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10/09/2014 10:46 am ET Updated Oct 09, 2014

Gray Divorce Is On The Rise

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By the time my great-grandparents hit retirement age, my great-grandmother was living with one daughter. My great-grandfather with another. The two rarely saw each other, or spoke. They had, my mother explained, an “Irish Divorce:” two people living separate lives and in all ways strangers, disconnected from each other, sharing only an unhappy past and a pair of wedding rings.

In their era, as Irish Catholics, divorce was not only a social stigma, but a moral sin. And, like most women at the time, a legal divorce would have left my great-grandmother, who had spent her life raising children and caring for a home, penniless.

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