I was 45 when I separated. The divorce was final about a month after I turned 46. I'll be 50 on my next birthday. I had been a sahm for 20 years.
I went back to school and took classes to update my office skills. I talked to the financial aid people and qualified for grants that covered tuition and books.
The first job I got was with a small company. I wasn't considered full-time, so there were no benefits, but it was an office job, and I learned a lot. I knew going into it that it was just going to be a stepping stone job, because I needed some current work experience for my resume. The next job was full-time, with benefits, so I had insurance again. The pay wasn't great, but it was a bigger company, and again I needed the experience for my resume.
A couple of months ago, I got a better paying job with better benefits. I'm hoping to stay here for longer than the year or so I've stayed at the other 2 jobs, but that'll depend on things like raises and other bonuses. Otherwise, this will be yet another stepping stone job on my way to get to where I want to be.
Like Chrysalis said, it's really a matter of taking it one step at a time. When I was first faced with the fact that I'd be getting a divorce, I came up with a 5 year plan. I decided where I wanted to be in 5 years, and worked backwards from there figuring out what I'd need to do to get there. My goal was simple. I wanted to be financially independent and somewhat financially secure in 5 years.
So working backwards, being financially independent and secure meant I'd need a good job. Which meant I'd need to get some skills in order to qualify for a good job. Which meant I needed to go back to school to get those skills.
As far as self-esteem goes, let me tell you what taking a math class for the first time in almost 30 years and getting an A does for self-esteem. Actually, taking all the classes was great for my self-esteem. Because I took a lot of classes geared towards office skills, in a way, it let me size up the potential competition for office jobs in my area, and I saw firsthand that I wasn't lacking.
I won't sugarcoat it. It's been a lot of hard work. And I'm not where I want to be, yet. But life is good, despite the damn hot flashes.