Loss of the Dream: Stories of Mid-Life Divorce
Leighman, Marilyn Rust
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The divorce experiences of seven mid-life women were investigated using Bohannan's (1970) and Hagemeyer's (1986) divorce theories as a framework to guide the research. In-depth interviews and visual interpretation were used: (a) to determine the greatest challenges and losses experienced by mid-life women after divorce; (b) to identify factors which contribute to resilience and determine coping mechanisms used by mid-life women following divorce; and (c) to assess long-term effects of divorce on midlife women several years after the event. The results of this study included the following findings: The women in the study had been divorced from 7 to 18 years and all agreed that losing the dream of the "happily ever after marriage" and the loss of the family unit were the most difficult losses they experienced. Other losses included the loss of identity as a married person, loss of home and assets, loss of income, and loss of relationship with children. Factors affecting resilience and coping mechanisms included working at a job or profession, support of family and friends, faith and spirituality and social activities and dating. These were unanimous choices among the participants. Long-term effects were both positive and negative. Negative effects included continued feelings of loss concerning the family unit, lingering anger, and lack of forgiveness toward the former spouse. Positive aspects included increased resilience, autonomy, personal achievement, and spiritual growth.