The Gray Divorce Podcast: Episode 4 Personal Growth after Gray Divorce

Andrew Hatherley |

There is Life After Divorce

This 4th episode deals with the subject of personal growth after divorce.

When I got started as a divorce financial analyst, my main focus was on helping my clients through the financial issues of their divorce settlement. It still is. But I came to realize that the human side of financial planning, called life planning, is crucial. We need to build off a financial foundation to create a purposeful, meaningful life for ourselves as we embark on our new journey.

I started doing divorce workshops in 2017. And I made it a point to share my experience and the experience of so many people who've actually thrived after divorce and communicate to workshop attendees that there is life after divorce. And it can be a better, more rewarding life because we're given the opportunity to grow.

Five ways we can facilitate personal growth after divorce

In this episode I discuss the work of psychologists Richard Tedeschi and Lawrence Calhoun. They coined the term post-traumatic growth. This is the positive psychological change that is experienced because of the struggle with very challenging circumstances.

In 2020 Tedeschi wrote an article for the Harvard business review titled Growth after Trauma. I discuss the five ways that professionals who help people facilitate personal growth after divorce:

  1. Education
  2. Emotional Regulation
  3. Disclosure
  4. Narrative Development
  5. Service

Five areas where people show growth after Gray Divorce.

I also discuss the numerous benefits that can be gained from adopting these tools of post-traumatic growth. The podcast deals with these five areas in which people report growth, which applies equally to personal growth after divorce:

  1. An appreciation for life.
  2. Personal strength
  3. Spiritual growth
  4. New possibilities

Improved relationships


Announcement: Welcome to the Great Divorce Podcast, hosted by divorce financial analyst and retirement planning counselor Andrew Hatherley. Join Andrew and guest experts as they help late life divorcees build the financial and mental foundation for a meaningful future. There is life after divorce. Now on to the show.

Andrew Hatherley: Hello everybody and welcome to episode four of the Gray Divorce Podcast. today I'd like to focus on the subject of personal growth after gray divorce. Now early on in my practice as a certified Divorce Financial Analyst, my focus was on helping my clients get through the financial issues of their divorce settlement, and that would include a workable, tax efficient division of assets while also including a financial planning component that put my client on a sound financial footing going forward.

A very important compliment to that. Financial planning is the human side of the equation, building off that financial foundation to build a purposeful, meaningful life as we enter the next stage of our lives. When I began conducting divorce workshops in 2017, I made it a point to emphasize that there is life after divorce.

It can be a better, richer, more rewarding life because we're given an opportunity to start again, to reexamine our lives, and frankly, to reflect on the fact that we're emerging from a situation that wasn't right for us. You know, when we're going through divorce, our imaginations run rampant with terrifying scenarios, and we often imagine disastrous outcomes.

For me, it was the prospect of being , an indentured servitude for the rest of my life, working UN until I was 90 years old, paying off spousal support. Of course, this didn't make sense rationally or even legally, but rarely do we think straight or clearly in the throes of a difficult divorce. It was only until after the dust.

Maybe a year and a half after my divorce was finalized that I managed to pick myself up and dust myself off and face the world. You may be familiar with a book called Man's Search for Meaning. It was written by Victor Frankl in 1946. Frankl's wife, mother, and brother were murdered in Nazi concentration camps.

He survived the horror. , and based on his experiences and those of other prisoners, he determined that people are primarily driven by a striving to find meaning in their lives. That sense of meaning enables people to overcome the most painful experiences recently. I had the opportunity to take a course with a psychologist, Scott Berry Kaufman.

He's the host of the Psychology podcast. That's what it's called, the Psychology Podcast, and the author of the book Transcend the New Science of Self-Actualization. Kaufman notes that many people who experience trauma such as divorce, late in life, or any time for that matter, not only show incredible resilience but actually thrive in the aftermath of the traumatic event.

He notes many studies that show that most trauma survivors do not develop P T S D and a large number even report growth from their experience. Kaufman Sites research from psychologists, Richard Tadeshi and Lawrence Calhoun. Tadeshi and Calhoun coined the term post-traumatic growth, and they define post-traumatic growth as the positive psychological change that is experienced as a result of the struggle with highly challenging circum.

In July, 2020, Richard Tadeshi wrote an article for the Harvard Business Review titled Growth After Trauma. In the article, he asks What good can come of trauma writing at the height of the Covid Pandemic, which costs hundreds of thousands of death. Unprecedented unemployment, a global economic downturn.

It might appear that the answer is nothing could good, could come of this. However, to Dehi notes. At some point we'll be able to reflect on the long-term consequences of the shutdown and what it has meant to us as individuals and for our communities, organizations, and nations. Almost certainly these outcomes will include some.

Along with the bad, he goes on to note that psychologists like him over the past 25 years have learned that negative experiences can spur positive change, including a recognition of personal strength, the exploration of new possibilities, improved relationships, a greater appreciation for life and spiritual.

