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Never Too Old to Hurt From Parents’ Divorce
In the room that would be the scene of Lisa George’s divorce in 2012, Ms. George, now 59, was seated on the same side of the table as her about-to-be-ex-husband. Each of their divorce lawyers slid into seats across from them.
Between the lawyers sat Carol Hughes, a divorce coach in Orange County, Calif. Dr. Hughes placed two collages on small easels on the table. One was pasted with photos and words from the couple’s daughter, 25 at the time. The second was of their son, who was 28.
In the middle of the negotiations, “even in the heat of disagreement, there was an immediate realization that our kids were part of this,” Ms. George said. “It was the best possible reminder to stay grounded.”
The divorce rate among couples 50 and older has soared. The number of individuals who are adults when their parents divorce is climbing with it. Yet the vast majority of recent research, and subsequent counseling, for divorcing couples is focused on young children.
But for adult children of divorce, specific therapy or even divorce coaches like Dr. Hughes are difficult to find.
When Krista Mischo’s parents divorced after 45 years of marriage, she sought comfort from others in her situation. “I went to a divorce care group, but it was a meeting for adults going through divorces,” said Mrs. Mischo, who lives in Wisconsin and was 43 at the time. “The only group for children of divorce I could find was for young children.”
In 2012, she decided to create a group of her own, and began writing a blog, Time for Serenity (acodtimeforserenity.blogspot.com).
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Her need to connect resonated with others in the same situation.
“Readers used the word ‘devastated,’” she said. “The wind is knocked out of you.”
The effect on adult children is undocumented, said Susan L. Brown, a sociology professor at Bowling Green State University, whose 2012 study with I-Fen Lin, “The Gray Divorce Revolution,” established that the divorce rate among people 50 and older had doubled in the previous 20 years.
“I don’t know how it will play out,” Dr. Brown said of her findings. “For most people getting a gray divorce, the children are adult age.” But, she said, research “actually applies to a past generation. Where is the research that will help this generation?”
Jenny Kutner, 24, of Manhattan, a senior staff writer for the online news site mic.com, is still negotiating her way through her parents’ 2013 divorce. Soon after it was final, Ms. Kutner’s father told her and her college-age sister that they needed to call him every day. For about a month, they did.
“My father told me I wasn’t sad enough about it,” Ms. Kutner said. “He would say, ‘I just got divorced.’ And I would say to him: ‘My parents just got divorced. I don’t know what to tell you.’”
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