Embracing The Second Spring in Your Life

Thank you once again HealthToday Malaysia for the interview for Oct 2021 issue.

Life is a journey, one without any certainty that we will reach the destination that we have had in our minds. Sure, we may make plans for the future, but there’s truth to the saying that life can often take us down unexpected twists and turns during our journey.

Sometimes, we have been traveling down a road for so long that we become confident that we know what we will be doing for the months, maybe even years ahead. Then it happens. Separation from of death of a partner, the children growing up to lead lives of their own and becoming less dependent on us, and other life-changing events—these events can leave us at a crossroad, unsure of what we should do now with ourselves on the days ahead. It can also be frightening to make a decision as to what we should do.

Counselor Faith Foo believes that changes in life, big or small, are inevitable. She joins us this month to take a look at how we can move beyond the crossroads of life, to embrace these changes and find the second spring in life. A second spring, that marks a new beginning that will hopefully bring us fulfilment, joy, and peace.

THE WIDOW’S STORY

It had been a year since Mary lost her husband to a sudden heart attack. Her husband had taken care of their daily affairs all that while, so now Mary is now having a hard time figuring out the bills she needed to pay every month as well as pending financial and legal issues stemming from her husband’s passing.

She felt foolish and overwhelmed because there were so many things she couldn’t understand. She had also never learned how to drive (her husband drove them around in the past), and now she had to depend on her children to take her anywhere.

Mary felt useless and stupid, and she missed her husband so much—she never felt so lost and alone when he was by her side.

FAITH’S ADVICE

For people in Mary’s situation, focus on what you can still do, not what you used to be able to do. You’ll see just how much you still have to offer.

Also, involve your family members as you need emotional support and advice. What Mary need is the support of her children. Her children need to help her find meaning and purpose again. They should never make the mistake of making her feel useless to the rest of the family.

Sometimes, we thought we are showing our concern for older persons in our family, such as by asking them not to work and leave everything to other members of the family (such as ordering food online). While we may think that we are doing them a favour, we may instead be inadvertently making them feel unneeded or useless. They may feel that they are a burden to the family.

Mary’s children can volunteer to assist her if she remained unwilling to approach them first. Communication is important, as they should explain to their mother important details, update her on recent developments, and assure Mary that things are still within her control.

They should not keep her in the dark or spare her from not-so-good news. They may think they are protecting her, but they may end up doing more harm than good.

As a family, our shared experiences will only make the bond between us stronger. Keeping one in the dark will make them felt alienated. Should Mary find out that her children have been keeping her in the dark, she will feel even less in control of her life. She will become more afraid of the uncertainties she is facing in her life.

WHY OLDER PERSONS FEEL AFRAID

Faith shares that any older persons are afraid because they feel that they are useless. For someone that used to have a busy life consisting of building a career, raising children, taking care of the family, etc, it can be a drastic change when they no longer are needed to carry out these tasks. They will need to start anew, to find new purpose and meaning in life again, and this process can be a gradual one. Should they succeed in doing so, the fear will fade.

THE GRANDMOTHER’S STORY

Sue had devoted much of her life to taking care of her children and, later, her grandchildren. Her grandchildren are now in secondary school, however, and are less reliant on their grandmother to take care of them.

Now that she has more free time on her hands, she doesn’t know what to do with herself! It crosses her mind to perhaps take up a hobby, but she has been so used to her routine that she isn’t confident that she is able to learn anything new at this point in her life.

FAITH’s ADVICE

To those in Sue’s position, always remember your children (and grandchildren!) still needs you and always will, but you are now more of an advisor, supporter, and a pillar of strength.

Instead of trying to have control over the details of your children’s life, focus on coping with your discomfort in healthy ways. Do not just focus on your children—you still have a life for yourself.

Occupy your free time with activities you enjoy doing. If you need something new to pick up, here are some ideas:

  • Pursue the hobbies, interests, or activities that you didn’t have time for when the kids were at your home.
  • Take up a class on an interesting topic such as baking, sewing, singing, dancing, drawing, etc.
  • Reconnect with old friends on social media. If you are unsure, asking your kids to teach you can also be a nice way to keep bonding with them!
  • Learning a new skill from books, Internet, or classes.
  • Volunteer at an NGO or charity, doing simple tasks as cutting vegetables or cooking at a soup kitchen, etc.

To expound on that last point, having an altruistic attitude when it comes to the wellness of other people can help brighten up your life with positive emotions as well as happiness and fulfilment that comes from having a sense of greater purpose.

Hence, look for opportunities to help others, no matter how small your gestures may appear. Over time, having an empty nest will get easier. You’ll get used to your children being in charge of their own life, and at the same time, you will begin to settle down into a new kind of normalcy in your life.

A DATE WITH THE SECOND SPRING IN LIFE

As we have seen from stories of people such as Mary and Sue, changes in life as we age can leave an inedible impact on our mood, self-worth, and confidence. Nonetheless, there are still many ways to find new purpose in life, to continue to feel engaged with the world.

“I am inspired by how people in China consider ageing to be the ‘second spring’,” Faith tells us. “In this culture, one’s golden years are seen as a positive time of creativity and new beginnings, when women often find a new and more confident voice. There is an acknowledgement of the wisdom that women have acquired during earlier years and a feeling that life experiences can be put to use in many ways, often by helping and advising others, such sharing a ‘secret recipe’.”

As we age, Faith explains that we will inherently need other people in ways that may seem unfamiliar or even strange. For example, our children will have their own lives and their own families, and as we age, our increasing frailty may see us depending on our children more and more instead.

“The good news is that seniors always have something to offer,” Faith says. “Regardless of age or physical condition, they can combine their love, skills, experience, and knowledge to contribute to society, their community, or their family in various ways. Even though old age can cause health and mobility issues that restrict seniors’ choices for activities, there can always be a way of adapting to the new situation that is still meaningful and purposeful.”

FAITH’S ADVICE

  • Focus on the positive aspects of life—old age isn’t our enemy, and ageing can be strength instead of weakness. Over time, having the right mindset will support our efforts to find new meaning and purpose in life.
  • Develop a sense of gratitude, an important component of a happier life.
  • Learn to let go of expectations. Nobody is born with the knowledge of how to find purpose, and there is no objective answer that applies to everyone.
  • Keep learning and try to understand ourselves a bit more each day.

“The process of maintaining a positive attitude, feeling good about yourself, keeping fit and healthy, and engaging fully in life as you age is what positive aging is all about,” says Faith.

In addition to providing professional counselling, Faith Foo is also an author of motivational books for both adults and children. She weaves her advice through relatable anecdotes, parallels to real life, and metaphors as well as allegories both amusing and poignant. Scan the QR code or visit www.faithfoocounseling. com to find out more.