Research has shown that people who have endured natural disasters, war, bereavement, job loss, illness, injury, and yes, divorce can develop in positive ways in the aftermath. For Tadeshi, it is the work of people in the helping community to facilitate post-traumatic growth in five ways through education, emotional regulation.

Disclosure, narrative development and service. Tadeshi encourages other regular folk like you and me to serve as what the psychological community calls an expert companion for others by listening, encouraging both introspection and curiosity, and offering compassionate feedback. So, I'd like to visit the five ways that post-traumatic growth can be facilitated in more detail and then revisit some of the benefits the first way post divorce growth can be developed.

Is education. Tadeshi says that to move through trauma to growth, one must first educate oneself about what the trauma is, and he says it's essentially a disruption of core belief systems. For example, one core belief may have been that marriage is forever, and when our assumptions are challenged, we get confused and frightened in a vicious circle of.

Enters into our heads, why did this happen? What should I do now? This state of mind forces us to rethink who we are, the kind of people we want around us, and what the future holds for us. While it can be very painful, this process can also initiate a valuable period of. We can surely admit that divorce can provide some freedom from encumbrances and give us the opportunity to reevaluate our identities.

It's funny, it may sound strange, and we may think we know ourselves better than anyone else knows us, but we all have the power to dilute ourselves. One tool that I found to be incredibly helpful after my divorce as I was pushing the reset button on my life was the Big Five personality assessment.

Essentially, this is a personality assessment that goes quite deep into our psychological makeup. The differences between people's personalities can be broken down in terms of five major traits, often called the big five. Each one reflects a key part of how a person thinks, feels and behaves. I don't want to go off on a tangent about how the Big five personality assessment, uh, works.

Perhaps I'll do that some other day, but I wanna leave you with the fact that I found that a very helpful tool, not only to understand, But to understand others, and that can only help foster connection and communication, which of course is a good thing. If you're interested in learning more, there is a link to the big five personality aspect.

Scale on my website, A second way post-traumatic growth can be facilitated is through emotional regulat. In order to educate ourselves, we've got to be in the right frame of mind, and that requires managing negative ex emotions such as anxiety, guilt, and anger. Tadeshi recommends shifting the kind of thinking that leads to those feelings.

And instead of focusing on losses, failures, and worst case scenarios, to instead try to recall successes, best case possibilities, and reflect on our own personal strengths. Emotional regulation is also deeply tied to the physical. I can personally attest to the value of meditation, breathing exercises, and physical.

Physical exercise is even better if it's done with others. It's a virtuous double benefit of, uh, of, uh, communication and uh, and just getting the body right, which works in concert with the mental tadeshi identifies disclosure as a third way of facilitating growth after. This is the process in which you talk about what has happened and is happening, both small and large effects, short and long-term, personal and professional, and what you're struggling with as a result of what's happened.

By articulating these things, we can make sense of the drama and turn debilitating thoughts into more productive reflections. Kaufman in his book Transcend does caution that it's only through shedding our natural defense mechanisms and approaching the discomfort head on viewing everything as fodder for growth, that we can start to embrace the inevitable paradoxes of life and come to a more nuanced view of.

Kaufman states that emotions such as sadness, grief, anger, and anxiety are common responses to trauma and that we shouldn't attempt to avoid them as that might actually make things worse and reinforce a view that the world isn't safe and make it more difficult to pursue long-term goals. An article published in Psychology Today, this.

Noted that P T S D at its core is an avoidance disorder, and understandably, those who suffer from P T S D try to avoid traumatic thoughts, images, and feelings in any way they can. That's why those who suffer trauma are much more likely to suffer from addiction. And addiction makes it impossible to deal with one's.

Sometimes if we're helping someone talk about what a negative experience like a difficult divorce has been for them, asking a lot of questions can seem like an interrogation brought about by curiosity or even nosiness, rather than a sincere desire to help to Dehi suggests focusing on how the affected person feels and giving their concerns priority.

The fourth way of facilitating post-traumatic growth is narrative development, and what this means is that you should try to produce an authentic story, an authentic story or narrative about the difficult period you've gone through, and imagine crafting your next chapters in a meaningful way. There are hundreds of stories out there in books, podcasts, and the.

About people who've gone through a difficult divorce after 50 and have managed to craft their own inspiring stories. Stories in which people have transcended victimhood, rebuilt their self-esteem, found fulfilling new jobs or creative pursuits, reentered the dating world and found wonderful new relationships and rebuilt relationships with their adult children and friends.

In working on your own narrative, You can craft your own story about a traumatic path that leads to a better future, and you can serve as an inspiration to others. Post-traumatic growth can also be facilitated in a fifth very important way, and that is service. Tadeshi writes that people do better in the aftermath of trauma if they find work that benefits others.

Perhaps people who've endured similar. . This approach really resonated with me all through my divorce and in the months. Immediately afterwards, I was beating myself up about the mistakes that I'd made in my divorce, mistakes that could have been avoided if I'd faced reality and educated myself about how divorce works.

