Troubles don’t go away as you get older
That might look like a pretty silly title. Everybody knows that. And yet there does seem to be an expectation that once we’re into, or past middle age, we really should have ourselves sorted out. And when we have to accept that we haven’t, the consequent feeling of embarrassment, or failure, stops some older people looking for help from counselling, which is a real pity.
A breakdown in a relationship, perhaps even a divorce, can be devastating at any age. If that breakdown takes place after a long time together, perhaps decades, the sense of abandonment, or guilt, or bewilderment, or the fear of being alone, can be even more difficult to deal with.
Retirement can bring a welcome period of reduced stress and increased enjoyment. But it also involves large-scale reorganisation of your life. Your routines have disappeared, you don’t see your workmates, there are no particular responsibilities to deal with or achievements to enjoy, you spend all day every day with someone you used to see only mornings, evenings and weekends. For some people, questions arise about what the point of anything is, and even who they actually are?
Bereavement is tragic at all stages of life. As we get older, it becomes more common. That does not make it easier. It can seem like an increasing mountain of sadness as we lose family and friends who will not be replaced. The losses can crowd in on our own life path and sometimes block out the light. The same goes for illness, or injuries, our own and other people’s.
Behind all these threats to our well-being is the fact of our own mortality. Of course, we have always known that we will die, everybody knows that. But now we begin to feel it, too. There may be regrets, mistakes we can’t put right, projects that seemed important that we have to admit we will never attempt.
“Enough!” you might cry. “If I wasn’t feeling depressed or anxious before, I am now!”
The counselling response is to suggest that all of the above is the stuff of life. It is not the stuff of anxiety or depression. It is the stuff of life itself. Not only can it be faced, but we can grow through facing it. Every individual is an individual, which means that there is no one-size-fits-all response. At the same time, our common humanity allows a qualified professional to recognise familiar patterns, familiar threats and a variety of ways of dealing with them, each of which can be personalised.
Turning to a counsellor is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of the desire to keep on growing.
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