Al and Tipper Gore married in 1970 and shocked family and friends when they separated in 2010, after forty years of being together.

One fortunate aspect of the media spotlight on the phenomenon has been the increase of resources aimed at those going through a late-life divorce. Here are some of the books I can recommend.

Co-dependent No More By Melody Beattie

This book may not be specifically directed at the over-50s but if, like so many others, you’ve lost sight of your own life in the drama of tending to others, you may be co-dependent and you may find yourself in this book.

The Divorce Survival Guide for Women   By Leslye Kohl

This survival guide is written by a former happy married wife of 23 years who experienced the pitfalls of the divorce process first hand and wants to help others to avoid them.

DIVORCE: Think Financially, Not Emotionally By Jeffrey A. Landers

It is very important to understand the financial implications of your divorce and this book will help you to do this. The financial decisions you make at this time will affect you for the rest of your life so you need to be fully informed before making them.

Gray Divorce Stories: The Truth About Getting Divorced Over 50 From Men and Women Who’ve Done It By Barry Gold

In this book, you will read the stories of those who have been through a late-life divorce in their own words. They describe their good times and bad times, regrets and desires, successes and failures. Reading this book will really help you understand that you are not alone in what you are going through and you can learn from the journeys of others.

Last word

A shift seems to be occurring as more women in their fifties and sixties initiate divorce. This trend seems to indicate that women in this age range are more financially independent than in the past. However, whether the divorce is initiated by the woman or the man, and whether a marriage has ended with a whimper or a bang, it seems that it’s stability in later years has become increasingly critical. I can’t help wondering if gray divorce is here to stay and whether the millenials will experience the same trend.  What do you think?

 

 

 

 

Living alone does not mean you have to be lonely

alone

You’re not alone if you’re living alone. There are many people in the world today that live alone – some have never married, others are widowed or divorced. In  the United States alone there are approximately 95 million single adults. Although living life as a single person is more accepted than it was in the past, many people still see it as a way of life that’s lonely and even shameful in a way.

The media does not help as it continues to portray romantic love as the answer and without this, life is not worth living. So, are all those people living alone really doomed to a miserable existence? I can’t accept that. Perhaps living alone is not something we aspire to or the ideal lifestyle but it is indeed possible to live alone and create a full, rich and satisfying life. After all, plenty of couples are living a far from blissful existence and just because you have a partner does not guarantee you happiness.

The vicious cycle

If you are alone and you believe, either consciously or unconsciously, that “there must be something wrong with me because I am alone”, it will have a negative effect on how you see yourself and how you live your life. You may walk around feeling inferior and indulge in plenty of self-pity. Other people inevitably pick up on this and it starts a vicious cycle in your life. Your low self-esteem makes you tend to withdraw and cut yourself off. You’re so afraid of being judged that you avoid the very people and activities that could enhance your life.

If you feel bad about yourself, you’re less likely to take care of yourself too. You may eat unhealthily, do no exercise and sleep badly. You try to numb your feelings through distractions like working too much, compulsive shopping, overeating, drinking too much or other unhealthy habits. Everyone has different ways of coping if they live alone and some of these ways just make the situation worse.

Challenge your thought and behaviour patterns

The bottom line is that if you believe you can only be happy if you have a partner, you will always be waiting from someone to come and rescue you from your miserable existence. You will never live your life fully. It can be a challenge to break your habits of thought and behaviour that hold you back from living a full life on your own.

Look at aloneness differently

The first change you must make is to view your aloneness differently. Instead of associating being alone with pain, emptiness and loneliness, you have to start imagining it as an opportunity for growth. It is not easy if your thought patterns are deeply ingrained. If you have always thought about being alone as being lonely, it’s hard to separate the two.  The minute you are alone, you feel lonely and depressed instead of inspired and motivated. Your depression leads to apathy and you don’t feel like doing anything. Your attitude affects your behaviour and the cycle continues.

When my divorce came at the same time as my children flew the nest, I could no longer rely on anyone else for my happiness or my financial welfare. This was a very difficult challenge, and I haven’t completely conquered it yet. But I know without any shadow of doubt that my thinking influences all the other aspects of my life and so I have worked consistently and persistently to change the way I think. I began by focusing on opportunities, rather than the fact that I was approaching retirement age rapidly with no financial security. I started looking at making a living through working online and rejoiced at the opportunities this offered. I invested in a copywriting course and learned as much as I could about blogging, websites and affiliate marketing. This meant that I had something to get up for in the morning instead of wanting to pull the covers over my head and go back to sleep.

A healthier relationship with yourself

With no romantic relationship or partner to distract you, you have the unique opportunity to focus on your own personal development. You learn more about who you are, the choices you’ve made and why, what you want out of life and what’s holding you back.  When you realize that no-one else is going to change your life for you, you reach a point where you can decide to do something about making a joyful life for yourself. You can focus on what interests you – your passions and goals. You can form relationships with people who are supportive and uplifting. You can find daily activities that motivate and inspire you.

Healthier relationships with others

When you improve your relationship with yourself, it changes the way you relate to others. You are no longer looking for someone else to make you whole. Your self-esteem is intact and that allows you to form relationships out of conscious choice rather than fear or neediness. When you are emotionally needy, you fight for closeness all the time and this put an unnatural pressure on your relationships. Such relationships are full of jealousy, resentment and insecurity.

You may have carried some of your responses with you from childhood into adulthood. It’s important to become aware if these are destructive so that you can work on them.  As you begin consciously aligning how you think, behave and relate to others with the results you want in your life, you will develop healthier relationships. You will become more skilled at communication, learn how to identify and set boundaries, and manage differences without resorting to verbal attacks. You won’t be relating to others out of some desperate need but simply see them as enhancing and enriching your already fulfilling life.

Last word

You are able to create the physical and emotional well-being, financial security, experiences, relationships and circumstances you want to have in your life. When you build a good, solid inner and outer foundation for your life, no-one can take that from you. You have created it and it will sustain you, whether you’re in a relationship or on your own.

 

The denial stage of divorce

denial

Most of us are familiar with the five stages of grief introduced by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. As a psychiatrist who studied terminally ill patients, she was in a unique position to observe and document these stages.  She never meant for these stages to follow one another in a neat order. Grief is messy and does not fit into little boxes. It is also different for each individual but no-one can argue with the fact that many people go into denial when faced with grief.

Divorce literature suggests that in a large percentage of divorces, one spouse wants out of the marriage while the other does not.   “This can’t be happening to me” is what many of us feel when faced with the shock of an unwanted divorce. C.S. Lewis said “Denial is the shock absorber of the soul: it protects us until we are equipped to face with reality”. Kubler-Ross saw denial as nature’s way of letting in only so much as we could handle at the time.

She saw denial as allowing us to pace our feelings of grief. It’s a bit like getting into icy cold water. We tiptoe in and gradually become accustomed to the cold a little bit at a time.  People in denial may keep to their normal daily routines as it gives them a feeling of comfort and security. For a while they are able to protect themselves from the inevitable changes that are coming.  It helps them to function at a time when their feelings may otherwise be completely overwhelming.