What I did was combine the ideas of building a narrat. and service. So I decided to start a company, wiser Divorce Solutions, and begin the Wiser divorce workshops. Essentially using my experience as an example of mistakes to avoid in divorce and maybe also to provide some inspiration for people going through the same difficult event I went through.

The bottom line is that by helping others, I help myself by turning the negative narrative around. . I also benefited from a very real helper's high in seeing the positive effect these workshops had on people in the throes of messy divorces. I mentioned at the outset of this discussion that psychologists have seen numerous benefits from adopting these tools of post-traumatic.

Eshi and his colleague Richard Calhoun focus on five areas in which people report significant growth after a traumatic event such as great divorce. These are, and I'll deal with each individually, appreciation for life, personal strength, spiritual growth, new possibilities, and improved relationships.

First, an appreciation for life. This essentially boils down to gratitude. When confronted with fear and loss, we often become better at noticing what we still have, but may have previously overlooked. Most importantly, trauma can make us feel more grateful for the relationships we already have or the new ones that we will.

But other things we may have taken for granted, like a sunny day, a purring cat, or even light traffic on the drive to the gym. These can give us pause to be grateful if only for a second. We've all heard the phrase that which doesn't kill us, makes a stronger, or if I can make it through that, I can make it through anything Ade and Calhoun.

Point to personal strength. as another key benefit of post-traumatic growth. People are often surprised how well they have handled trauma and are better equipped to, to tackle future challenges. I know personally, I've, I've always been terrified of public speaking, but after my divorce, in preparation for presenting workshops, educating people about divorce, I realized I would need to get over my fear of public speaking.

If I was going to effectively communicate ideas to a group of people, so I signed up for a local Toastmaster's class, the effects were remarkable. I'm still a work in progress on the speaking front, but uh, after a messy nine month divorce, public speaking didn't seem so bad. In fact, I've adopted the saying, feel the fear and do it.

To try to propel me, propel, propel myself to try new things. Another, uh, expression I use to continually push and grow in new ways is nothing great happens inside your comfort zone. Spiritual growth is a third benefit. Tadeshi notes that this comes from reflecting on the big questions that are often ignored in the routine of daily life.

When trauma challenges our core beliefs. We're often forced to become much more thoughtful or philosophical in the attempt to design a life worth continuing to live. The two benefits of post-traumatic growth that particularly resonate with me are improved relationships and new possibilities. Ade, she notes that improved relationships.

Are often born of the need to give and receive support. Trauma can help us forge new relationships and make us more grateful for the ones we already have. It is essentially a bonding experience when you come through a crisis together with somebody. New possibilities are open to us after divorce simply because by its very nature, divorce presents prevents the resumption of some old habits and roles.

We have to adapt and innovate, and we have to have the courage and enthusiasm to test new paths and embrace change rather than fear it. Kaufman, in his book, transcend notes that these two domains of post-traumatic. Positive change in relationships and new possibilities are associated with increased perceptions of creative growth.

As we experience the benefits of post-traumatic growth and experience more meaning in our lives, we have the potential for great creative expression. Two of the founding fathers of humanistic psychology. Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow believed that the height of self-actualization was creativity, and one of the key drivers of creativity was openness to experience, which just happens to be one of the five aspects of the Big Five personality aspects scale.

That's the subject we'll be returning to in future episodes of The Great Divorce Podcast. Earlier this year, psychology Today published an article about post-traumatic growth. In it. They asked the question who experiences most post-traumatic growth. Their research found that women tend to experience post-traumatic growth more than men.

It's assumed that this has to do with the greater tendency of women to rely on relational support. The article noted that a woman's tendency to more to be more relationally connected than men reduces the likelihood of loneliness. And loneliness of course, decreases the chance that a trauma survivor will experience post-traumatic growth.

Social support is critical and people are both hurt through relationships and healed through relationships. for now. I'll leave you with this thought. If you are emerging from great divorce, you can't turn back the clock to who you were as a husband or a wife. You have an opportunity to create a new identity.

You have the opportunity to grow. Think of the diamond forged under pressure, or the pearl that emerges from an irritating. The good news is that the human capacity for resilience is very strong, and you have the power to write a third act of growth in your personal story. I look forward to chatting with you next time.

Announcement: Thanks so much for tuning into this episode of The Great Divorce Podcast. To learn more or get in contact with your host, you can visit Andrew's website at Also, please feel free to rate, subscribe, and leave a review wherever you listen to your podcasts. That helps others find the show and we greatly appreciate it.

Thanks again for listening, and we'll catch you in the next episode.

Andrew Hatherley: Information provided is educational only and should not be construed as legal or tax advice. Each situation is unique and should be discussed with your tax or legal advisor prior to implementation. Andrew Hatherley is not an attorney and does not provide legal advice. Information provided is financial in nature.

Advisory services offered through Hatherley Capital Management LLC and Divorce Financial Analysis Services offered through Wiser Divorce Solutions and affiliated company.