It’s a dark side of being a senior citizen that you are going to face a higher incidence of people dying than you may have seen in other eras of your life. While we all have the experience of someone we know passing away from time to time throughout life, because of the stage of life we are in as senior citizens, it is going to be more common as we move along in years.
The first big adjustment is when you start to see friends, relatives or others in your apartment complex or assisted living center pass away with some regularity. When you are going to more funerals than weddings or baby showers, you need some coping skills for dealing it. How often have you heard another senior citizen complain, “My friends keep on passing away”? It’s a fair question and one all senior citizens have to deal with at one time or another.
The real reason why that question has a sense of alarm is that the passing of a friend reminds us of our mortality and because you are in the age group where this is the only step in life beyond where you are, death seems to be closing in around you all the time. So what coping mechanisms can you use to combat the depression and the sense that the end is near for you?
First of all, when a friend or close relative dies, don’t let the first thought be about your own grief and other emotional reactions. Think about the widow, and the children of your friend and what they are going through. Ask yourself, “What can I do to be a comfort to the family?” In that way you are focusing outside yourself and on others and that is an excellent therapy for not letting the grim reaper steal vital time away from you through fear.
Secondly, don’t try to rationalize the passing of someone else. It’s really easy to explain it away by saying, “Well he didn’t take care of himself like I do so that’s why he was taken early.” That kind of thinking is paranoid and attempting to assign significance that isn’t there. You really have no idea why one person passes on earlier than another one. There aren’t any rules for this kind of thing. Death doesn’t take one because he isn’t as worthy of more life than another. Giving in to speculative explanations for why your friend passed away is what mythology is made of. And it is really a form of selfishness because you are looking to show to yourself that you are not going to be the next one to go because you live right.
When it comes right down to it, really only one thing will give you comfort about the passing of a friend and that trend of people your age passing away so often. That is to face your mortality and to come to grips with your eternal outcome. This isn’t a sermon but many of us put off trying to understand the role of religion in our lives and whether there is any credibility to the concept of an afterlife.
Better men and women than you and I have given these thoughts some serious consideration. The important thing is that you get to a place that you feel confident about your eternal outcome and that you feel you can go to the grave in peace because your spiritual “affairs are in order.” And if you can get to that place, you will not be so alarmed at the passing of someone close to you.