Denial often means we do not have to deal with guilt either. It may be hard to accept that we had anything to do with what has happened to us. So, denial can be a useful coping mechanism – pretend that your little world is still intact while it is falling down around you.

Denial began for me long before my marriage ended. I couldn’t believe that I was unhappy in my marriage.  I held on to hope that it would get better. I hid from the facts to escape the pain that acknowledging them would bring. My parents celebrated their fiftieth anniversary before my dad passed away and I had grown up with the idea that divorce was taboo.  When I was finally confronted with the fact that my ex wanted a divorce, I had already been in denial for so long that it was almost a relief to face reality.

I know someone who has remained stuck in the denial stage. After her divorce she told no-one she was divorced for months. She held on to the idea that her husband would come back to her. She is still stuck in denial years later, believing that he will come back to her one day although he moved on long ago.

Denial may be a way of helping you cope but the problem comes when you stay in denial. Sometimes opening your eyes may be the most painful thing you ever have to do. Facing up to reality and the fact that your life will never be the same is never easy but you have to do it if you want to heal and move forward.

 

 

5 ways to protect yourself during a late-life divorce

late-life divorce

It may not occur to you that you need to protect yourself when going through a late-life divorce. The process of divorce can be brutal and it comes at a time when your emotions are all over the place, making you very vulnerable. You may expect to be treated fairly because of all the years you spent together but you cannot count on this. In some cases, your partner will want what’s best for you. In others, he or she may act more like a distant stranger or adversary than a former partner and you have to be prepared for this.

1. Educate yourself financially

If you are going through a late-life divorce, the financial implications are complex. It usually means having to divide up assets that have been accumulated over many years. You have limited years left in which you can still earn money and so those assets are all important.  If you have left financial affairs in the hands of your spouse during your marriage, you will need to go through a quick learning curve. You cannot afford to be clueless about your finances or you may just end up agreeing to a settlement that impacts you negatively for years to come.

2. Do what you can to avoid a protracted legal battle

Despite the fact that it was my ex who wanted the divorce, I realized that he was expecting me to initiate the process.  I didn’t see any point in delaying once the decision had been made, although neither of us had money for attorneys at this stage. What made it easier was that it was a no-contest divorce. I think my ex felt too guilty to contest what I proposed – and this meant that there was no protracted legal battle.

A protracted battle over assets should be avoided if at all possible. When you are already dealing with all the emotional fallout of the divorce, facing ongoing litigation just adds stress to the situation. When I worked for lawyers, I used to see just how much couples ended up paying on legal fees when their issues dragged out over years. Sometimes I had to resist the urge to shout at them and tell them that nobody was winning in the situation except my bosses.

In a late-life divorce, assets with sentimental rather than actual financial value have also been accumulated over the years.  Much time and money can be spent arguing over such items. They are just things and although it may be hard to let go of them, it’s better to do it if it is holding up the divorce process.

Perhaps you don’t realize it but every time you pick up the phone or email your attorney, your legal costs are steadily rising.  Your attorney’s time is valuable and you certainly don’t need to tell him or her all about your latest emotional drama.

3. Consider Mediation

Mediation can be extremely valuable when disagreements occur. A couple I know with many assets used a mediator when they could not agree over how they were to be divided.  She managed to help them reach a suitable compromise. This mediation process prevented them from going through a lengthy litigation process.

4. Don’t make rash decisions

You cannot afford to make rash decisions, just because you want the process to be over. You shouldn’t allow yourself to feel pressurized in any way or agree to something just to keep the peace.  You can’t afford to allow your emotions to get in the way because you need to be strong and to push back if you feel your interests are being threatened.

When speaking to your attorney you must convey the details of your situation as clearly and concisely as possible. This will help him or her to give you sound advice. It helps to make some notes ahead of time.  Don’t allow all the legal terminology to intimidate you and make sure that you understand what is said by asking as many questions as necessary. Your decisions at this time will have consequences for the rest of your life. If you feel you are not emotionally able to make the right decisions, you will have to rely on those you trust to help you to make them.

5. Don’t keep calling your ex

The person who was always there for you isn’t ‘your person’ anymore.  You can’t just pick up the phone and call him or her anymore.  It’s too easy to become emotional and you have no record of what’s been said. You have to have some clear boundaries when speaking to your ex and you have to be firm.

It’s hard to realize that you have to learn to rely completely on yourself when you may not have done so for many years. This does get easier as you go along and your confidence grows. In fact, it can do you good to move out of your comfort zones. The more obstacles you conquer, the more confidence you will gain. You may just find out that you are far stronger than you ever thought possible.

Living alone after a late-life divorce

living alone

With the rise in late-life divorce among baby boomers, many of us are facing living alone in the latter part of our lives, sometimes for the first time ever. Some of us may have gone straight from living with our parents to living with a husband and raising children. We are so accustomed to being part of a couple that we don’t even know what it feels like to live alone. But as Nora Ephron, well-known writer, says “A good thing about divorce is that it makes clear something that marriage obscures – that you’re on your own.”

It is certainly possible to be lonely even if you are married. Yes, you do have the physical presence of another adult in your life and some people settle for this because they are so afraid of living alone, even if the marriage is unhappy.

Some people love living alone and they choose to do so. Others live alone because they have no alternative. If you are facing living alone after a late-life divorce you may wonder if you will ever cope, especially if its an unknown and you’ve never lived alone before. We cannot always equate living alone with loneliness but it is easier to succumb to loneliness when you live alone. However, it depends largely on your attitude and your actions.

Enjoy your solitude

Introverts usually enjoy being alone. Extroverts, on the other hand, may have to overcome their reluctance to be on their own. They may need to learn to enjoy solitude, rather than run away from it.

Some people are so determined not to feel lonely after divorce that they take up all sorts of classes, go out all the time and try to fill every possible moment with activity.  It’s great to be positive and sociable but you need to allow yourself time to be on your own too.

Being on your own gives you time to process your grief. It also gives you time to reflect and find out more about yourself, what you want out of life and what kind of a future you want to build for yourself.

Time spent on your own if you are not happy in your own skin can be intolerable. You may need to work on building up your self-esteem. If you do not love and respect yourself, you have a void in your life that you are always looking for other people to fill. You rely on others to make you feel happy and valued. You rely on others to take away your fear and make you feel safe.

Rediscovering what you enjoyed before you got married can help you to enjoy your solitude. Perhaps you loved writing or crafting. If so, you will love the opportunity your solitude gives you to focus on these passions. It helps to fill your time on your own with activities you enjoy – whether it’s listening to music, crafting, reading or watching movies.

Build and maintain healthy relationships

In coping with an empty nest and a divorce, I realized just how important it was for me not to become completely isolated. I had to overcome my natural reluctance to socialize and achieve a balance between enjoying my solitude and finding new ways to connect with other people.

