Finding the Gift in Grief

reverse mortgage blogA few months ago I wrote a personal essay about Awakening to Grief. It’s natural to associate grief with the loss of a loved one. But with aging come other kinds of losses.

As one insightful HECM loan originator opines from his vast experience working with seniors, “I believe there is another kind of grieving as well…for sake of a better term, I will simply call it ‘anticipated grief’. It might come from knowing you will soon suffer the loss of a loved one or even maybe a family pet, and you anticipate the end and begin having feelings of grief before the event happens. A person suffering from depression could slip into the same type of feelings from just worrying too much about things that might happen, but often don’t.”

His observations are spot-on: my brother’s beloved Boston Terrier isn’t yet four years old, yet my brother already worries about losing her.

What happens, then, when a loss is intensely personal — perhaps the ability to walk, or one of our five senses? Is it remotely possible that such a deeply distressing event could contain a silver lining?

“There’s something about grief that calls us to life,” says psychotherapist Wendy Lustbader, author of Life Gets Better: The Unexpected Pleasures of Growing Older.

“We understand our own parents better as we age, and perhaps most poignantly, we understand them best after they die,” she says. “This awareness opens us up to our own path of conscious aging. As our parents become old and close to death, we will make discoveries as they are making discoveries about who they are.” This can be equally true with reverse mortgage clients and prospects, if we are aware of these changes and alert to what they might mean.

Lustbader cites the powerful story of a woman who was losing her vision to macular degeneration, and was understandably resentful and angry. She brushed away all offers of assistance. Then one day she had an epiphany as she watched sunlight streaming through her window: she would retain the ability to see light and color. This awareness radically shifted her perspective. And then, something totally unexpected transpired. The woman decided to hold a book giveaway for her extensive personal library. While there, two friends each spontaneously offered to come read to her. Lustbader relates that, “the intimacy of being read to, the incredible lovingness of it, filled a part of her heart that had been very lonely. Her readers also felt nourished by it.” Lustbader sees this with many people who are going through serious physical losses: the surprising gifts that can emerge from loss. Slowing down enables us to see the world in a different way.

Another shining example: A 19-year-old man who’d read her book attended a family wedding, and found himself seated at a table with his elder aunts. In the past, he would have been bored; this time, curious, he ventured to ask about their lives. “My aunties came alive!” he emailed Lustbader. His mental picture shifted from “a bunch of old ladies” to vibrant, interesting people with fascinating stories to share. He wrote, “Thank you for giving me my family back!”

What’s also poignant is the recognition that ageism isn’t confined to the young: a healthy woman in her eighties who was considering moving to a retirement community saw walkers lined up against the dining room wall and thought, “I don’t want to become one of them!” She was perceptive in acknowledging her own negative bias.

How can reverse mortgage professionals help transform perceptions of aging? As we’ve discussed before, change begins with deep listening, without an agenda.

There can be grace and gifts hidden in life changes that initially cause grief. To slow down enough to allow these gifts to surface, and to accept what is, are two keynotes of successful aging.

4 comments

don mccue April 7, 2015 at 9:55 am

This is my 16th year originating reverses the blessings of working with seniors were not obvious in the beginning far from it to be truthful but over time it has been a remarkable opportunity and I’m glad I chose it

Reply
Amara Rose April 7, 2015 at 11:48 am

Don,

Thank you for your heartfelt comment. I’m sure the seniors you serve feel equally blessed to be working with you!

Reply
Carol Hurst April 7, 2015 at 10:15 am

HOW INSIGHTFUL!!!
Thanks so much for another opportunity to encourage looking at the giftedness of life. YOU definitely have a gift of perception and the ability to share that perception via the printed word.

Reply
Amara Rose April 7, 2015 at 11:51 am

Thanks so much, Carol! There are many people doing wonderful work in the positive aging field now, and it’s a joy to share their insights and suggestions with the reverse mortgage community.

Reply

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