What does it mean to grow older? How do we all handle the challenges that will face us? All of us human beings will either grow old or we will die at a younger age. Yet, we rarely talk about what this means to us individually and collectively. The body starts to slow down and refuses to move in the way it used to move when we were younger. We don’t have the same energy and ability to keep going as we once did.
There are benefits and challenges to aging.
We know there are benefits to this process, but because the body no longer looks or acts as it once did, we have a difficult time acknowledging this slow down.
In other societies, seniors are given a status that our society fails to give. Our worth is tied up with our productivity. So when we retire, our value goes down. Males seem to suffer more from this change than females. Perhaps this is no longer true. In the past males were the breadwinnders. They have been valued as the ones who earn more money. This has been changing as families are changing and there are more women at the head of their families. But women have also traditionally been more available for friendships and creating communities that are satisfying on an emotional level.
So what do we need to do, in order to not only survive but thrive? I feel it is important to start facing the challenges of aging way before we reach our 80′s. We need to make decisions to be more connected with family, friends, community, a religious or spiritual practice and we need to keep moving our bodies and using our minds. If we are open and hones, and we make plans we we are still healthy, then even though we might have some difficulties awaiting us, we will be more prepared. Hopefully this will increase our enjoyment of our daily lives.
As we age, we are more able to be ourselves, to accept our strengths and weaknesses. Accept what we have accomplished and understand that we might never do all that we had hope to do and that is okay!
We all know somewhere in our being, that one day we will die. Our hope is to live a long, healthy life with little or no regrets.
The deaths that are really hard on us all are: the death of children and young people, people who have died unexpectedly from illness, accidents, murder or suicide. These shock our systems and shake us up profoundly. We are not prepared in any way for these people to no longer be with us. Sometimes we get numb and then as the numbness wears off, we feel the pain of the loss of this person.
So what is it like to lose a friend? When a good friend dies, it is like part of our heart gets crushed. We no longer can count on that person to share life with. That person who you could laugh and cry with, is gone. That friend is not a family member and so sometimes that loss gets discounted by the people around you.
Do not discount your feelings around this loss, take care of yourself, take time to grieve. Find safe places to share your sense of loss and heart break. Do not let anyone tell you how to feel and how long you should grieve. This is your loss and everyone is different and has a different time table of how long the grief will grab you.
Grief is strange, it is a roller coaster ride of emotions and you don’t always know when you will feel it. Know that you are not alone, there are caring people out there who will support you.
The meaning of dysfunction is: ”The condition of having poor and unhealthy behaviors and attitudes within a group of people. If you grew up in a family where the parents were abusing alcohol or drugs, if there was any type of violence, degrees of neglect,and or unrelenting poverty, then you probably did not get a childhood that was balanced and relatively healthy. There are many factors in why we develop the way we do, but these kinds of big issues in families meant that the children were not the first priority and often they had to grow themselves up without any real skills to do so.
Children learn by example and if there are missing gaps their childhood, it is harder but not impossible, to treat oneself or others in a mature and kindly way. It is important to have teachers and mentors along the way.
Some of the clients I have worked with over the years are examples of living miracles. They have had very difficult childhoods, where there has been neglect and or abuse over their time at home. And, yet, they are trying to hard to be good, responsible people and sometimes parents. You can have a good or even great life, but there are scars from those early days and it helps to recognize the triggers that are upsetting to you when dealing with your relationships and friendships.
If you grew up in a dysfunctional family, I hope you don’t feel despair but feel appreciation for the courage you show by getting up and going to work and trying to make your relationships work. Talking to a professional counselor can help you understand why you have made some of the choices you have, and also do some healing and repair work.
You have struggled as an adult with relationships and or keeping a job. You have been told or you have read articles and wonder if you have some type of label. A label that has a possible negative spin. It could feel hurtful, harmful or spiteful for someone to call or brand you as someone with a Narcissistic or Borderline Personality Disorder.
Actually, I think someone who is on the Personality Disorder spectrum, and has survived a childhood of neglect and or abuse, should understand a few things about this label. I hope when you are done reading the little that I will be writing about this, that you will get that if you grew up in a dysfunctional household, if you were not taken care of, neglected and abused in any way that you should be proud that you survived and that you are trying to grow and heal as an adult.