Relating to your ‘couple’ friends

In the last fifteen years of our married life, we socialized every weekend with the same group of ‘couple’ friends. This came to an end after my divorce and left a big gap in my life. Relating to couples is not as easy when you are single. Many people find that the relationship with their ‘couple’ friends is affected after a divorce.  I was fortunate enough to remain close to a few ‘couples’ who supported me more than I could possibly have imagined but there are others I don’t see much anymore. I soon realized that I would have to reach out and make some new friendships.

Meeting new people

When you have spent years socializing with other couples, it feels really strange to go out on your own at first.

One of the advantages of having internet access is that it is easier to find groups of people with the same interests and values as you. A simple search for activity groups in your area may give you a good place to start. You already have something in common with the other members and so it makes it easier to initiate conversations.

You may feel terrified when you have to attend a group activity for the first time. Fear and uncertainty are natural and they are the price you pay for moving forward. It’s the same principle that operates for most new things you attempt in your life, such as starting a new job or learning a new skill. As you take those steps and begin overcoming the obstacles one by one, you grow in confidence.

It may be worthwhile to get involved as a volunteer in projects designed to help others. It not only helps you to realize how fortunate you are, but it takes you out of your comfort zones and gives you another opportunity to meet new people.

Healing from divorce and getting to the place where you are moving forward is not a linear process. I have found that it’s unpredictable and seems to come in waves. For a while you might take great strides towards being sociable and making new friends and then you might find yourself wanting to retreat again. Don’t worry about this because it’s perfectly normal – as long as you don’t withdraw for too long.

Don’t compare yourself with others

One of the worst things you can do is compare your life with that of others. It’s easy to get caught up in jealousy and feel that your life as a single person is lacking in some way. This feeling is often reinforced by social media.

It’s also different for everyone so you cannot measure your progress against that of others. You have to learn to go with the flow and realize that it’s all part of the process of putting yourself back together again.

Find your own voice

When you’re so concerned with how other people feel about you and what they think about you, you do everything you can to make them happy.  You become who your partner wants you to be, or you do the things that your friends want you to do. You are always conscious of other people’s expectations and you are so busy reacting and responding to everyone else that you get lost in the process.

You can use the crisis of your divorce as a catalyst to grow and mature into who you really want to be.

Your divorce can force you to take stock of your life, look at your mistakes and take time to discover more about yourself. The process is not easy and you will need patience and dedication, but there will come a time when you can put your divorce behind you. You will have made the transition from being half of a couple to being single. If you’re patient, kind and loving towards yourself in the process, you may just find that your life as a single person is better than it was before.

 

 

 

 

 

Why does time speed up as you get older?

time passing

When we pass fifty, we seem to think about the passing of time more than ever before and it feels as though it is speeding by. As children, we may learn the concept of time but it stretches out ahead of us and we are not so aware of the tick, tick, tick as it passes by. As we grow older, it seems to taunt us with its speed. The fact that we may have decades left to live does not seem to alter this perception – if anything, it just gives it greater value.

The way we feel time speeds up as we get older seems to be a universal phenomenon. In the fifth and sixth decades of our lives, the shrinking length of each year can be quite disconcerting. Christmas has hardly been celebrated when we find ourselves half way through the next year. Here are a few theories about why this happens:

The pace of life is faster

Perhaps the reason it all seems to go faster is because the pace of life is always accelerating. Many scientific advances have been made over the last century and technology is changing so fast that we are communicating in ways that we couldn’t have dreamed possible a century ago. This means there is an increasing disconnect between older people and the current world they live in. Many of them talk about that disconnect – the world they grew up in is far removed from the one they have to navigate now.

We pay time more attention

When we reach middle age, we often feel that we are at a crossroads in our life. We are heading into the second half of our lives. Is it the realization that we are heading towards death the fact that makes time more valuable to us? And is it our response to this realization that makes us watch each precious year slip by with greater attention? We want to hold on to it for as long as possible but it seems to slip through our hands like sand through an hourglass.

Our memory plays tricks on us

Could it be that we have a better recall of things that have just happened, and a clearer sense of the order in which they happened and how they relate to more recent events?  When we think about the past year, the events slot neatly into line but as we think further back, we find it harder to place exactly when they occurred. We may use the births of our children to calculate when other minor events took place. Does the brain interpret the fact that the past is more disordered as a sign that it stretched over a longer period?  We may be manipulating our memories and they may be manipulating us.

We have fewer memorable events

Psychologist William James proposed that as we age, time seems to speed by because we have fewer and fewer memorable events. There’s no more first kiss, first day at school, first day at a new job. When we are young, so many of our experiences are novel.  All these new experiences seem to stretch time. When we are older, the fact that our lives are more routine may make our brain believe that less has happened and time is condensed.

What appears to contradict this is that we all know how slowly time passes when we are bored and how time flies when we’re having fun.  But our sense of how time passes while we are doing something does not always agree with how much time, in retrospect, we felt we spent doing it.

Our body clocks slow down

The body’s metabolic rate decreases in middle age, so a slowing of the brain’s activity may make the outside world seem to pass more rapidly in comparison. There is good evidence that our brain contains clocks. Our activity and sleep patterns follow a daily cycle. This is why people can train themselves to wake up just a few seconds before their alarm rings in the morning.   But there does not appear to be a single area in the brain dedicated to perception of time and the way we assess the passing of small increments of time. What does seem to be the case is that our estimation of the passing of minutes and hours becomes less accurate as we grow older.

A proportional theory

We perceive a period of time as the proportion of time we have already lived through. In other words, a year seems much longer at the beginning of our lives than it does at the end. This theory was first proposed by Paul Janet, a French philosopher. To a two-year old, a year is half of their life and that is why the wait from one birthday to another seems like a lifetime.   As we grow older, one year is a smaller and smaller fraction of our total lives so it’s no wonder it seems to go by so quickly.  This theory would explain why our small kids keep asking “Are we there yet?” when on a long car journey. That journey feels way longer to them than it does to us.

Last Word

These are all just theories and there’s likely to be a little truth in all of them. But perception of time is a complex issue and we can’t really explain why the years seem to pass more quickly as we age. If it’s the spur that drives us to live life fully while we can because its going by so quickly, then it’s a good thing.  I think time appears to speed up to give our choices an urgency – to make us consciously stand back and consider our future. But not to stand back and consider for too long, of course, because we have plenty of productive years ahead.

 

 

 

 

 

Count your blessings in an empty nest

empty nest in hand

It may feel as if your life will never be the same after the years of hands-on parenting end. You are right – it won’t ever be the same. It will be quite, quite different. But although it’s different, there are ways in which it can be very rewarding.

You have spent years wiping away your children’s tears, being angry with them at times and immensely proud of them at others. You have spent hours in their company, nurturing them and trying to make sure they are developing into decent human beings. When they were toddlers, you were the center of their world. When they started school, you may have shed a sigh of relief but at the same time felt a sense of loss as you no longer had them around you all day. Each step forward in their lives was in some ways an ending for you.  For my children, getting a driver’s license was their ticket to freedom and adventure. For me, it marked the end of a very important era.

