Last year my husband walked out of our marriage. We had been together for thirteen years. At the age of sixty, overnight I lost my partner, my beloved home, financial security, and the prospect of growing older as part of a couple.
Sadly, I am not alone. Research shows that divorce rates for those over fifty have doubled in the past twenty years. The fallout has massive preoccupations not just emotionally but also financially. In 2012, The Telegraph published a disturbing article stating that I in 6 of the babyboomer generation are facing health issues associated with financial hardship, a large proportion of which lies squarely at the door of these later-life divorces.
I was fortunate with the settlement that I received. It enabled me to buy a two-up two-down house mortgage free, and I have enough inherited assets from my parents to provide me with a very modest income – while the financial markets hold up. My children are also grown-up so I don’t have the added distress of becoming a single parent.
But it was overwhelmingly terrifying to be forced into a situation on my own which meant making huge decisions such as buying a house in a hurry and finding out how to manage my money for the first time. So while I fully support the statistical and academic research that is being done into warning many babyboomers of what the future might hold, it does not touch the immense grief, loss, and despair that I encountered, and still do twelve months on.
Nor does it address the challenge of being single again at sixty (later-life crisis is VERY different to the traditional mid-life crisis because a full active lifespan is so much shorter) or, most importantly, how we can support each other.
This is vital because the immensity of facing a later-life crisis is taking its toll. The article ‘Are you having a later-life crisis?’ warns of the increased rates in suicide, alcoholism and drugs abuse among babyboomers who have lost jobs, homes, health and families. ‘It is,’ says the authors, ‘spreading like wildfire.’
Here again I would describe myself as fortunate. I have always believed there is something greater than me (some call it a presence, a divine energy, or even God) that guides and shapes my life. It meant that in the middle of the bleakest times when I was ready to give up and end it all, I felt this presence nudging me forward. I believe it was this presence that helped me to deepen my understanding of who I am and to appreciate and embrace how suffering, grief, and loss are a necessary and vital part of the human condition. For without these profound teachings we are unable to fully meet ourselves, to find peace in our lives, or to become mature, wise older people.
Although I would not have chosen for my marriage to end, and certainly not in the manner that it did, I realise that for me to move forward personally and professionally it had to happen, and it is time to change the emphasis of the work that I do. I now wish to focus on exploring the role that later-life crisis plays in the way we age, our spiritual development, and how we approach the end of our lives.
I am keen to talk to anyone (man and woman) approaching their sixties and seventies who has gone through, or is going through, difficult life changing experiences and how you are coping with it. Please do get in touch.