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Getting Older Sucks, Now Add Divorce to That?

Posted By Joy Dryer, Monday, May 2, 2016

September 29, 2015 

My Mom died  3 weeks ago just as Merri Hanson, my co-presenter, and I were finalizing our power point on the GRAYING DIVORCE JOURNEY for the Interdisciplinary Divorce Catalyst Conference in NYC October 1-4.  At 98, Mom couldn’t see well,  or hear well,  and didn’t always know where she was.  Unable to recover from an infection, her Time had come.   But her Timing couldn’t have been more poignant.  Right when Merri and I were discussing how Time is THE crucial  difference between a younger divorcee and the graying divorcee.  The “Grayee” has less Time to live, and that reality fact effects attitude, and feelings, and … well… every other decision.   

WHY DIVORCE NOW? We’ll be talking about how divorcing when you’re older raises more existential issues about what makes a happy and meaningful Life. But why would someone wait until her 60’s, 70’s,  even 80’s to divorce?  Many a Grayee will say s/he wants to make the most of  “what’s left of  her life,” and never mentions dying.   Not every Grayee is consciously aware that Death may be riding through the next town over,  or even loitering on their corner.  Or, who knows? At their door.   But we as professionals need to be aware.   Like Alice falling down the Rabbit Hole,  as we age, relationships and decisions,  regrets and goals, can turn topsy turvey.

UNIQUE MOTIVATORS.  In our two-part workshop on Sat. afternoon Oct 3, Merri and I unbraid some underground meanings of why the number of Graying divorces has skyrocketed  -- 1 in 10 in 1990,  now 1 in 4 in 2010.   We ask: "why divorce now?  at your age?!"  What are the Grayee’s unique motivators?  We define the Narrative Arc in a person’s life.  Divorce is a detour, we propose,  which can be positive or negative.  We as professionals can help make that divorcee’s detour more positive when we understand the developmental tasks we all need to tackle to progress on to the next stage of our lives., and where the Grayee gets stuck.   

WHO IS THE GRAYING DIVORCEE?  We review how attachment and developmental issues shift as we age.  How divorce seems to enter a person’s Narrative Arc  at the juncture where s/he is struggling with specific developmental tasks.   How the awareness of Time Left,  and of one’s mortality, shifts everything.   

IN-TAKE TOOL.  Based on our research,  Merri and I  devised a  “55+” In-take tool which we offer to you in Workshop Part 2.  [You can also download it directly from my website,,  go to the “Resources” page,  then to “Forms”. ]  We worked hard on this tool, pulling together the theoretical ideas we present in Part 1.  The 2 cases put into practice our major point --  that we as professionals can make specific changes so we can better serve this graying population. 

THE END.  And so here I was.  Writing up power point slides about how a Grayee’s divorce journey differs profoundly, existentially, from a younger person’s divorce journey.   Age matters.  Time matters.  Endings matter.  Mom and I had talked about how getting older sucks.  At least, many aspects of ageing are indeed painful.  And so she dies just as I’m writing about all this stuff.   Not only was death on my power point slides, but knocking at my door.  Striding in to my living room -- hood scythe and all.  Striking my consciousness right between my eyeballs.  So I’m powerfully reminded to ask the next Grayee who walks in to my office,  as the Caterpillar asks Alice in her Wonderland:  “Who are youuuuuu?” 

*Joy A. Dryer, Ph.D.  is a Psychologist/Psychoanalyst and Divorce Mediator/ Collaborative Divorce Coach/ Parent Coordinator. She was Adjunct Assoc. Professor in NYU’s Psychology Dept. Masters Program, and now maintains a private practice for over 35 years in NYC and Poughkeepsie, New York.  To make comments, or for more information, contact Dr. Dryer at

Catalyst Conference Workshops Sat.  3 Oct 2015,  Part 1:  1:10- 2:25;  Part 2: 2:30- 3:45 

Presenters: Joy A. Dryer, PhD* and Merri L. Hanson, MA^


^Merri L. Hanson, MA                                              *Joy A. Dryer, Ph.D

Peninsula Mediation & ADR                                     Psychologist/ Psychoanalyst

217 McLaws Circle, Suite 1                                      Divorce Consultant/ Mediator/ Parent Coordinator

Williamsburg, VA   23185                                         92 Remsen St, Ste 1A, Brooklyn Hts,  NY  11201

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Tags:  alice in psycho-socio-biologic wonderland  gray divorce 

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