Someone who is on the personality spectrum did not get there out of the blue, they got there because the only way to survive a tough childhood was to grow a defensive shield of some sort and make it out of childhood to adulthood where you could create some type of life of your own. A baby who has caring parents will be cuddled, nurtured, fed and loved in a fairly consistent way. When that baby cried, after a while, he or she would be picked up, talked to and hugged. The babies basic needs would be attended to and as a parent or guardian lovingly cooed or talked to the baby, the baby could grow emotionally intact. If the baby and or child was left alone, untended to and even harmed, they would learn to either be very quiet and disappear as much as possible to avoid negative attention; or use negative behaviors and act out because there is no safety so who cares what they do.
When you grow up in a uncertain environment, your body is constantly on alert, which plays havoc on your sensitive system, you never knew if it would be safe for you to show up or not. So you have had to learn as an adult who is safe for you to be in relationships with and who you need stay away from.
There is a lot to learn and it is important to find safe people to learn from. If you grew up in one of these types of families, I hope you will honor your need for safety, trust, warmth and kindness from others and also from you for you! You might need help in learning about who you truly are. I wish you well on your journey.
I was given the challenge by a wonderful therapist, Victoria Marano in New York, to write a blog about the relationship of self-worth and compassion.
What struck me was that a part of having compassion and recognizing self-worth could be tied up with self-acceptance. If you don’t accept yourself, warts, strengths, challenges, beauty, you might not be able to feel compassion for yourself when you are struggling. You might have an inner voice that says mean things to yourself, like, why don’t you ever finish up on time, why are you always needing to be on a diet, what is wrong with you. That inner critic might hold you hostage and keep you from recognizing all of you and seeing your own worth.
Part of good mental health is the ability to be realistic about goals, what can get done in a day, what you are able to achieve on your own and what you might need help with. We are not self sufficient islands that can do everything that is needed to survive in a balanced way.
So, you might need to start taking baby steps to achieve self-acceptance and then note self-worth and ultimately have compassion for yourself when things are tough for you.
So back to Victoria’s original question is there a relationship between self-worth and compassion. I think when we feel right with ourselves and our lives, we are more able to feel a sense of self-worth, feel compassion for ourselves and for other people around us. And of course, if we have self-acceptance, we can be more realistic in our thoughts, feelings and goals.
I hope to return to this topic in February.
Some of us have experienced loss at an early age, a death of a family member, or friend, parents fighting and or getting divorced, lack of money, shelter, dysfunctional parents, you get the drift. Some of us are older when we experience heart ache, loss of a job or health, a death of a loved one, so my point in writing this is to acknowledge that all of us in some way will have to go through the grieving process. Life is set up that even if you grew up in a stable home, you will experience break ups or death and that makes us all equal.
It feels strange at times to be grieving when everyone else around us might be going on with their lives and want us to be ok. All of us need time to get through some of big feelings that have overtaken our mind, heart and spirit. Grief is a roller coaster ride, sometimes we will not know when it will hit us but it will, sometimes at the most unexpected times.
I really suggest receiving some type of support during this time. Some people like to go into their caves and isolate, if this works for you, who am I to tell you what to do. Most of us could use some type of arm to lean on, someone to talk to. There are grief groups, counselors, religious leaders, trustworthy friends or a family member to talk to.
Some people do really well with writing, art, listening to music or playing an instrument, walking in nature. Whatever you decide will be helpful to you, know that you need time to mend your grief.
Whatever you do, remember, you are not alone. Somewhere there is a listening ear and an open heart to receive you.
If you have experienced a death right around the holidays it can bring up extra stress for you. There it is, carols, lights, presents, drinks and extravagant foods, and there you are, sad, lonely, upset and not really ready to be in the spirit of the season. So what can you do? Are you allowed to take care of yourself during this time of year without feeling that you are bringing everyone else down?
You can pretend for a short period of time that you are ok but usually newly grieving folks cannot keep up the pretense for long. And the question is, why should you? Death is part of life but it is a hard part of it, losing someone you love and wanted to spend the rest of your life with, and then dealing with it was not your choice that they died when they did!
So, what can you do?
* Get plenty of rest.
