Mid-life always brings a lot of change. Even if you are in a strong, stable marriage you have to deal with hormone changes, changes in your body, and changes in your home life at the very least. If you toss divorce into the mix, you have a recipe for a pretty intense depression.
I figured I had a long time until empty nest syndrome hit. Six of my eight kids were living at home when I got a divorce. My youngest was just six–I had a few years before “alone” was a word I needed to add to my vocabulary. When I met and married my new husband, I figured that “alone” was no longer an issue at all.
I was wrong.
You Wrap Yourself Up in Family
For nearly three decades I had poured myself into my family. I tried very hard to be a classic 1950s wife and mom. I homeschooled, kept a clean house, and cooked gourmet meals on a meager, one income budget. I taught myself to sew and knit so I could create a higher quality wardrobe than I could afford to buy. I wasn’t perfect–not by a long shot–but it wasn’t for lack of trying.
Once we hit that 20th anniversary, I assumed that a divorce was off the table. I imagined golden years with my husband, family activities, and shared memories. That’s not what happened, though.
The divorce was a shock to me. One night we went to bed, had amazing sex, and kissed goodnight. By three in the morning, I had found that he was cheating and kicked him out. My world shattered in the matter of a couple of hours.
I felt my life was over.
I was working as a writer so I was able to continue working from home. It was increasingly more difficult to keep up with homeschool as I took on more work, but I was fairly certain the kids needed time to adjust emotionally before I made any changes. We had always been close, and we became closer, opening our family clique enough to let my new husband come in.
I Get Empty Nest Every Time One Moves Away
When my son left home at 19 to enter the military I cried for days. He was my third child to leave home, and my second to go into the military, but the first to have left after the divorce. I got hit hard with empty nest syndrome even though there were five kids left. When my next son left to go in the military last summer, I went through it again.
I expect that’s a pattern. Every time something shifts it upsets my balance, and I have to get over it. I even had empty nest syndrome when my step-daughter moved out after staying a summer with us.
I get lonely for them.
I identify myself as being a mom–to me it’s my most important role. Once the kids are gone, what purpose will I have? In my mind, I have failed at marriage once but parenting is something I know I am good at. My fear isn’t so much being alone because I adore my husband. My fear is what I will do when I am no longer a mom–a mom of underage kids. What will my purpose be then? Where will I find my personal satisfaction?
Divorce Skyrockets During Middle Age
If you’ve found yourself divorced and in the stage of life where your kids are moving out, you aren’t the only one. Divorce rates spike during the 50’s. The temptation is to give into loneliness and the feeling we get of being useless–or at least that’s my struggle. Let’s face it, I am not the size 6 I was at 20, my hormones aren’t what they were at 30, and I don’t have the false sense of security I had at 40. Sometimes I look at my husband and wonder what I could possibly have had that he wanted in his life–crazy man.
Too often, we ask ourselves how we get back the strengths we once had when we should be asking how do I go forward with what I have right now?
Look for the Positives
Middle age doesn’t have to be a time of loneliness. We are freer to do what we want with no babies to look after, no worries about babysitters, and often more available funds. What is it that you’ve always wanted to do?
- Joining a divorce support group can put you in contact with others who are in the same empty nest and divorced boat you are. Making new friends who have similar interests can open up an entirely new world of activities.
- Take a class. Learn to do something you’ve always wanted to know how to do.
- Volunteer somewhere that you can help others.
- Sleep in.
- Find reasons to be grateful.
Give yourself permission to move on, get to know yourself, and enjoy life. You’ll be glad you did. Talk to others who know what loneliness is like. Join First Wives World and talk to others who understand your battles.
Image Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons, User : Shiela Sund