Lessons I’ve Learned From the Loss of A Loved One

Well, what says you? I have been retired for some years now and so are my friends. Not only that, many in my circle have now passed on—a staggering reality for many Seniors. 

Loss of a Loved One
Loss of a Loved One

My husband passed away three years ago, and only today, another in our high school class more than 50 years ago also died. 

Death is so much a part of life. More so in our senior years. The earlier we accept this reality, the better will be our appreciation when it takes place in our lives.

We all dread it, I understand. But, at one time or another, someone who is so much a part of our life passes on. The pain and the loss are something you don’t want to wish on, even your worst enemy. 

How do you go through this? How do you manage? When, even amid fun, the memory of the loved one who passed on occupies your thoughts? How do you forget? 

How do you hold the tears that, at any moment, pour out? How can you enjoy anything when your thoughts often return to not being there?

Loss can be debilitating. It can ground you in misery, fear, and loneliness. Even with supportive family and friends, it is not like having your loved one there.

Here are some lessons I’ve learned:

  1. I realized how valuable companionship is, to have someone to laugh with, express your fears, foresee your reaction and smile at it understandably, hold your hand when the movie scares you, or discuss the often perplexing events in today’s world. 
  2. I have to learn to do many things on my own. Eating out alone in a restaurant gives me a bit of discomfort. Or going to a movie or a show on my own. There’s no one to whisper some comments to or share your delight over a dish or a performance.
  3. I don’t enjoy long drives alone. When my husband was around, our long drives were moments of getting to know things in our past, childhood, or thoughts about many things. The sharing somehow becomes more intimate and genuine. Listening to the radio now doesn’t cut it.
  4. I don’t enjoy socializing on my own. It’s like half is missing. My husband was very gregarious and never wanting for words and stories. I, on the other hand, would prefer only to listen. Now, I have to talk more. Maybe, this is not so bad after all.
  5. It’s always fun to have someone around you to harass, laugh with, cry on, love, and be loved. No matter how much you search for a replacement, it is not the same. Mourn your loss. It is important to do this. However, you have to move on and look for ways to live life after your loss. It is not the end. It is the beginning of something different, fascinating and satisfying when you allow yourself to experience it.

A friend told me that those who died are still with us, and I like this. I talk to my husband all the time. When driving, I ask him to help me navigate the traffic, make it easy to merge on the highway, and don’t forget to close the gas cover or leave my credit card or wallet on the pump.

I see friends in other countries. At least I have company in seeing places and enjoying restaurants in those cities. I see friends where I live. 

I have learned to be close to family, travel with them once in a while, visit them, and hang out with them. As was the case before, I have come to appreciate them more as I relate with them directly and not through my husband. 

I have worked on my fears and my tendency to depend on someone. I learn to do things like driving long distances, fixing things, taking care of things on my own, and dealing with loneliness. 

Each one of us deals with loss in a different way. 

But I have many friends who have lived alone because they have not married, divorced, or widowed. I’ve learned how to take things in stride from them and not let matters overwhelm me. They kept telling me that they’d done it for many years. Why am I complaining? Somehow, this pushes me to do the things I dread doing.

After three years, I feel I’m getting into the rhythm of living alone. As much as the first day it happened, I am still my husband, but I can cope with life alone.

I found how valuable a good relationship with our families and friends is. It’s strong support as I deal with my loss. I don’t think I would have managed if not for these relationships.

A Walk in the Woods

It’s Spring—time to be at the cottage. When I arrived, the leaves were not out yet. The trees were bare, and I could see much more.

Wild Flowers in the Woods

Because the plants growing underneath these trees are getting more sun, they’ve come to open themselves to the rays of the mighty sun and open themselves in beautiful blooms carpeting the woods with its flowers. It’s lovely to see these blooms coming out of the rotting leaves. Life is back. It is in color.

Lily of the Valley

This year, there are many surprises. One of the best is the Lily of the Valley. I haven’t seen it for years, but this year, it surprised me. I thought I was dreaming, but it was there with its fragrant tiny flowers.

But my favorite is always the trillium. In the early Spring, it fills the woods with white flowers. Then, after pollination, they turn to mauve. There’s the occasional mix of deep purple and yellow.

The violets are out, too. Mixed with the bright dandelions, it’s a field to admire.

These flowers bloom whether we are there or not to admire them. It just is—Nature’s prime lesson at this time. This being is what we can model in our lives as seniors. Wilting and dropping are parts of life. We celebrate it as we do the rising and the blooming.

