How to survive a break-up in your 50s: be kind to yourself and know the feelings will pass

Statistics show that the rate of divorce and separation that affects people in their 50s and 60s has dramatically increased in the past 20 years, whereas it has decreased in other age groups.

A break up is life-changing. Everything you had taken for granted in your marriage or partnership and perhaps life as you know it has come to an end. It overturns all that is familiar, including any hopes and dreams you had for the future.

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It is hard to believe that you will ever get better. You will

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You might be at the point when you may have been looking forward to some quality time with your partner – if your children have left home, for example.

Instead, perhaps your partner has left. For whatever reason (which you may never fully understand) they do not want to spend that time with you.

Going through an unexpected break-up at this time in life can feel like falling into an endless black hole. In fact, dealing with the aftermath of a sudden separation is comparable to grieving.

As time goes on, your emotions will evolve. It is impossible to give a timescale for this to happen because everyone is different, but the feeling of pain and helplessness will eventually diminish and pass.

Time heals

When you are in the midst of the crisis, it is hard to believe that you will ever get better. Yet you will. Of course, it does take time, pain and effort to make sense of what has happened and truly move on.

You may find it reassuring to know that you are not alone going through such a traumatic event. Many people have experienced this and the effect it has on their emotions.

What adds to the feeling of loss and humiliation is often the manner by which you may have been left. You would think that when people are in their 50s they have the maturity to discuss and explain the reasons why they no longer want to be in the relationship.

Yet, too often, you are left wondering why it happened because you have not been given any explanation at all or you have been lied to. You may have been given no other choice but to end the relationship. All of this is cruel and bewildering and adds to the feeling of helplessness.

Things to realise during a break-up

• You are going through life-changing emotions; it is OK to feel these emotions. Be kind to yourself.
• Do not beat yourself up; you could not have changed the situation.
• Your partner is not coming back and, sadly, you may never know why they left.
• Recovery takes time.

What to do after a break-up

• Get legal advice (it is always better to know where you stand and make informed choices).
• Accept where you are; don’t dwell on what you cannot change.
• Start taking some control back, however a small step that may seem. At the time of a break-up you feel that your partner, and maybe other people (solicitors, any dependent children) call all the shots. The process of doing so will help you regain a sense of self-esteem.
• Start thinking of you and your future. Reconnect with who you are.
• Focus on what you enjoy. Get out of the house, take up a physical activity.
• See a professional and get medical help if you feel you need it.
• Do not force yourself to make decisions when you are vulnerable. Take some time and space to clarify your thoughts.
• Do not jump into another relationship.

I can say categorically that eventually you will begin to heal and slowly start to create a new life which you will enjoy. And remember the saying: “New beginnings are often disguised as painful endings”, from Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu.

Danielle Barbereau is a relationship coach specialising in break-ups. She is author of After the split: The definitive guide to recovery when relationships break down