Have you ever wondered what you would do if you became suddenly single again? At fifty and older, being suddenly single can happen for several reasons; some heart-rending, others devastating but all challenging.
- Being left by a spouse or partner through divorce or separation
- A spouse or partner dying unexpectedly
- A single parent whose children have left home
Becoming suddenly single underlines the fact it isn’t a choice we’ve made and I think that is the crux of it. When someone we love leaves our lives abruptly, we’re left with feelings of lost control. We’re used to making decisions, taking responsibility and getting life done. When we’re left, it shakes us to our core. All of a sudden we’re reminded our lives and heart have become dependent on another.
We’ve forgotten, if we ever learned; how to do this thing called life on our own. How many of us have moved out of our parents home straight into college or marriage. You’ve never known what it’s like to be on our own. Or if we did learn to navigate life on our own, it was so long ago we’ve forgotten what it feels like. To be responsible only for ourself can feel new and strange.
Sometimes becoming suddenly single makes us feel like a failure.
We didn’t try hard enough, we weren’t good enough wives or mothers. We didn’t save our loved one or they wouldn’t have passed on. As if being alone for the first time in decades wasn’t challenging enough, we may also be struggling with feelings of guilt and anger.
Guilt is going to keep us stuck energetically in the past and the repetitive cycle of “what if”. Unfortunately guilt doesn’t serve anyone, least of all the one who’s left. I think of guilt as a substitute emotion. It’s a distraction to mask what we’re really feeling.
Anger at being left is very understandable. If your spouse or partner cheated and left, anger is a natural emotion. It’s not fair. No one deserves to be treated this way!
Did a death cause you to be suddenly alone? Don’t be surprised if you feel anger and fear in equal proportions. Dying is simply another form of abandonment by your loved one and while it’s not rational, we can’t help but feel anger at the change and loss it forces on us.
Be prepared for a roller coaster of feelings and emotions. One day you may feel a surge of relief and happiness which could be followed by a deep dive into depression with anxious thoughts of the future. Don’t be afraid, you can get through this. In fact I would be surprised if you don’t look back at some point and realize you’ve not only embraced your new status but you’re actually OK.
How can we adapt if we find ourselves suddenly single again after 50?
- Try to release the “this shouldn’t have happened to me” feeling. Thought patterns like this only keep you stuck in pain and anger. We’re not defined by what happens in our lives, but by how we choose to define what happens. Let those thoughts go and instead focus on any lesson you can find. For example; if your guy cheated on you, what traits can you look out for the next time?
- Don’t waste your time feeling it’s about you. You’re not the reason this happened! When we allow love into our hearts and lives, we allow in the possibility of being hurt. It would be great if other people did what we want them to sugar, but it doesn’t work that way does it? All we can do is make sure we’re taking care of our hearts and souls at all times.
- I’ve learned sometimes the worst that can happen turns out to be the best thing to happen. You may be shaking your head; “how could death or divorce be the best thing to happen to me”? You just have to trust me on this one. A lot of the pain we experience when we’re left comes from thoughts about what it means. Just the expression “being left” brings up a lot of stuff. What I do know is sometimes we can’t go on to a better or deeper life phase without getting stuck in some crap first. Learning how to get out of the shit phase strengthens us and gives us appreciation for how awesome we are.
- There are worst things in life than being alone. A lot worse. Again don’t let your thoughts take over. Just being alone isn’t bad or wrong. It just is. Doesn’t mean it will last forever. Although you may find after the first kicking and screaming fit you have, you settle down and enjoy your own company. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.
- Think of this time of being “suddenly single” as a “You” cruise. You get to call the shots and do exactly what you want. Whenever you want. OK I get it. Maybe you want to do it with someone else, but that will come. Enjoy this time of being in between while you can. Learn to listen to your wants and desires, your likes and dislikes without having to filter through other people. It’s all about you baby. What do you want to do with the rest of your life? How will you create it? What dreams can you start chasing?
- Not an introvert and crave company? When you’re ready to dip your toe into the social pool, don’t forget to put on your figurative sunscreen. Be a listener and observer first. Its tempting to grab at any lifeboat when you’re feeling lonely and invisible (yes I’ve been there too) but be deliberate about where you spend your time and who you hang out with. Old friends? Yes if they’re supportive. New friends? Of course. If you’re ready to date again be aware of what you’re looking for. Take time to get to know this new you before signing up for another round.
- By all means seek professional support if you’re feeling out of your depth or as if you’re just barely treading water. Once you turn fifty, you still have lots of delicious time left to be happy. Don’t waste it by ignoring your deepest needs. Find a therapist or counsellor who can help you unravel some of the more personal stuff. Relying just on friends to unload can put a strain on the friendship. Friends lack the objectivity you need at this challenging time.
Last thought on becoming suddenly single.
One of the icky feelings that come up when you’ve been “left” is feeling powerless. This new single status was a curveball and you may feel you’ve lost any power you once had because THIS happened without your blessing. I get it. But look at it this way. You do still have power. In fact the most important kind. Your power lies in your thoughts. Choose the ones that go like this.
“The power to make my life wonderful again is completely in my control”
Hang in there sweetie.