There is a common notion that there are multiple stages of grief. Some of these stages include denial, bargaining, depression, acceptance, and often, anger. Anger is an emotion that many of us experience during the grieving process. We often associate grief with the loss of a loved one but it is important to recognize that people can grieve for the loss of other things like the loss of one’s youth. The physical decline associated with the later stages of aging is difficult for anyone to experience so we should do our best to address concerns and issues regarding aging.
When someone is experiencing grief from their loss of youth it can sometimes be detected from comments they make. It is common to hear them look back with remorse at lost youth and with the loss of functionality and strength that happens when we age. The problem with being angry about growing old is that it can involve lashing out at those closest to us. Because of the frustration with our aging bodies, our temper flares up spontaneously at a loved one or caregiver. We know it would be in both the elderly and the caregiver’s best interest if a person finds ways to cope with the anger about aging in a more productive way. This is easier said than done.
The question now is how do we manage the anger we naturally feel at seeing ourselves decline?
The answer starts with recognizing that anger sometimes comes with a false sense of entitlement. We feel “entitled” to things and situations given our efforts and situations. And, anger comes when our expectations do not line up with reality. For example, a false sense of entitlement comes when we come to the conclusion that we do not deserve to get old, or perhaps that it is not fair that our bodies age the way they tend to do. One of the best ways to confront and put aside that sense of entitlement is to recognize it and name it. It seems simplistic to just come out and recognize that everybody grows old and we are not entitled to be exempt from the changes that come with aging. But if we can recognize this consciously, it will help take anger out of the loop when we are coping with the effects of aging.
Resolution of grief comes when our expectations line up with reality. The attempt to deny the advance of aging does not stop the aging process and if anything, that conflict and tension can build up stress in oneself and lead to further complications if not managed. If we can recognize that the experience of aging is natural then we can continue to take steps to take care of ourselves and foster a healthier attitude towards aging.
By focusing on diet, daily activities, and relationships with others, then we can reduce some of the stress that comes with aging and increase our ability to focus on what helps us feel at our optimal state. Moreover, we could feel more happy and fulfilled personally and this shift in our emotions can go a long way toward keeping us young at heart. This is one of the best ways to turn back the effects of aging from the inside out.