It is like an unwanted companion, a spectre which is omnipresent in our lives.
It haunts us as it taunts us, its grip on us is relentless and seemingly heartless.
It just won’t leave us alone in our dotage and leave us in peace.
Its name is grief.
Our senior years are filled with endless vignettes of grief.
We seem to wear a perpetual mantle of sadness.
Of course, the first thing we think of when we speak of grief is death.
We attend more funerals than we do any other celebrations.
Death alters the course of our life and the way we navigate it. We don’t necessarily accept the loss; rather we adjust to it.
My sister’s husband has recently died. It’s as if her breath has been sucked out of her body, as if one of her limbs has been severed. Having been together for over fifty years, it is incomprehensible to imagine a life going forward without his presence both literally and figuratively. Their lives were symbiotic, their thoughts and breaths almost as one.
It’s as if a large part of her has died with him.
That is grief, raw and messy.
But there are many other losses; namely symbolic or intangible losses which we are faced with as we age.
The grieving process is similar and not to be dismissed as frivolous.
Recently, my guy and I golfed with a friend and her husband. As a young senior, my friend’s husband is grieving the complete annihilation of his career as a result of COVID as well as experiencing ongoing physical problems. His golf game is suffering and he is not a happy man.
You might say to him, stop whining and get on with your life. Reinvent yourself.
Easier said than done as he must first acknowledge and work through his grief before he can move on. He is mourning the loss of his past self and identity and he is floundering as he doesn’t recognize or know who he is anymore. His sense of self autonomy has been stripped away.
Retirement, either voluntary or forced can result in a grieving cycle as we ponder the existential question of the meaning of life post-career. We strive to find a new purpose in our daily existence and a new rhythm of life which has significance for us.
My guy still grieves the loss of his acreage and what he refers to as the detritus of life.
And what about our aging bodies?
If our walking is compromised while we await hip and/or knee replacements, we grieve the loss of our mobility and independence.
That conjures up an entire plethora of losses. The loss of our youth, our looks, our hair. I look in the mirror and I have no idea who that person staring back at me is. But at least I still have my own teeth and my face is unmutilated by cosmetic alterations of a dubious nature.
As our music icons are dropping like flies; namely, Leonard Cohen, Ian Tyson, Robbie Robertson and Gordon Lightfoot, we mourn the personal connections we had with their songs. Our relationship with the music has been brutally assaulted and so we grieve.
Globe and Mail editor, Adrian Lee recently penned “when we lose a beloved product, we lose a part of ourselves.” I can relate to that as I have been mourning the loss of my favourite lipstick for years now, still unable to find a suitable replacement.
So grief is grief no matter what it looks like or feels like. It is symbolic, legitimate and real.