Enjoy your adult children

When your children leave home, you find that your role as a parent changes. You are still a parent and that will never change but the way you parent has to become less hands-on.

In the midst of your grief over them leaving, it doesn’t take long to realize that there are distinct benefits when they’re gone. The early school drop-off is over, you don’t have to make a family dinner every night, do loads of washing every week and feed their many friends. Your food and electricity bills drop. You can buy what you want to eat and make meals you enjoy without catering to all their likes and dislikes.

When they first leave home, you have to be sensitive to the fact that they also have mixed feelings. Some of them may act as if leaving means nothing to them, while others may be reluctant to leave.  When you call them don’t go on about how much you are missing them. Be grateful for the news they do tell you (even if it’s in broad strokes rather than details). Don’t keep pumping them for more information.

It may take them a few knocks along the way before they become more independent and mature but it does happen eventually.  As they mature, you often find that relating to them becomes easier and they may become more like best friends than children (although they are always your children, no matter how old they get!).  I love the deep conversations I can have with my children now that they are older.  I am always amazed at their insights about the world and love hearing their point of view on subjects. We can have talks that last for hours.

I love it when they come to visit. The atmosphere is far removed from the fraught one that reigned sometimes when they lived at home – over issues like dirty towels left in piles on the floor or music blaring late into the night.

Reconnect with your spouse

As someone who has gone through a divorce while facing an empty nest, I urge you to talk to your spouse and prepare for your empty nest together. Think about the fact that it will only be the two of you when the children leave and what that may look like.  It’s the perfect opportunity to reconnect and you can find out once again what made you get married in the first place.  You may even find that it’s like being on a second honeymoon.

Some couples go through a divorce when the children leave because one or the other party, or both, no longer want to grow old together. I believe that if you have been together for many years, it’s worth trying to save your marriage, even if you have drifted apart while bringing up your kids.  You may be looking forward to some of the best years of your marriage if you are both prepared to work on it.

Look after yourself

Now is the time to pay yourself some attention. It may feel strange to even contemplate this after the unselfishness of bringing up your kids.  You have happily made sacrifices over the years because you put your children first. But they will want you around for many years to come. If you haven’t had much time to exercise over the years, you have no excuse any longer. You can devote more attention to your nutrition as well.  You also have no excuse for putting off a general checkup with your doctor and taking care of any health problems. Become the best you can be so you can enjoy many more years of healthy living and inspire others to do so too.

Have fun with your free time

At first the fact that you have so much time after years of frantic activity can be daunting. There are huge gaps in your day you have to fill. But then you find out that your free time gives you the opportunity to do all those things you put on the back-burner – travel, theater, art galleries, writing that book or just not doing much of anything at all.

Changes to  your home

Without your children’s mess to worry about and with more time on your hands, you can make a few decisions about your home for the phase to come.

Decluttering  when your years of child-rearing are over is a simple step and it can help you move through your grief. I had kept books, baby clothes, drawings, school projects, reports and much more. I sorted through it all carefully, crying and laughing at the memories. I kept what I really didn’t want to part with, gave some of it away and threw out the rest.

Your home has functioned for years in a certain way and when your kids leave, you can reassess.  Certain rooms can be made into full-time guest rooms or converted into a home office or gym. Creating different ways of using the space can even add to the value of your home. Children like stability and if you suddenly start changing things, they may be resentful. It’s best to bring them on board with what you want to do and let them make suggestions, rather than just going ahead.

You can even consider renting out bedrooms through a site like Airbnb. This is what I am working towards as a have a bedroom with an en-suite bathroom and an outside entrance. I can do with the extra income and my privacy won’t be too compromised.

When the children leave home, it’s possible to downsize which will also help to reduce your expenses. You have to start looking towards your retirement and it makes sense to trade a big house you no longer need for a smaller one like a townhouse.

Last word

Once you have worked through the mixed emotions that come with your empty nest, you will see light at the end of the parenting tunnel. You will be able to re-evaluate your life and introduce some changes. These changes can make the difference between going speedily downhill or making the most of the years to come and living a very fulfilling life.

 

How to re-establish your independence post-divorce

woman on beach

As babies we are completely dependent on our mothers and growing up is a process of becoming more independent. When we get married, it can be a battle to surrender some of that independence for the sake of the relationship. Over the years of marriage, some of us maintain more independence than others but during the course of a long marriage, it’s inevitable that couples become interdependent to some degree. When a divorce occurs after a lengthy marriage, it can be difficult to become independent again.

Some marriages today are very individualistic with spouses having separate bank accounts and both earning their own salaries. These marriages are very different from those where the husband went out to work and the woman stayed at home to look after the children. Getting divorced and moving on is much easier when both parties have retained much of their independence. In marriages where the woman is dependent on the man, she takes a very hard knock if it ends.

Interdependence

Most of us regard being independent as a worthwhile goal. It is what we fight for as teenagers. However, in a marriage relationship,  I believe self-reliance has to be balanced with interdependence for it to work well. My marriage came with a good dose of interdependence –  we worked together in our own business, pooled our finances, cared for our children together, were equally responsible for household tasks and spent most of our leisure time together too. We didn’t make major decisions without sharing and coming to a mutual agreement.  Neither of us wanted to be too ‘needy’ or too ‘demanding’ but we saw relying on and helping one another as a sign of strength, rather than weakness.

Intertwined

When you have been together for many decades, the roots of your relationship grow deep. You become intertwined through the years. Your thinking and behavior have of necessity been tailored to accommodate one another. There has also been a division of tasks in most cases. My husband pretty much took care of most of the practical issues in our lives as this was his strength. However, I took care of all the paperwork, including managing our personal and business finances.

A divorce after many years of marriage means that all the old habits, routines and ways you may have developed to live your life together no longer exist. It’s pretty much like cutting off an arm or a leg. You wouldn’t do it unless you felt it was affecting your overall health.

Regaining independence

Unraveling a lifetime of togetherness is not easy.  But you have to do it or you get stuck. It’s a hard realization that your ex-spouse is no longer there for you. You may find, as I did, that you are stronger than you think. It may take some time for you to find your feet but each step you take towards independence builds your confidence.

divorce quote

Don’t be afraid of what you can’t do yet

Fixing mechanical objects was not in my wheelhouse when I was married. I was daunted when these objects began to give in one after the other – starting with my washing machine. As I fiddled around, trying to find out what was wrong I realized just how little attention I had paid over the years to any problems like this. I was very proud of myself when I managed to find the fault after extensive googling and I even managed to buy the right part. I did get help with the installation but I gave myself a good pat on the back once it was fixed. In the two years since the divorce, I have managed to build up a good list of contacts for just about every possible household emergency, from blocked drains to burst geysers. This was quite a challenge as I didn’t even have to change a light bulb when I was married. I have also learned that finding the right people to help you is important – you don’t have to do it all on your own.

