Seniors: Readiness for the Unpredictable

Nov 18th, 2010 | By Dr Jerry D Elrod | Category: Senior Moments Blog

Reaching that age when all sorts of things catch us by surprise requires readiness.The Boy Scout motto applies: “Be Prepared.” None of us can know what will happen next. When it does, our best position is to have given thought to our options. As senior citizens, we know that life can be unpredictable; no one knows when or how the unexpected will occur, but the possibilities push us all to anticipate.

Some surprises may look like this:

  • A sudden serious illness within the family with implications of radical attention required immediately;
  • An accident within the family which is serious and emotionally trying;
  • Economic difficulties which affect your style of living, requiring evaluation and hard decisions;
  • Dramatic and traumatic events, personal or environmental or social or political;
  • A major natural disaster which strikes you, your home, neighbors, friends and perhaps other family;
  • A lingering illness with implications of long term need for care, costs, and sacrifice;
  • The death of a grandchild or someone younger in the family.

Most of us would quickly shake our heads and declare that “nothing like any of these will ever affect me.”  Of course, that would be our wish and hope.  And none of us wants to live with the dread of some suddenly traumatic and devasting event occurring in our lives.  That would be like the cartoon character, created by Al Capp a number of years ago, who always walked around with a dark cloud hanging over him. 

Most would want to be resilient enough to confront whatever tragedy may come.  Most of us would say, whatever happens, I will be ready. That of course is what we would want to be able to say.  However, having not talked about the most predictable events in our lives, e.g. the death of a partriarch or matriarch in the family, often leaves us emotionally devastated and totally unprepared.  Death and disaster, in a whole spectrum of forms, is very real.  The mother, whose child chases a ball in the street, did not anticipate his being hit by a car.  The gunshots in the neighborhood, fired at random and hitting someone, were not aimed at an innocent person just taking a walk.  The sudden loss of a job or a home or both certainly was not planned.  That late afternoon tornado tearing through your hometown only had minutes of warning. 

So how does one prepare?  How does one anticipate the possibility that some unexpected moment will occur which affects the rest of your life?  Preparation, no matter how much and how well thought through, may not be enough.  The likelihood is that any of us, faced with sudden and severe loss, will cave in to the grief and pain that ensues.  There is nothing wrong with that.  In fact, that is one of the things that is a part of preparation.  Be prepared to be devastatingly sad and psychologically injured. Loss is one of those life experiences that will have shattering impact on us.  Being prepared to open up to the hurt, giving the pain permission to take hold of you, for a while, is perfectly natural. 

What is not natural is for that pain and hurt to continue.  Indefinite grief must be managed.  Periodic grief may still come, but managing the initial earth shaking grief is essential.  I knew a wonderful woman and mother, whose daugther died at a young age.  She carried her grief with her for the rest of her life, eventually allowing it to attack and overcome her in ways that contributed to her own death. 

Reaching that age is one of those life assignments we had rather not take on.  Taking it on, doing some homework may enable us to have a healthier means for managing whatever comes.  Surely your own life will be influenced by your strength and readiness.



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