Observing Nature with its changes every season, I think of the seasons in our lives. We go through stages, and when this happens, we resist with force and try all ways to alter them. Instead, Nature shows us how to be with the changes and live through them. Be excited about them.

Living through these changes is not at all a passive stance. It is a complete acceptance of what is happening and living it thoroughly, just as we delight to watch what will spring out every season and where one’s favorite flower will show itself this year.

Every year added to our age is something we need to celebrate. It always brings with it something new, something different. It expands our awareness of our being and how wonderfully made we are.

Today, for example, I found out I can move my left chest and right chest, my left hip, and my right hip, and as I breathe into them, I give them more energy. I am discovering more of my body as it calls my attention with its aches and pains.

Being old is not that bad. At times, we only focus on the deterioration of our bodies. We miss listening to the wisdom our bodies have learned in all its years of existence.

As I walk through the woods and look up at the trees, I see the new leaves sprouted. I thought to myself, and they’re all new. I thought of how they proudly displayed their beautiful colors in the Fall, and off they went when the winds blew.

As we age, we think of our prime days when we were vigorous, highly productive, and recognized. When we retire, we look with envy at the accomplishments of the younger ones and sometimes put them down. We talk of the good old days, much better than they have now.

Is this what we have learned from those many years? Is this what we can offer the younger generation? There must be a wiser way.

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Do Something WOW at Retirement

Retirement

Seniors, what is that WOW you so desire? This is your chance at living it. Some of us may think this WOW is beyond our means. Maybe it is. But this is the challenge and having one at retirement makes life more exciting. 

We are now retired for 20 years the joy of early retirement) and each year is an adventure. Some are fun and easy and smooth sailing. Others are more challenging but all these contribute to what retirement is all about.

Before we retired, we struggled about what we will do. We had options laid out. We were clear about what we did not want but for what we want to do, we had no clue at all.

I can clearly remember the many walks we had on Siesta Key beach in Florida talking endlessly of what we want to do, each of us often left with thoughts on what the implications of these possibilities are.

We were concerned. We were uncertain. We were afraid of what the future held for us. We were afraid of where our dreams would bring us or how the dream of one of us would affect our lives. We hesitated to think as we did not want so many changes to our already happy existence.

But we knew that we could not just sit and watch endless streams of movies on television. We had to explore opportunities out there. We were still too young not to be engaged.

Once we started, we just kept going. We used our experience to start our own consulting and we just did this for 20 years. We cannot even tell you how much we enjoyed it. Until now, we have friends and colleagues all over the world with whom we worked and shared life.

We would take contracts only scheduled for the winter months which we wanted to avoid in Canada. Summer months were reserved for family. Our families lived in different parts of the world so Summer became our special time with each other.

Enough of my own experience. Now, back to you.

What image comes to you when retirement looms in your horizon? The end of fun? A quiet life? A trip somewhere? A life with family? Live your dream?

Most of us think of that day when we can do what we really like. Often, we associate this with retirement. But I tell you honestly, many of us who are now retired sometimes feel that we still are not able to do this. 

Yes, we find that our days are spent in countless little errands that by the time the day is over, there is no more time to do what we really like other than stretch out and have that glass of wine. Does this count? Most of our friends will definitely say yes. 

Of course, it depends on your own goal.

Many retirees enjoy doing little errands and taking care of grandchildren. Full-time grandmas fill up their time and this is their life. 

I know many of my friends do this and they enjoy it. They go with their grandchildren to their swimming practise, piano lessons or bring them to school. it depends on what you enjoy doing. 

My husband is not the only one. We just worked with someone who is 73 years old and had already 3 heart attacks. He loves to collect rare ceramics in blue and he works to be able to buy the more expensive ones which may overstretch his retirement pension.

Younger people now work harder and smarter to reach a much younger age to retire and be able to live the lifestyle they want. Others, just declare early retirement and live it NOW.

The style you choose to live your retirement depends on you. Many people now retire early. Once they have achieved their commitment and goals, they’re gone. But many, continue to get engaged. My husband retired when he was 53.

He was one of those lucky ones to have that freedom at such a younger age but he continued working until he passed on at 75. This time, he was doing what he really likes. He was no longer responsible for an organization so the stress was less and he enjoyed what he was doing.

How will you live your retirement?

The quality of your retirement will largely depend on the plan you have laid out not when you’re about to retire but early in your life. 

There are retirement concerns you can plan for but there are others you will only discover when you are retired.  But planning for the ones you know will help you deal with those concerns that you only find out as you live your retirement.