Take small steps

The best advice I can give for becoming self-reliant once again after a divorce is to take small steps. Don’t set your expectations too high or you set yourself up for failure. You can keep challenging yourself more as you go along.  Every small step, no matter how small, should be a reason for celebration.  Going camping with friends was a milestone for me. We had camped frequently during our marriage and I loved it but I didn’t know whether I would handle all the practical aspects that had usually been taken care of for me. I felt very accomplished after I managed to put up my tent and stretcher all on my own. Now I am planning to go for a few more days.

Standing firmly on your own

As painful as the process of divorce can be, it is also an opportunity to see your life from a different perspective.  It takes time to re-adjust and learn to rely on yourself but it is possible. It may even be harder than you expect at first but the fruit will be sweeter too. You will find that along the way, have learned some skills that enable you to make the best life possible for yourself.

In addition to new practical skills, divorce has given me more emotional strength. In the areas where I was weak, I am becoming stronger. My wounds are healing and my self-acceptance  and self-confidence are growing daily.

It may not come easily or quickly but you will reach a place where you can stand on your own and know that you do not need someone else to hold you up.

 

 

 

 

A late-life divorce can be a catalyst for growth

divorce growth

No matter what you do, or who you are, getting a divorce after 50 is going to impact you emotionally, financially, socially, and legally.  A new life doesn’t just magically appear for you once the old one has been shattered. Recovery and moving on can be a long, slow and painful process.  Decades of memories can be a daily tripwire, throwing you off balance. You will run the gamut of emotions, from hurt and anger to resentment and fear. But, if you are emotionally honest, you will recover and move on. Divorce can be a catalyst for change but you have to be willing to do the work to get there.

In working through the conflict, hurt and other negative emotions that come with divorce,  you sever what binds you to the past, and create fertile ground in which the seeds for your future can grow.

Set new goals

With the end of your marriage comes the death of any future dreams you and your spouse may have had together. You may have pictured retirement, happy times together with grandchildren etc. The sooner you can create new goals for yourself the better. This is because it’s easier to move forward if you have a destination in mind.  Picture clearly what you want for your future and make it as detailed as possible.  This can be like a guiding light through the heavy fog. Any small step in the right direction is good. Even if it’s hundreds of tiny steps with a few steps in the wrong direction at times, you will eventually reach your destination.

As you work towards your new goals and creating a happy and fulfilling life for yourself, don’t beat yourself up when you fall short. It’s inevitable that you will make a few mistakes along the way. Even a few steps in the wrong direction can simply make you more determined to get back on track and reach your goals.

Make good decisions

If you have to make any major decisions in the initial phases of your divorce when you’re still traumatized and emotional, it’s best to consult with professionals who can offer sound advice. Involve those who love and support you too. However, you will eventually have to start making some decisions yourself. When you are feeling more stable emotionally, and you have clarity of vision for your future, decision-making becomes easier.

Don’t settle for a ‘lesser’ life

Facing a late-life divorce is a challenge. For me, it left me lying in a heap as my world fell apart. But it has also strengthened me and forced me to grow as a person.  I still believe in marriage and that you should try everything in your power to make it work. But, if that is not possible, you do not have to settle for a ‘lesser’ life.  Even though divorce results in much stress and rips out the foundations of your former life,  in the long run I believe it can be a catalyst for change. You can rise to the challenge and use the circumstances to create a fulfilling life for yourself.

Find strength in your single status

Your new status as a single person usually makes every aspect of life more challenging. But it is possible to carve out a good life for yourself as a single person, even if it takes a while to settle into your new circumstances. You may even find you grow to love being single as you begin to understand more about yourself.   Your self-confidence grows stronger as you realize you don’t need someone else to lean on or to be happy.

Your adult children will adjust

Your children, even if they are adults, feel the repercussions of your divorce. However, they do adjust, especially if they see that you are happy.  When you co-operate with your ex, they realize that you are still able to work together. They don’t feel that they are caught between the two of you and have to take sides. The happier you are and the less you cling to them for emotional support, the happier they will be.

Becoming fearless

It’s funny how when one of your deepest fears come to pass, you become more fearless. Perhaps you were terrified of being on your own – now that you are, you realize that you have managed to survive.  In a strange way, when the worst happens, you become less afraid of uncertainties and of possible outcomes. You have faced the fire and come through it. You are able to start taking the risks that lead to personal growth.

A new life

You no longer have to deal with infidelity or any of the other issues that brought an end to your marriage.  This can be a great relief, giving you more energy and a chance to focus on building a new life for yourself.  Of course, there will always be times when your divorce still hurts. But you have passed the point of fighting the change and trying to hold on out of fear of letting go. You have discovered more about the person you want to be and what makes you happy. You are moving forward instead of looking behind you all the time.  And what you see ahead may be pretty amazing!

 

 

How an affair impacts a long-term marriage

divorce quote

An affair can be catastrophic to any relationship. When it happens in a long-term marriage, the consequences can be devastating. I had been married to my husband for decades but I was blind to the signs that he was having an affair.  I was so firmly in denial that I managed to ignore all the well-known signs of infidelity. In hindsight, the truth stood out like white chalk on a blackboard.

It’s rather like a subconscious conspiracy between the two of you. Neither of you want to precipitate a crisis, so the one lies and the other one lives in denial.

There is no formula when it comes to finding out whether your partner is cheating. But there are definitely clues and I believe that if you pick up on a number of them, it’s better to address the situation than living in a fake bubble that’s bound to burst. Hiding an affair is almost impossible for any length of time, even though a cheating partner can become a very good liar, adept at covering up the truth.

An affair brings into sharp focus any underlying issues in a marriage, particularly in your sex life.  After many years of marriage, sex can become the least important aspect of your life together and when this happens, it is easier for one partner or the other to fall prey to the excitement of an affair.

When my husband broke off with the woman with whom he was having the affair, she spitefully posted photos of them on social media.  One of my friends had the unenviable task of telling me the truth when she realized I had not seen them. At this point, I  would still have sworn blind that he was not involved with another woman. I did want an explanation from him because I knew something was wrong but I felt that if we could just sit and talk, we could sort out all our problems. This is the way we had approached our differences over the years. We had many confrontations that would end in a huge fight,  after which all was forgiven and the air was cleared.

As devastated and shocked as I was when I found out the truth, I also felt an element of relief. Finally, I wasn’t just dealing with suspicions and uncertainties anymore. I had concrete facts.  All the dots finally added up and I could make sense of what I had been feeling for months.

It takes two

It’s never an easy conversation to have when you suspect your partner is being unfaithful – which is probably why many people avoid it.  A conversation about a possible affair can easily turn into an angry confrontation. If you are judgmental, your partner will inevitably become defensive and you will achieve nothing.

In our first encounter after I knew the truth, I was sure my husband would be sorry for what he did and I was prepared to try and save our marriage. I was completely blindsided when he told me he no longer loved me and he wanted his freedom.  I know that afterwards he regretted the defensive way in which he expressed himself but the words had been spoken and couldn’t be taken back.

