Surviving the ‘Gray Divorce ”~The unexpected betrayal in the Boomer Generation

gray divorce

“Sometimes, the person you’d take a bullet for ends up being the one behind the gun”

…and such was the case with a woman I’ll call Gertrude…

…a feisty woman who had been with her husband for three and a half decades. They had raised and launched four children, were winter snowbirds, had financial security as well as good health.

Days before their 35th wedding anniversary celebration with family and friends, she was blindsided by his shocking announcement that he wanted a divorce. He told her he had met someone “who made him happy”. They were planning to move in together and he wanted her to handle the separation in an amicable way.  He also told her she could keep the dog!

Enraged, panicked and terrified, she begged him to stay. They could go to couple’s counselling and fix whatever was wrong. He refused, told her it was over and a month later, he moved out.

She sobbed as she shared her story of his “cheating”. She had a string of epithets that she spat out, he was

“a dirty, fickle old man”

“a philandering, wrinkled codger”

“an ancient, misogynistic creep who was only after one thing”

She was

“a tart”

“a parasite”

“an avaricious gold-digging opportunist”

“You just watch” she said to me, “he’ll come begging me to take him back. HA! Won’t happen!”

After spitting all this out, she laughed at her own wit and I knew, in that moment, that she had the resilience and the humour to navigate the financial, emotional, psychological and familial complexities of her new and painful reality.

This was certainly not the first time I had met with a “gray divorcee”, and I recognized the emergence of a phenomena that was surprising.

Always keen to understand dynamics and statistics related to separation and divorce, I did my research. I learned that, in Canada, there has been a surge by nearly 80 % in the gray divorce rate. With surprise, I read that boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) are “divorcing more than any other generation” and researchers say this gray divorce trend doesn’t show any signs of slowing” (

Navigating the complexities of gray divorce is not insurmountable. My work with separating boomers has shown me that many, with support and guidance, move through the loss with a resilience born of lifelong struggles, losses and challenges. To me, they have modelled a beautiful wisdom and grace that both delights and inspires me.

Gertrude suffered terribly with depression and loneliness as she settled into living in their big empty home. I worried about her mental health and suggested she see her physician.  A visit to her doctor and a prescription for antidepressants helped. She met with me weekly, shared the narrative of their many years together and learned coping strategies that she put into practice.  She discarded the marital bedding and indulged in lovely new linens and blankets. This ritual was the beginning of divesting much of what they had accumulated together and replacing his choices with her own.  

Her grief was complicated and she worried about her future finances. Her legal counsel ensured that her assets and spousal support were carefully assessed for distribution. She found some comfort in journalling and in joining a seniors’ yoga group. She met other divorcees and expanded her friendship network. Many of the friends of the marriage had deserted her. It took months, but she eventually accepted that life, as she had known it, was gone. She decided, bravely, to embrace singlehood and was shocked to learn that 

there is life and healing after Divorce

Gertrude decided to REDEFINE life on her terms. It seemed to her that too many matters had always been on his terms. Emptiness was being replaced by renewed interests in old hobbies. Grief was being replaced by acceptance,

and anger, she realized was keeping her from recovering. She had to let go of it.

Over time, Gertrude found happiness and peace in her identity as a newly single woman. And, she had been right! As predicted, he did ask her to take him back. The grass had not been greener on the other side. She was dignified in telling him “No Way!”.

Eventually, Gertrude joined our six-week REBUILDING workshop, and at completion said that “if I, at 70 years of age, can survive and heal after being dumped, anyone can!”

Bravo Gertrude, you are a woman after my own heart!

I am a marriage commissioner and recently officiated at the marriage of a 92-year-old gentleman and his new love who was 78… wrinkled skin but not wrinkled souls.

“The longer I live the more beautiful life becomes.”

Frank Lloyd Wright


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