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Intersection of Life and Faith

How to Have Joy in Your Golden Years Despite These 10 Life Losses

  • RJ Thesman Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
  • 2019 24 Jan
How to Have Joy in Your Golden Years Despite These 10 Life Losses

It wasn’t supposed to be this way — these years after we earned our AARP card. People talked about the Golden Years as if they were some magical resort of rest and enjoyment.

But it didn’t happen for us like it did for Grandma. No cruises to the Italian coast. No easy retirement with plenty of money to do whatever we want. No easy choices for the next decades.

Since Jesus died young, we have no divine example for the 60+ years. So how do we deal with these not-so-golden years when the abundant life is elusive and everything feels like a loss?

Photo Credit: Unsplash/rawpixel

  • 1. Loss of Friends.

    1. Loss of Friends.

    Many of us attend frequent memorial services. We’re putting on pounds from the funeral potatoes and singing “It is Well with my Soul” so often, we have it memorized. But the worst part is that our friends are leaving us behind.

    Sure, we know they’re in heaven, happy and free. But that doesn’t lessen the loss when we no longer have anyone to help us shop, go to the movies or eat out. We feel alone because we are alone. Grieving is our constant activity.

    My therapist explained that the loss of friends is deep because we know we don’t have enough time to make another lifetime friend. But we can make some new friends. Sign up to be a mentor or tutor in the public schools. Volunteer at a nonprofit. Join a book club or a yoga class.

    Photo Credit: Thinkstock/fizkes

  • 1. Loss of Friends.

    2. Loss of Work.

    Many of us planned and looked forward to retirement. The first weeks of sleeping in felt glorious. We no longer fight traffic on the daily commute. On snow days, we laugh because we don’t have to worry about the danger. We’re warm and safe.

    But the loss of job also means the loss of peers and friends. Our brains — once so active — now feel like mush. As carefully as we may have planned our finances, we are now at the mercy of the government for healthcare. Prices keep rising. Fear surges with each increase.

    If the loss of work is pulling you down into a well of remorse, apply for a part-time position. Some companies like to hire senior consultants. My city includes a special section on its website for senior workers.

    As a writing coach, I help many seniors put together that memoir they’ve always wanted to write. Share your experiences and get busy doing something productive.

    Photo Credit: Unsplash/GusMoretta

  • 1. Loss of Friends.

    3. Loss of Purpose.

    This loss is a twin of job loss. Many of us found purpose and significance in what we did every day. Now, that purpose is gone. We feel like slugs as we sit on the couch and play with the TV remote.

    We need to find another way to define our significance. The Psalmist reminds us God “fulfills his purpose for us” (Psalm 57:2). He created us for good works from the beginning of creation. We can still find divine appointments every day.

    One of my friends volunteers in the NICU section of the hospital. She holds premature babies and helps them survive through life-giving touch. This activity gives her purpose. Some children are alive because she was present.

    Another retired friend loves to bake pies. He bakes two per week and supplies a local Christian coffee shop with delicious pastries. He uses his love of baking to initiate a new purpose.

    Photo Credit: Thinkstock/GeorgeRudy

  • 1. Loss of Friends.

    4. Loss of Health.

    This loss may surprise us because it sidelines us so quickly. Many of my friends live with chronic pain and constant doctor visits. Their medical bills climb as their bodies decline. This loss is part of the aging process and ultimately — all of us suffer from it.

    But we can look forward to that day when our weary bodies are left behind, and our spirits soar to heaven. We can spend the down time praying for our families, surrounding ourselves with good music and reaching out via the internet to others.

    One of my friends has muscular sclerosis. She lives in her wheelchair, but once a week she calls to encourage my writing ministry. She calls herself a CEO: Chief Encouragement Officer. She is one of my she-roes.

    Photo Credit: Pexles/RawPixel

  • 1. Loss of Friends.

    5. Loss of Hope.

    When the losses pile up, we can easily slip into discouragement. But when the gloomies deepen and we find ourselves thinking more about death than life, it’s time to seek help.

    Psalm 90:14 reminds us God is the one who satisfies us with his love every morning. When life seems hopeless, we can depend on the faithfulness of his love.

    Get out of the house. Talk to a therapist. Ask your doctor for anti-depressants. Go to the mall and walk. Exercise stimulates endorphins that help us feel better. Check out a funny movie from the library and laugh. For your birthday, ask your family for the video series of “I Love Lucy” or “Carol Burnett.”

    Photo Credit: Unsplash

  • 1. Loss of Friends.

