Navigating Divorce After 50: A Closer Look at the Challenges Faced by Women and Five Ways to Build Resilience During this Life Transition

Divorce is a challenging experience at any age, but for women over 50, the process can be
particularly daunting. As societal norms continue to evolve, an increasing number of couples are
choosing to part ways later in life. According to recent statistics, the rate of divorce among
individuals aged 50 and older has doubled in the past few decades.

During later-life marital dissolution, women face a unique set of challenges that can significantly
impact their emotional well-being. Depression, in particular, tends to be a prevalent issue for
women navigating divorce in their 50s and beyond. Research indicates that the emotional toll of
divorce can be more pronounced in this demographic compared to their younger counterparts.

Research on the emotional toll of divorce, particularly in the demographic of individuals over 50,
has been explored by various scholars and institutions. Studies conducted by researchers such
as Dr. Susan L. Brown, a sociologist and co-director of the National Center for Family &
Marriage Research, have investigated the emotional and psychological implications of later-life

One specific study titled “Gray Divorce: A Growing Risk Regardless of Class or Education”
published in the Journals of Gerontology found that individuals who divorced later in life
reported higher levels of depression compared to those who remained married. The emotional
impact was noted to be more substantial in the older age group, shedding light on the unique
challenges faced by individuals navigating divorce in their 50s and beyond.

The National Center for Family & Marriage Research highlights a rising divorce rate among
older adults, with emotional toll linked to factors like marriage duration, financial implications,
and disrupted life patterns. The complexity of divorce in this age group is compounded by the
long-term nature of many marriages, leading to intricate emotional and financial entanglements.
Untangling shared assets, including homes and retirement funds, becomes a daunting task.
Women over 50, often in traditional caregiving roles, more often than not, face post-divorce
financial challenges due to lower earning potential. The division of assets and potential alimony
may not always adequately address the economic disparities, leaving women to navigate a new
financial landscape on their own.

The emotional strain of ending a marriage that may have defined a woman’s identity for
decades can lead to feelings of loss, isolation, and a diminished sense of self-worth.
Additionally, the adjustments in family structure and roles, particularly if children are involved,
can evoke a profound sense of mourning, resembling the complexity of grieving a family’s
demise with multiple layers of loss and grief to navigate. Moreover, individuals may grapple with
anxiety about reentering the dating arena, adding another layer to the challenges faced during
this life transition.

[ If you or someone you care about is going through a divorce, there is help. Therapy is an
effective way to process the myriad of feelings and develop a game plan for the future.
Click here to schedule a free consultation with OCHP today. ]

In addition to therapy, below are 5 tips on how to care for yourself during this potentially difficult

1. Cultivate a Supportive Network:
Building resilience during the tumultuous phase of divorce after 50 begins with cultivating a
strong support network. Women should seek connections with friends, family, and support
groups specifically tailored to those undergoing similar life changes. These networks provide a
space to share experiences, gain perspective, and receive emotional support. Establishing a
circle of understanding individuals can help counter feelings of isolation and reinforce a sense of

2. Invest in Emotional Well-being:
Prioritizing emotional well-being is paramount in building resilience. Engaging in activities that
promote self-reflection, such as journaling or meditation, can help women process their
emotions and gain clarity. Seeking professional counseling or therapy is another valuable
avenue. A trained therapist can offer guidance, coping strategies, and a safe space for
discussing the complex emotions tied to divorce. By investing in emotional well-being, women
can enhance their capacity to navigate change with greater resilience.

3. Explore New Opportunities:
Embracing the opportunity for personal growth and exploration is a key element in building
resilience. Divorce, despite its challenges, can be a catalyst for self-discovery. Women should
consider pursuing activities or hobbies that may have been deferred during the marriage.
Whether it’s learning a new skill, traveling, or taking up a creative pursuit, these endeavors not
only provide a distraction from the difficulties but also contribute to a renewed sense of purpose
and identity.

4. Financial Empowerment:
Given the financial challenges often associated with later-life divorce, developing financial
literacy and independence is crucial. Women should proactively engage in understanding their
financial situation, including assets, debts, and retirement funds. Seeking the guidance of
financial advisors can provide valuable insights into managing resources effectively.
Establishing financial independence not only ensures stability post-divorce but also fosters a
sense of empowerment and control over one’s economic future.

5. Legal Advocacy and Empowerment:

Resilience is closely tied to having a sense of agency, particularly in the legal aspects of
divorce. Women should actively participate in the legal process, ensuring they have competent
representation that understands the intricacies of later-life divorce. This involves actively
communicating needs and concerns, being informed about legal rights, and actively
participating in decisions affecting the divorce settlement. Taking an assertive stance in the legal
proceedings contributes to a sense of empowerment and a more equitable resolution.

In conclusion, building resilience during the challenging phase of divorce after 50 involves a
holistic approach encompassing emotional, social, financial, and legal aspects. By cultivating a
supportive network, investing in emotional well-being, exploring new opportunities, achieving
financial empowerment, and actively engaging in the legal process, women can navigate this
transformative period with greater strength and resilience. Recognizing the potential for growth
and empowerment amidst change can be the foundation for a fulfilling post-divorce life. While
the challenges are undoubtedly substantial, divorce after 50 can also be an opportunity for
renewal and reinvention. Many women discover strengths and abilities they may not have
recognized during their married years. Embracing the chance to redefine one’s identity and
explore new possibilities can be a transformative aspect of the post-divorce journey.

For additional support from a licensed therapist, contact Orange County Health Psychologists
by calling 949.528.6300 or emailing

-Written by Jennifer Pfister for OC Health Psychologists, Inc.