* Visit with family and or friends, a few at a time that understand and will be supportive of you.
* Start new traditions that feel ok for you, if you want a tree have one, if you don’t want one, don’t have one.
* Talk to someone who understands grieving. There are grief counselors and there are grief groups especially around the holidays.
* Allow yourself to feel your sadness and know you won’t always feel this alone.
You will experience people who will say things to you that feel hurtful, insensitive and stupid, yes I wrote that word stupid. They want you to feel better quickly so that you will be your old cheerful, happy self again. Well, you are different now, you have experienced profound loss and it will take you awhile to feel in balance with life again.
Take your time, be respectful of this loss. Take care of your wounded heart.
Yes, it is that time of year again. Thanksgiving is over and here comes December. You have choices, you can make this holiday work for you or you can have the holidays work you over. Which will it be? For me, I rather make it work for me. So here are some ideas of what I think will make this year happier and more manageable.
Preparing a little at a time and simplifying so that you don’t feel overwhelmed at the last moment. Put music on while working and sing to your heart’s content. Call friends and family up and stay in touch with the people that mean alot to you.
Give to a few worthy causes and give less stuff to your children, grandchildren, other family members and friends who already have enough of everything. This year can be a year of trying new traditions, new foods, less gift gifting and spending money that might be tight. Have some fun things planned, game nights, sing fests, art projects, writing stories of childhood memories, watching old movies, all these types of activities that help the nights be less long and cold.
If you do things that help you have less stress and more fun than the holidays will be a joy and blessing instead of something to dread.
I hope you have a lovely holiday season.
It is almost Halloween which means before you know it, Thanksgiving then Christmas and Chanukah will be here. So, it is time to talk about losses and how to deal with the holidays that are just around the corner. There are different losses that we all have to deal with over our lifetimes. There is death of a family member or a dear friend. The loss of an important relationship, a loss of a job, health, loss of a beloved pet. If they have happened around the holidays or recently you are having to cope with grief while others that you know are getting ready to have parties and get-togethers.
What can you do around this time of year with all of the hoopla around you? You can honor your feelings and pay attention to what you need to do. You might want to start some new traditions around this time of year, you might want to keep it more simple, you might not want to go to all the parties or maybe, you do want company. Perhaps lighting a special candle for the person who is no longer in your life might feel comforting.
There is no right or wrong way to the way you feel. If you pretend you are all right when you aren’t, that might feel totally wrong and yet you might feel that you don’t want to bring anyone down.
If you can share how you are feeling and what you are needing from a few close people, that could be helpful. Local hospice bereavement departments usually have a talk about how to deal with the holidays. Look around you, there might be something that would be helpful just for you.
Talking, sharing, writing, walking these are activities that can bring some comfort to your sore heart. Take care
If you grew up in a home that was cold, critical and or abusive, you grew up in fear without real attachment to your parents. Growing up without support is tough, but the slant of this article is about holding hope for all those who grew up without proper love and parental guidance.
Yes, I am speaking to you about what you can to to feel healthier and happier. When you grow up in this type of environment there are possible issues you might be aware of: 1. Lack of trust, 2. Lack of stability and 3. Making poor relationship choices.
Learning without being afraid is crucial. All people make mistakes as they are growing up. It is how you learn. If you grew up with critical parents, then you did not have an opportunity to try different things to see what you liked. People learn by trial and error. An example of this would be, it’s okay to try playing the piano and then trying another instrument and seeing if that is a better fit. This is the way you start to figure out what works for you and what does not.
So here you are in the present trying to live an adult life. There might be areas that are difficult for you. How do you move on and create a solid and meaning existence? How do you figure out who is the real you inside and what you want your life to be like?
Trying new things, seeing if it is a fit, checking in with yourself and noticing what feelings come up for you is how you start to become you. Then you start to be able to make true friends and feel like you are part of a wonderful and supportive community.
So, first you have to understand that it was not your fault that your childhood was difficult. There may be some need to grieve for what you did not receive in your life. Next, finding ways to make your life work in a more constructive way, moving forward and knowing that you can have hope, love and partnership in a healthy way and that you deserve it.
Some people do this in their spiritual or religious communities, some people do well working their issues out in therapy.
Good luck on your life’s journey.