    6. Loss of Memory.

    Because my mother suffers from Alzheimer’s, this loss is the one that scares me the most. If I have a blip of memory loss, I immediately pray, “Oh God, Oh God, I can’t stand it. Don’t let me have Alzheimer’s.”

    The brain ages along with the rest of the body. But we can work to activate new pathways. First, don’t assume memory blips are the worst-case scenario. Get checked for a urinary tract infection which often causes a brain lapse. Allergies, diabetes, side effects from medicines — all these issues can lead to forgetfulness.

    Nutrition helps, especially eliminating processed sugars. So avoid the dessert at the funeral dinners. The herb rosemary is helpful for memory and so is turmeric. Do simple tasks with your non-dominant hand, such as brushing your teeth or opening doors. A simple change in routine opens new brain pathways. Breathe deeply and stop worrying about your memory.

    Photo Credit: Pexels/RodolfoClix

  • 1. Loss of Friends.

    7. Loss of Faith.

    As we age, we may spend more time in reflection than dreaming about the future. We still believe in God, but we also remember the prayers that weren’t answered, the “Why” questions never addressed. By this time, we expected God to rescue us and get us out of this mess. But it didn’t happen. The joy of the Lord is supposed to be our strength, but we don’t feel joyful. We feel weak.

    Focus instead on the attributes of God. One of the phrases my character used in the Reverend G trilogy was, “The question is ‘why’ but the answer is ‘Who.’” How has God been faithful to you throughout the years?

    Keep a gratitude journal. Write at least three things you are grateful for each day. They don’t have to be super spiritual. Birds huddled on a telephone wire. The cold nose of the dog who loves you unconditionally. The body part that doesn’t hurt. Speak your gratitudes out loud and remember, God has not lost faith in you.

    Photo Credit: Pexles/Pixabay

  • 1. Loss of Friends.

    8. Loss of Dreams.

    Maybe you never married or never had children. All your friends keep bragging about their grandkids, but you have no pictures to show off. Maybe you struggled through divorce late in life, the dreaded “gray divorce” that left you without a home or financial security. Your dreams floated away, replaced by scabs of soul regret.

    Some lucky people do realize their dreams and live out their last years surrounded with love. It’s hard not to covet their seemingly easy lives. We all have segments of Plan A that didn’t work out, so we focus on a different direction. Reidentify yourself. Move in a different direction.

    Sheryl Sandburg, VP of Facebook, suddenly lost her husband, Dave. He suffered a heart attack while working out in the gym. She had two young children to raise and a corporate position to maintain. She learned a great deal about loss and grief, then wrote Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience and Finding Joy. She talks about post traumatic growth, a more positive idea than PTSD. Here's a link: https://optionb.org/book.

    Photo Credit: Thinkstock

  • 1. Loss of Friends.

    9. Loss of Passion.

    When we were young, we felt great passion for the future. Maybe we signed up for a lifetime of serving God in missions. Or we studied hard to earn our degrees and devoted our lives to one job.

    Now, we feel dried up and used up. The positive emotions of passion no longer pulse through our hearts. Love for ourselves and others. Excitement about new projects. The fervor to set new goals and the energy to accomplish them. Gone. The golden years feel like those golden raisins in my refrigerator – all shriveled up. Yet, they still taste good on my cholesterol-busting oatmeal.

    Part of the grieving process is the level of acceptance. Sometimes we have to realize this is just the season we’re in. If we can find new passions — great.

    It helps me to have a pet, someone else to take care of. It also helps me to watch my favorite sports teams. I can still muster passion for the Jayhawks and the Chiefs, yell at the refs when they make mistakes and cheer when we win.

    Photo Credit: Thinkstock-BowdenImages

  • 1. Loss of Friends.

    10. Piles of Loss.

    The most difficult loss is the compounded one. When we wonder if God and Satan are playing another Job-like game. This time, we’re the victims.

    When everything piles up and losses accumulate, remember this is only a season. At some point, this mess will end. How we react today is more important than how we find our way out some time in the future.

    Younger people are watching us. Family members still depend on us to be the matriarchs and patriarchs of faith. Life on this earth will not become easier with time. The book of Revelation is a constant reminder.

    But we don’t have to let the losses destroy us. We can use some of the tools mentioned in this article and keep our focus upward.

    When everything seems out of whack, repeat the lovely words of Isaiah 46:4. Our loving God speaks hope to our hearts, “Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.”

    RJ Thesman finds her passion coaching writers, editing books, speaking in various venues and writing words of hope. She is the author of 11 books and more than 800 articles. Connect with RJ on her website: RJThesman.net.

    Photo Credit: Thinkstock/digitalskillet