The good news is you have more wisdom to deal with these challenges so look forward to these as opportunities to expand your life. Having these challenges may still be the best thing that will ever happen to you.

7 Reasons to Celebrate Ageing

Celebrating Ageing
Celebrating Ageing in a Song

Ageing with anger is a speciality of Irish poets, American novelists and aahhhhh maybe, Indian pilots. For the rest of us, ageing can be an absolute joy.


If we’re very lucky, a sense of grace falls over us and although enigmatic smiles sometimes betray indigestion or even secret flatulence, they can also suggest that we’ve come to terms with our lives, that we can live with our own histories, that we’re not competitive in our legacies and that the world is not only the place to be but by far the best.


Money could be a part of this but looking at poor villagers in any Asian country, the smile of peace is there, the sense of being a part of a family’s history and its endless future has brought watchful contentment. 


Here are a few key reasons that ageing can be a blessing:


1. We enjoy life

Laughing at our own and others foibles leads to curious glances from others but it can really make an average day a good one.

My friend recently told me that sometimes while doing something very ordinary as cleaning her house, she stops and enjoys the fact that she feels really happy. We seldom felt this before if we ever did. We were so busy with living that we did not have time to pause and just feel our joy.

But now, we do have the time to savour whatever we feel and better still, whatever it is we are feeling, they no longer threaten us. Lfe has taught us that nothing really stays. The next moment, it’s going to be different. Everything turns for the good.

2. We celebrate what we have 

We have climbed the mountains, we poked around in a few of the depths. and we can now relax and stop wrestling with missed promises.

We have nothing to prove. We’ve gone beyond that. If you still are trying to outdo your friends. you have not grown. By this time, your friends know you very well and accept you as you are, so, relax and accept yourself and enjoy life by just being you.

Some in our circle of Seniors have not yet reached this moment of self acceptance. They still try to prove they are somebody so they get stressed at little things which do not support their image of themselves. They do everything to prove that they are better than anyone else and pressure their kids to enhance their image. But because we really can’t control circumstances and people like our kids, we get frustrated and eventually depressed.

With depression comes poor health and sickness. It’s our way of manipulating people and events. Our Senior years must not be like this. It must be enjoyed and lived joyfully. Let the cares and concerns of our earlier lives go and embrace what is, enjoy it and cherish whatever you have.

Nothing like the breath of life felt every morning could compare to all these concerns. Enjoy every day. Remember, we have limited supply of these so enjoy every moment.

3. We accept our shortcomings

In our 40s and 50s, mirrors are a tragedy. As we age, and gently become self caricatures not just physically but emotionally, our weaknesses fit in nicely to the thing we’ve become.

No longer do we have shortcomings. We realize that shortcomings are part of life and will always be there. We know this from experience so we are now able to laugh when we look at them. We can’t deny the aching body, the stooping posture, the wrinkled face, the constant reminder of arthritis, the blurred vision. We do something about them but we don’t let these stop us from enjoying our lives.

Yes, what we have become is what we celebrate in our Senior years. When we look at ourselves, each one of us, there are so many things we can celebrate in our last 60, 70, 80 or 90 years of life. Just the fact that we have reached this age alive, we should be happy. This, alone, is reason to celebrate.

4. We have clearer priorities mainly because we don’t have so many of them. 

We have time and space to focus on what is really important whether that’s learning or family or sports nostalgia or the craziness of politics. we can pick our spots. Besides, age has made us realize that only few things really matter. The many things we pursued when we were younger no longer have the same intensity in our Senior years.

5. We accept our grumpiness and go and hide when we feel it coming on. 

The random savaging of children, grandchildren and trim adherents are at last controlled.

Age has taught us that most things can be managed. Also, we have less stress so very few things worry us. We have reached an age when we know we can no longer do much so we let go.

6. We embrace everything that we are

More searching for who we really are? We’ve stopped that. We have accepted who we are, knowing it or not.

I remember the angst of younger years when we were driven by getting to know what careers fit us, what will I do with my life, how can I make myself better, what job will really be fun for me and many more. Now, I laugh at the fact that at my age, I still don’t really know myself and will never fully know as it reveals more each time I think I have a handle to what I really am.

7. Most importantly, we can sit back and reflect on our lives and the age we’ve lived through.

Even if our own story is not filled with drama, the headlines and achievements and tragedies of the world that have been our companion can consume hours of review and end with some tentative conclusions or insights that if we’re really careful, we can sell to the young as wisdom.


So, ageing is not the only thing we have ahead of us. It may also be the best time of life.