The depth of the deception, the length of the affair, support systems available and religious beliefs are all factors that may determine whether people stay married after an affair. The decision to stay together rather than getting a divorce is never easy. The partner who has had the affair can’t just expect to carry on in the marriage as though nothing has changed.

An affair can be a wake up call – a realization for both of you that you have neglected your relationship. If you’re both committed to its restoration, couples counseling can make a difference. Once the veil of deception and lies has been ripped away, you may have a chance of experiencing true intimacy once again. You may even find that you start communicating better than you did before and are both more aware of maintaining the health of the relationship.

If you do decide to stay married, it does not help to stay for the wrong reasons. You can’t stay just because you are afraid of leaving and being on your own. You shouldn’t just stay married because it’s the safe option. It’s no good staying together if it’s done reluctantly as anger and resentment are likely to remain.

Irrational behavior

It is hard to think rationally when another person has come between you. Nothing can devastate you quite like being betrayed. Your irrational mind tends to take over and it can lead you into some crazy ‘acting out’. I have heard of women who destroyed all their husband’s clothing when they found out about an affair. Others give vent to their feelings by destroying cars and other expensive possessions.  Some turn their anger on the other woman.

Venting feelings and acting irrationally may feel great at first. You want to lash out and hurt your partner.  It’s perfectly understandable that you want him or her to feel the hurt you are feeling.  But if you give in to these intense feelings and allow them to control your behavior, you will probably regret it later.

Just being with the person who has betrayed you can be inflammatory at this stage. It’s better to keep some distance. When you have to communicate and find yourself ‘losing it’, rather make some excuse to terminate the conversation and continue with it when you are feeling more rational.

Broken trust

Broken trust is difficult to restore. It is a joint responsibility and you both need to be committed to the process. The person who has been deceived cannot give trust easily again – not after it has been abused. The deceiver has to be firmly committed to re-establishing trust once again, no matter what it takes. The one who has been deceived will take time to reach a point where trust is possible once again – it does not just happen without being reinforced by continued and consistent effort.

I knew that I would be able to forgive my ex for the affair. What I did not know was how I would deal with the fact that he had lied to me consistently. I believed our marriage was based on trust, friendship and mutual respect. This illusion had been destroyed. How would I ever know when he was being truthful if he had managed to lie to me so successfully for so long? I couldn’t imagine a life where I questioned his every move and kept looking for signs that he was being unfaithful again. Even if your partner submits to close scrutiny for a while after an affair, it does not build trust. I know someone who took her husband back after an affair and then proceeded to drive herself crazy by checking his cell phone constantly, screening his emails and trying to keep tabs on him at all times.

Trust is all about believing the other person unreservedly, without the need to check on him/her constantly.  When trust has been broken, building it again is a slow and challenging process. You have to be able to see evidence of change. If you start trusting again without any basis for it, you are highly likely to be disappointed.

Wallowing in the details

I desperately wanted to know all the details of the affair and I believe this is a common response to infidelity. I felt that just for starters I needed to know where he had met her, how long it had lasted and what he had told her about us.  You somehow imagine that if you just had all the little details, you would be able to make sense of what happened. I discovered it does not work that way.  Even if you know the ‘where’, ‘when’ and ‘how’, it does not change what happened. You really don’t need to know more than that he/she betrayed you.

My ex was extremely reluctant to tell me anything. It’s hard to admit this but I hunted on Facebook until I found the woman’s profile and scrutinized her posts carefully for clues. I never saw the photos she posted after he dumped her because they were taken down quite quickly but she had left a vitriolic post tearing my my husband apart and accusing him of being a liar. I must say I did get some satisfaction out of seeing that he had lied to her too. A number of my friends had seen the photos and they all had their own opinions about the situation. My obsessive search for details did yield some answers but it made me feel as though I had sacrificed my dignity.

Torn apart

Many couples underestimate how intertwined they have become over time. They have shared responsibilities and made many adaptations to living together. They have a shared history with countless memories. An affair introduces another person into the equation and the marriage is never the same again. It can be better, if both parties are willing to address what happened, why it happened and they are both willing to work on restoring their relationship.

Those who want a divorce to be with a new partner are often focused on all the flaws in the marriage. They think that being with a new partner will help them achieve the happiness they are missing in their current relationship.  But they may be taken aback by the emotions they experience even when they are with a new partner.  They cannot simply pretend that the long-term partner never existed, no matter how hard they try. The new relationship is likely to have its own problems too.

Last word

I believe in marriage and that you should do all you can to make it work, especially if you have been married for many years. But you cannot do it on your own. Both parties have to be committed to the marriage for it to survive the impact of an affair.

 

The impact of divorce on your physical health

blueberries

When you are going through a divorce, you may be so traumatized that you stop caring for yourself physically. You may stop exercising, binge on comfort food or neglect to eat, battle to sleep and even resort to drinking too much. This obviously takes its toll on your physical health. Just knowing what happens to your body can help because you become more aware of what you need to do to prevent any permanent damage.

Weight gain or Loss

It’s common to lose weight or gain weight after a divorce. You may just not feel up to cooking for one so you tend to skip meals. You may find that you have little appetite anyway.  On the other hand, you may find yourself reaching for comfort food to get you through the tough times.  Whether you find yourself eating too much or too little,  the one is as unhealthy as the other. Weight change can cause depression and many long term health effects.

Insomnia

A common complaint when you are going through a divorce is that you can’t sleep. Apart from battling to fall asleep, you may also experience disrupted sleep or have nightmares that cause you to wake up.

Continued insomnia can put several of your bodily functions at risk.  Some studies have associated lack of sleep with higher blood pressure as well as increased risk of heart disease and diabetes.

Alcohol or drug abuse

You may find yourself using alcohol or drugs after a divorce to help to numb feelings of anxiousness, depression and loneliness. They may offer temporary relief but in the long term, they can be very destructive.  Some studies have shown that men are more likely to become substance abusers after divorce, possibly because they are conditioned to suppress their feelings.

There’s certainly no harm in drinking alcohol in small quantities, especially if you are drinking with friends.  This is very different to drinking alone, and heavily. Socializing and having a drink with others can be uplifting but drinking heavily when you are alone can lead to depression and other serious health consequences.

Weakened Immune System

Any kind of stress, including post-divorce stress, puts pressure on your immune system. A weakened immune system means your body can no longer protect itself effectively from illnesses. You may find yourself coming down with frequent colds and being more subject to injuries.

Heart Disease

Current research has revealed that the psychological stress of a divorce can have serious physical effects on the heart, especially for women.  This is because when their cortisol levels spike due to stress.  This in turn causes raised blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels.

Lack of exercise

The stress of a divorce can cause people to stop exercising or working on their fitness. They simply can’t get their bodies to co-operate.  I know that my anxiety and sleepless nights left me drained and unmotivated when it came to any physical exercise.

The good news

Many people report that when they reach the two year mark after divorce, they feel much better mentally and physically.   In fact, many found that their divorce was just the wake-up call they needed for them to pay more attention to their health. It is only when you use unhealthy ways to cope with your divorce and these become habits, that your health may suffer permanent damage.

