31 Days of Aging Gracefully: Day 28 — Accepting Loss

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Learning to live with loss — loss of all kinds — can happen at any age. For me, it happened later in life. For my eldest daughter, it happened way too early. The man she fell in love with in high school, married after her first year in college, had three sons with . . . he died a difficult death after twenty years of marriage. She was 40.

Other than grandparents (one died when I was 6, one when I was 18, one when I was 23, and one when I was 53!), no one close to me died until I was in my fifties. My best friend died just before we moved to Santa Barbara in 1996. And our dads died 13 and 10 years ago, Dick’s mom last year. My mom is still here. So the loss of loved ones through death is not something I’ve had to grapple with until mid-life.

But I’m here to tell you that there are lots of things that are lost as you move through the years, and not just to death. I have much less bounce in my step these days, not so much elasticity in my skin, either. My handwriting is nearly illegible — not that it was ever great, but you could read it, once upon a time.

Even without mentioning the excess pounds I carried for so many years, this body has had a ton of wear and tear across these decades. Aging skin does very strange things. And don’t get me started about the hair — on my head and everywhere else. Oy vey

No one told me that menopause would be so devastating emotionally. It came as a complete shock to me to grieve the end of having periods at the age of 49. Something about removing options, perhaps? Whatever the causes may be, it did a number on me. 

Now, over twenty years later, I am somewhat more phlegmatic about it all. I’ve learned to roll with it a bit better and not invest so much of my own personal sense of identity in how my body functions and what it looks like. Yes, there are definitely pieces or regret remaining. but overall, I’ve mellowed a bit . . . I hope! After all, aging is the way of nature, the way of time, the way of earth-living. And while losses need to be acknowledged and grieved, they are not the whole story.

Which is precisely why I’ve left this topic (and the biggest one of all — death) for the end of this particular series. Why? Because this series is about embracing and owning the truth that we all age. WE ALL GET OLD. There is no way around it. It is both the price and the privilege of living a long time. So while grief needs to be allowed to exist and run its course, it cannot rule the day.

Learning to live with loss is a necessity, a requirement for these last decades. But here’s a more central truth, one that I want to live every day for however many days may be granted to me: what remains is lovely. And I am grateful for it.

How do you choose to live with loss? What kinds of loss are the hardest for you? Which ones are surprising?

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Comments

  1. besides the obvious of losing family members (as if we live a long life, friends) there are others that sound less big, but somehow they aren’t’, not because of the thing itself , but what it represents – like:

    * gravity starting to pull on your face. I seem to have good genes for skin, but still…it is starting.
    * i’m not going to ever try snow skiing or water skiing. I wanted to try that but the opportunity never seemed to present itself at the right time.
    * ice skating or trying roller blading. Not gonna even try anymore. About 5 or 6 years ago, the last time i tried ice skating, i went three feet and landed on my back – blood on the back of my head to show for it.

    and I am very aware of how subtraction works – looking at how old I might live to be based on the longevity of my parents and grandparents, subtracting my age now gives me a lot LESS years to potentially be alive than it used to.

    Appreciating this series – One thing i do love about this age is the grandchildren, and the keep settled love between my husband and I. We have worked hard at our relationship and the payoff is worth it indeed.

    • Yes, indeed, there is all kinds of loss going on — every single day. And I’m with you. Grandchildren are HUGE positive part of this whole aging thing.

  2. I miss walking for an hour a day. The old knees are happy with that.

  3. Aging is definitely not for sissies. Like you, Diana, I choose to treasure the loveliness of each day God gives to me.
    Blessings!

  4. Last week I realized that I was anticipating loss now that I am in my fifties. That is unwise and I know it. Absolutely, it is counterproductive to grieve anticipated loss and not enjoy what is. I think that is why having an eternal perspective is so important but not always easy to have. I’m preaching to myself!! 🙂

    • Good point! Anticipating loss is not a good idea. Sometimes it’s hard to avoid, though! The best thing for me is to be as fully in the present moment as I can. That helps me to stop imagining negative future possibilities!

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