The Aging Process
“Age has no reality except in the physical world. The essence of a human being is resistant to the passage of time. Our inner lives are eternal, which is to say that our spirits remain as youthful and vigorous as when we were in full bloom. Think of love as a state of grace, not the means to anything, but the alpha and omega. An end in itself.”
Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Love in the Time of Cholera
I had a client once who came in with an ultimate goal of reaching happiness before turning 60. His birthday was a few weeks after our initial meeting. “What is happiness?” He asked me, “I’ve never felt that emotion and I assume it should be such a great one to experience.” We spoke about what happiness meant, and came up with it having a different meaning for everyone. As we continued on with our sessions I learned more about this client. He would often bring up his older children, how much he loved them, and how much he enjoyed spending time with his grandchildren. On one occasion he said he felt as if his children did not love him enough. He felt he was not important in their lives because they did not have time for him, and that he enjoyed the most spending time with his four year old granddaughter because he was her everything and she gave him all of her undivided attention.
This client is not alone in experiencing loneliness, unworthiness, and even depression in old age. It is very common to hear from older adults that they have these feelings. I heard my grandmother telling a friend from Church who asked if she had any family or if she lived alone, that she only had her Church sisters and God as her company. My grandmother lives with my uncle, when he works my aunt takes care of her, she spends the weekends at my parents’ house, she has eight grandchildren, eight great-grandchildren, and a very large extensive family consisting of family and friends who visit and call all the time. Yet, she feels alone.
As caretakers or children of aging adults hearing these comments can be hurtful and can create feelings of guilt. The guilt can come from wanting to do more for the parent, but being unable to due to distance or finances. It can come from feelings of shame of what you want to do versus what other people think you should do, and their thoughts about you as a son or daughter. It can come from you being a separate entity from your parent, having different thoughts, and believing that, “No, I don’t have to bring you into my home to live with me.” Although guilt can be a common response to these types of situations, you have to realize that you cannot rescue your parents from old age, and the pain and discomfort associated with it. You can only offer them your love and support.
If you are the caretaker or family member of an elderly parent and are struggling with feelings associated with their aging process, please contact Life Enhancement Counseling Services today at 407-443-8862 to schedule an appointment with one of our Orlando mental health counselors.