A complete disruption of your normal routines and eating patterns may be difficult at first. However, it also provides the opportunity to make positive changes. After that initial period when you may not want to eat or eat too much, you can start introducing new healthier eating habits. After all, you have more time to focus on yourself when you don’t have meals to prepare for a partner and you don’t have to cater to his/her likes and dislikes.

Eating more healthily and including foods containing plenty of antioxidants helps to strengthen your immune system at a time when you really need this.

Common sense tips for dealing with sleeplessness include cutting down on caffeine and having a winding down routine before bedtime. You can even breathe yourself to sleep.  There are dozens of natural ways to deal with sleeplessness.

If  natural remedies do not work for you, a last resort is to have some sleeping pills prescribed. Taking these for a temporary period usually does no harm and can prevent your insomnia from turning into a long-term problem.

Exercise is a great way to relieve the stress of divorce and channel negative emotions. Some people have found it very helpful to join local walking or running groups where they can make new friendships and release pent-up emotions.

A relationship breakdown often means you have less physical touch. For this reason, getting massages regularly can be very therapeutic.

The stress of divorce can cause permanent damage to your physical health. However, if you are aware of the possible damage, and do everything you possibly can to address it, there is no reason you can’t come out of it healthier than ever.

What a late-life divorce can do to your brain

brain health

For most individuals, divorce is a very stressful process – even for a partner who wants the divorce.  Going through a divorce can easily make you feel as though you are losing your mind.  When you are over 50, familiar routines you have built up over years no longer exist and you may feel all at sea, faced with a multitude of uncertainties as you are forced out of your comfort zones.   Just a few of these uncertainties may be:

  • Where you will live
  • Whether you will cope alone
  • How you’re going to make ends meet
  • How  your adult children will respond

“Fight or Flight” Mode

There’s a part of your brain that’s responsible for keeping you alive and it kicks into gear when you feel as though you’re under threat. It  prepares you to run for your life by generating more cortisol and adrenaline. It shuts down access to your pre-frontal cortex, the part of your brain that helps with making decisions, understanding the consequences of your actions and planning.

In the period after your divorce, you may find yourself using language you wouldn’t normally use, acting in ways you are ashamed of afterwards and lashing out at those around you. I did all three when I felt compelled to hang a gallery wall of pictures without the right supplies one day soon after my divorce. As pictures rained down around me, pulling plaster off the walls, I swore, shouted and cried hysterically. It’s also why you are often advised to hold off on making major decisions during this period as far as possible. The more primitive part of your brain is ‘running wild’. A whole torrent of emotions can be triggered by anything and everything from sitting next to your divorced spouse at your daughter’s graduation to driving past the hotel where you had your honeymoon.  You have years and years of memories that may also resurface through flashbacks and dreams. It’s only when your ‘sensible’ pre-frontal cortex controls that the ‘wild’ more primitive part of your brain that you think and act more rationally.

Some people become stuck in ‘fight-or-flight’ state. They continue to experience intense emotions and try to avoid them rather than processing them. They may bury themselves in work, go out every night or take drugs or alcohol to help numb these overwhelming emotions.

Brain fog

When you’re going through a divorce, stress impairs your mental performance — don’t be surprised if you experience confusion and forgetfulness. Nobody knows much about what causes ‘brain fog’ but many people seem to experience it in the months following a divorce. It’s probably due to all the emotional energy you expend. I think ‘brain fog’ is also a defense mechanism that deadens the extreme pain.  It’s like a soft, pillow of cloud surrounding your brain, causing you to function largely on autopilot.

I was constantly locking myself out of the house, leaving keys lying on counters in shops and finding I had driven to the wrong destination.   A friend of mine said she had to leave notes to herself all over the house. Another friend said she used to stare at her daughter blankly, trying to remember her name. As I was faced with gathering financial information, attending divorce court and making decisions that would impact the remaining years of my life, I  feared for my sanity at times. I couldn’t seem to make the simplest of decisions such as what to eat or what to wear, let alone decisions that would affect my future.

My ex made me file for divorce, even though he was the one who wanted it. I had no money to spare to consult an attorney and I managed to do it very cheaply by filing at the local divorce court. In retrospect, I think this was a bad decision – it may have been inexpensive but I was thrust  into a demeaning and distressful process without any help  – sitting in dank, dirty corridors for many hours on different days and eventually standing up in front of the court, explaining how I had been betrayed in front of a crowd of strangers. An attorney would also have helped me to make decisions at this time when my brain was enveloped in its foggy cloud.

Brain ageing and dementia

Some studies have suggested that there is a link between chronic stress in middle aged women and late-life dementia. Recent studies reveal that a major stressful life event, such as a divorce, can age the human brain by as much as four years.

Experiencing anxiety, fear and stress is normal when it’s occasional and temporary. But researchers report that mental health problems occur when those emotions become more frequent and start interfering with daily life. They can then lead to a gradual decline of the brain’s hippocampus which is responsible for long-term memory and spatial navigation.

How do you shift from ‘Fight or Flight’ mode?

If you want to cope effectively, making a shift from ‘Fight or Flight’ mode is essential. When you experience fear, stress and anxiety on a temporary basis, this is completely normal. However, when those emotions start becoming a constant part of your daily life and interfere with how you function, it needs to be addressed.  Here are some well-known ways to put your pre-frontal cortex back in control:

  • Take a beat and breathe slowly. The emotional mid-brain responds as quick as a flash. You need to slow down for your mind and body to realize that your situation may be stressful but you are not in mortal danger. Slow breathing helps to send this signal to your brain. I learned this tip when I used to experience panic attacks – slow breathing plus medication helped me to conquer them.
  • Become aware. When you observe yourself and your situation, you engage your pre-frontal cortex. This helps to prevent you from acting irrationally before you’ve had a chance to think properly about a situation.
  • You need to change how you think about stress. We all have stress in our lives. It’s how we manage it that matters. Instead of seeing it as harmful, try to see it as a challenge. There are ways to manage it effectively.
  • Find the right support. When the body releases adrenaline,  it is interesting that it also releases oxytocin. This hormone drives us to seek out physical contact and support from others. Receiving support from others helps you to calm down, and allows you to access the part of your brain that thinks rationally again.
  • Be compassionate towards yourself. Empathy and compassion are functions of the pre-frontal cortex. When you exercise this part of your brain, you will not only feel better about yourself but it will help you to exercise more self-control and improve your relationships.
  • Welcome the challenge of new experiences. New experiences, even if you don’t want them, help your brain to grow. Your divorce forces you out of  your comfort zones and your old patterns. Why not take the opportunity, even if it has been thrust upon you, to learn new skills and take on new challenges? They help to develop your pre-frontal cortex and instead of feeling overwhelmed, you will find you are able to make better decisions and become more motivated.
  • Meditation and prayer. Both of these spiritual practices have been around for centuries but we’re only beginning to understand more about the effect they have on the mind.  Neuroscientists are studying their effect through using brain scans. Results of studies have showed changes to the brain, but many of them are inconclusive because there are so many variables at play. At the very least, these practices may help to keep you more grounded,  relaxed, and able to think more clearly.

