Divorce: The Loss of the Dream

I received so many heart-felt responses to my recent post about the many reasons and ways that we grieve. One really hit home. Writer and member of Women of Midlife, Carla Birnberg, told how the grief from divorce “hits me in waves at odd times and often in public places.” This brought back memories of how I struggled with my own divorce in the early 2000s, so I decided to share this essay:

Divorce: The Loss of the Dream:

Sad to say, I find myself to be a bit of an expert on divorce.  It certainly wasn’t my intention to know so much about it, but there it is.  The first thing I learned from my own experience and talking with hundreds of others is that divorce is always traumatic. 

When my husband of six years and I decided to call it quits back in the year 2000, we went about it in the most civilized and ‘adult’ way.  We both agreed that we were making each other miserable, we had tried various counselors, and we were simply too different in our goals and interests to stay together.  In other words, it was a purely rational decision. Unfortunately, my emotions didn’t agree.  While it seemed easy for my soon-to-be-ex to cruise through this difficult time in our lives, I was crushed and temporarily emotionally disabled.  I felt like the biggest failure in the history of womankind and his apparent inability to feel anything, just made things worse.

I quickly launched into a mid-life crisis of astronomical proportions, asking myself all the tough questions.  Why can’t I ‘do’ marriage?  What is it about me that makes me unable to be with others emotionally?  Do I have to live alone forever?  Why doesn’t love last?

As luck would have it, I lost my job just two years after the separation and divorce, intensifying the depth and drama of my ongoing mid-life crisis. Then I began to ask myself even more difficult questions like: What am I doing here? Will I ever find meaning in my life? How do I want the rest of my life to be different? I felt a strong need to understand the first half of my life, so as to make the second half better.

I got so wrapped up in this quest, I decided to start my own dating service to explore the simple question, “Do I still believe in love?” while helping other recent divorcees with their own explorations. Although it wasn’t a conscious choice at the time, it turned out to be the best therapy for understanding my own feelings about love and rejection.

Lessons learned from divorce

love in ChineseFirst of all I learned that I most certainly was not alone in my disillusionment with love.  There are millions of us who don’t know how we feel about love and relationships.  Interviewing scores of disillusioned divorcees showed me that we all have a lot to learn. 

It became clear to me that we can learn a lot more about a person by divorcing them, than we could ever learn by staying married to them.  When we are married, we are always “playing nice” to some extent. We still have a lot invested in the relationship and its future. When divorce becomes real, and it takes varying amounts of time for each of us to register this disturbing reality, the gloves come off and we become more honest with our soon-to-be-ex.

There is no more relationship to protect so we naturally begin protecting ourselves and our own interests. In short, we say what we’ve been thinking all along!  

How to Believe in Love Again! blog sizeA singles workshop I offered to my dating clients provided a moment of awakening and clarity for me. We were involved in a discussion about the distance between the simple rational reality of divorce, the total ambivalence we may feel towards our ex, and yet the contradictory deep emotional emptiness that can ensue after it all sinks in. A short, elderly gentleman who looked a bit like Sigmund Freud and spoke with a heavy German accent stood up and said, “Divorce is not about the loss of a relationship, it’s about the loss of the dream.” Truer words were never spoken.  I had not only lost a significant human connection in my life, but, more importantly, I had lost all faith in love and the beauty it can bring to an otherwise difficult existence.

For what is life, if we fear that we will never feel true love again?

I knew then that I had to get busy and turn my heart around. I needed to find a way to believe in love again. In my case, this wasn’t an easy assignment, but I took all the necessary steps and love did return, so much better than I could ever have imagined!

This essay appears in my first book “Midlife Magic: Becoming The Person You Are Inside.” Please let me know if you would like to purchase this or any of my books direct from me for a great price!   MidlifeCrisisQueen@ gmail.com

The Challenge of Being Fully Present in Your Life

“All great changes are preceded by chaos.”  – Deepak Chopra

A few years ago I presented a talk to a group of unemployed Americans in their middle years. When I was finished, the first person to raise her hand asked me,

“Do you believe we have to hit bottom in our lives before we truly begin to change?” My answer at the time was, “I did.”

The fact is that most of us will not change until we become uncomfortable enough to admit defeat. Most need to be absolutely convinced that the “plan” they had for their life is simply not working. The way this usually comes about is through a major crisis which demands our complete attention. Divorce, serious illness, the death of a loved one, or long-term unemployment, especially when these occur in our middle years, seem to be the most common stimulants leading to the end of our naïve notion that we somehow can control everything that happens to us. These events become ever more common as we age. These unforeseen and often unforeseeable occurrences tend to inform us in no uncertain terms that changes in our life plan are now in order.

We may first try to defend against the onset of pain and confusion by denying or ignoring this sudden lack of certainty or security in our lives. Most seek to escape into bad relationships, drug addiction, religious faith or even artificially extreme feelings of independence, as they defend against their need to depend on others in their lives.

Even though it may seem completely counter-intuitive at this tough spot, you may discover that accepting and embracing the chaos and uncertainty you feel surrounded by is your first best step towards peace. Stop, sit down quietly, and begin to feel the enormity of this apparent crisis, realizing that this may be one of the most important opportunities of your adult life.

Can you trust in the power of your own psyche to survive this crisis, and in that way heal yourself?


“Have a sense of gratitude to everything, even difficult emotions, because of their potential to wake you up.  – Pema 

Know that this is the beginning of your own personal rite of passage into full adulthood. This is a natural, normal stage of human development studied by psychologists like Carl Jung, when he experienced it himself.

Recognize that you are not the first to feel chaos and uncertainty in your middle years. This is a well-documented transition of personal change, growth and human evolution. And the best way to move through this life stage smoothly is to embrace the new information and knowledge you will be given now.

By allowing this in, you have the ability to access the unique instruction this moment has for you. Instead of attempting to run from it, embrace the uncertainty. Begin to believe this moment is giving you access to your own unique brand of power, one you may have never known or acknowledged before. Begin to see that you alone know somewhere inside what needs to happen next. Spend the time necessary to listen to the small, still voice within, the one you may have been ignoring for decades. Recognize this voice perhaps for the first time as your inner guide, brimming with accumulated information and wisdom.

This source knows where you need to go next. It will instruct you in how you must change, grow and evolve into your best self in this moment. The sooner you begin to believe in its power and trust this valuable inner resource, the sooner you will follow its instructions, and find more structure, certainty and peace in your life.

This is a brief excerpt from my book, Find Your Reason To Be Here: The Search For Meaning in Midlife.  Please contact me directly to order your own signed copies of any of my books!  

Cheers, Laura Lee  (email me: MidlifeCrisisQueen@gmail.com)