Last word

It helps to understand why your brain reacts in certain ways.  You know what you can do to become more resilient and how to stimulate essential brain functions. Going through a late-life divorce has the potential to break you and permanently affect your mental health. On the other hand, you can play the cards you have been dealt, rise to the challenge and come out of it wiser, stronger, more compassionate and more motivated.

Why forgiveness matters after a divorce

forgiveness

A divorce is one of those life events that’s a perfect breeding ground for feelings of hurt, guilt, resentment and anger. The natural response to being hurt is to want to hurt back. You want that person who has hurt you to feel the full weight of what you are feeling. In the face of the extreme emotions that come with divorce, the idea of forgiveness may seem impossible. It means embracing a way of thinking that’s contrary to the natural human reaction to hurt.

Misconceptions about forgiveness

There are several misconceptions that can prevent people from wanting to forgive.

  • If I forgive, it’s as though I am letting the person who hurt me off the hook and condoning what was done to me.
  • If I forgive, it means I have to try and erase from my mind what happened.
  • If I forgive, it means I have to reconcile with the person and trust him/her again.
  • The other person has to apologize before I can forgive him/her.

If you have any of these misconceptions about forgiveness, it’s worth exploring more about what it really means.

What does asking for and giving forgiveness really mean?

Asking for forgiveness is not as simple as saying “I’m sorry”.  Those words are used so often, they do not mean much anymore. It’s too easy to just say sorry but If you are truly sorry, it means that you understand exactly what you are sorry for. You take responsibility for any harm you have caused and in so doing you implicitly agree not to repeat the behavior.

When I think about someone who has been in an abusive marriage, I imagine that it must be extremely difficult to even think about forgiveness. Some psychologists believe that in such a situation, the victim should not feel pressure to forgive the abuser. They feel that they should not have to struggle through a process of forgiveness when they have already been hurt so much.

I can understand why they feel this way and I do believe that forgiveness cannot be forced or faked. However, I personally believe that forgiveness is not a burden but an essential part of the healing process.

Forgiving someone does not mean that you excuse the other person’s behavior or that you pretend it didn’t happen. C.S. Lewis says “…here also forgiving does not mean excusing. Many people seem to think it does. They think that if you ask them to forgive someone who has cheated or bullied them you are trying to make out that there was really no cheating or bullying. But if that were so, there would be nothing to forgive. (This doesn’t mean that you must necessarily believe his next promise. It does mean that you must make every effort to kill every taste of resentment in your own heart – every wish to humiliate or hurt him or to pay him out.)”

Forgiving someone does not mean that you trust them or that you have to reconcile with them.  Some people equate forgiving with having to go back into an abusive situation.  I overheard a woman at the divorce court say “My husband hits me all the time.  If I forgive him I have to go back to him. I don’t want to forgive him because I just can’t go back to him.”   Forgiveness may bring about reconciliation in some cases but it is not a necessary condition for forgiveness. In some cases, the offending party may be, for whatever reasons, unwilling to reconcile.  In other cases, it is practically impossible or doing so might expose you to additional psychological or physical damage. It’s possible to forgive a person and still not trust them in areas where you know they have a weakness, such as an addiction or a track record of being unfaithful.

Forgiving and forgetting is often coupled together but when you forgive someone, it does not mean that you automatically forget.   Just because you have chosen to forgive does not wipe out your memories, especially when you have spent years together making those memories.  When you’re faced with painful past memories, it does not mean you have not forgiven.  When you have forgiven the offending party, it does take some of the sting out of the painful memories but it takes time for memories to fade.

Your abusive ex is unlikely to ask for forgiveness but that does not take away your choice to forgive him or her. I believe that forgiving the one who has hurt you helps to release you.  This quote by Catherine Ponder describes this perfectly When you hold resentment toward another, you are bound to that person or condition by an emotional link that is stronger than steel. Forgiveness is the only way to dissolve that link and get free.”

I like the following quote too because it makes you realize that just because you forgive someone, does not mean you can expect forgiveness in return or that the other person will change.  “Sincere forgiveness isn’t colored with expectations that the other person apologize or change. Don’t worry whether or not they finally understand you. Love them and release them. Life feeds back truth to people in its own way and time – just like it does for you and me.” – Sara Paddison

How do I forgive?

Studies have been done by scientists where they monitored what happened in the brain when people imagined forgiving someone. The brain showed increased activity in the neural circuits responsible for empathy.

Forgiveness flows from insight and empathy which is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others.   Empathy enables you to see all your own flaws and limitations as well as those of the other person. You understand that both of you are human and fallible.  Few of us are altogether innocent of a need for forgiveness.

I believe that you have to make a choice to forgive. You decide to forgive, even if you are not asked for forgiveness, because it is the best choice to make for your own sake and the other person’s sake, even if the other person does not realize it.  I believe the offender will account for his or her behavior at some point but that has nothing to do with you.

The concept of forgiveness is at the core of the Christian faith, as can be seen in the following scripture. Ephesians 4:31-32  says “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.
And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ has forgiven you. 
The fact that you have been forgiven by God enables you to forgive others.

Forgiveness is never easy and it is not a once-off event. You can’t “hurry up” and forgive someone to try and ease the pain. It takes time to work through your emotional issues before you can truly forgive your ex spouse. Trying to forgive someone too soon because you feel that you have to do so does not result in true forgiveness and it can retard the healing process.

Complete forgiveness of someone who has deeply wounded you or abused you is not easy but it is possible.  Martin Luther King says “Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude. Anger and pain have a way of coming back in waves and you have to maintain an attitude of forgiveness, even when you least felt like it.

Why should I forgive?

Studies have shown that people who do not want to forgive someone who has harmed them often start withdrawing.  They experience such a loss of trust that it affects all their relationships. Nelson Mandela said “Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”

Forgiveness will also help to release your ex-spouse from the paralysis of guilt he or she may be feeling. This can lead to healthier interactions between you. As a result you will be a happier person,  a better parent. and the stress of having to communicate with your ex when necessary is reduced.

Forgiveness will help you to let go of feeling like a victim. In choosing to forgive, you are letting go of feelings of helplessness and taking back power. You are accepting the fact that bad things have happened to you but you have chosen to respond with love and grace.

Most of us are harder on ourselves than we are on others. We struggle to forgive ourselves, even if others have forgiven us. Letting go of your judgmental attitude towards yourself and others, can take you from feeling stuck and hurt to feeling relief and compassion. Your heart feels unblocked and you’re ready to be vulnerable again.

Last Word

Forgiving those who wrong us helps us move beyond strong negative emotions which, if allowed to fester, have a way of harming us psychologically and physically. Forgiveness also benefits those who hurt us, releasing them from blame and guilt so they can move forward in their lives too. As humans, we are all fallible and I believe we all need to be able to give and receive forgiveness.