Written by Kim Niles
Grief and loss throughout life are inevitable.
In fact, it’s not uncommon for senior adults to have experienced multiple deaths of loved ones or even to be the only one remaining in their original immediate family. Events that bring about grief for aging adults can cross a broad spectrum of experiences beyond the normal scope you might attribute to grief:
- Death of a loved one
- Health issues or dementia/Alzheimers/memory loss
- Financial or job challenges
- Anxiety, uncertainty, or fear over the future
- Loss of a spouse, marriage, close companion, or a treasured pet
- Loss of independence with diminished ability to do activities, chores, or self-care
- Navigating a new residence (selling lifelong home for a more manageable residence, senior care center, nursing home, or assisted living)
- Loss of feeling useful, needed, or loved
- Guilt over life choices
- Daily reminder of our finality on earth
Currently, there is a lot of information to encourage and support those who suffer grief and loss; new strategies are continually being developed and implemented to assist senior communities with grief. However, even with new strategies, grief is never a predictable, cookie-cutter experience. No two people will deal with grief in the exact same way—even if they are going through the same grief event. Coping with grief and loss can be a true challenge for anyone, but especially for seniors.
As a grief author, one of my favorite aspects of helping others through grief is partnering with them on their journey with God. Having experienced multiple major grief events throughout life, I have found the spiritual aspect of grief recovery to be the most encouraging and hope filled. If you are going through a tough grief experience or challenging life event, I want to encourage you with this: You are not alone and God is not done with you.
“God uses broken things. It takes broken soil to produce a crop, broken clouds to give rain, broken grain to give bread, broken bread to give strength. It is the broken alabaster box that gives forth perfume. It is Peter, weeping bitterly, who returns to greater power than ever.”Vance Havner
With God, there is hope! He never leaves us or forsakes us, and there is always purpose in our pain.
God is the Wonderful Counselor who always draws beautifully close to us as we draw close to Him (James 4:8). Age can only do so much. It cannot touch the depths of your spirit or soul, for these are protected by God. In fact, there are limitations as to what age can and cannot change or hinder.
I know of many who are concerned their best days are behind them, but nothing could be further from the truth. Your very best spiritual days may not have even happened yet. There are many examples in the Bible of those God chose to use in their golden years—like Moses.
Life is a continuous series of stages. Being prepared for important times and taking advantage of precious years can make all of the difference in the world. When we consider that all throughout our life, we have adapted to change, we then can properly and wisely view upcoming change and opportunities with both care and hope.
What we focus on will direct the quality of our life. After all, where our treasure is, that’s where our heart will be also (Matthew 6:21). The good news is we can trade in our unwillingness to see what the Lord would want for us in each new season of life and replace it with a new treasured trust and focus. It is totally necessary at times to redirect our heart, focus, and treasure.
What we may dread or even resent? Well, God can use that very thing to breathe fresh new life into us and create a new purpose for us. As we struggle to find a fresh, new perspective and purpose for life during major grief, loss, or transition, it becomes imperative to:
- Ask God to show you His perfect will for your life, and to guide and direct you in each new stage and season. He’s not through with you . . . you have so much to still offer (Philippians 1:6).
- Turn a negative focus into a positive focus. Years ago, one of my best friends became a quadriplegic due to a diving accident. I was blown away by his positive attitude and his deep love for God. He would continually say, “I don’t focus on what I can’t do . . . I focus on what I can do.” His life testimony of how he handled hardship made a lasting impact on many hearts and lives. You never know who you can inspire by turning a negative perspective into a positive one.
- Celebrate what God is doing—and what He will be doing in your future. He has great plans for you (Jeremiah 29:11).
- Choose not to worry. God gives us discernment and wisdom to make good decisions, but after we’ve done our part by obeying God, the responsibility for our life is ultimately turned over to Him (James 4).
- Pray. Prayer is one of the most powerful gifts you can bestow on family, friends, and others. Prayer can change everything. Consider each morning who you can pray for. Ask God to direct your prayers and give you ideas of who and what to pray for each day. You can make an incredible impact through prayer. Plus, spending beautifully intense time with God will change you.
Realize we have no time to waste; the days are evil (Ephesians 5:15-20). Life can make us believe we have more time than we actually do; assuming we have more time can actually be a punishment for such an unwise assumption. Use your time, prayers, love, and opportunities of ministering to others wisely.
When going through challenges, it can be easy to forget our time is limited. A great quote (by Kelli Bressman-Horn) I have found encouraging is, “Even though I am grieving, the clock is still ticking, and that’s why I keep living . . . purposefully.” No matter what we experience in life, it is imperative to redeem the time we are given in the wisest way possible.
Focus on a heavenly/eternal perspective vs. a worldly perspective. When we look at life through a worldly perspective, we can become depressed, worried, and even despondent. When we focus on a heavenly/eternal perspective, we begin to understand that earth is merely a training ground for Heaven. We clearly see life is a mere vapor (James 4:13-17) and it helps us to focus our time, love, relationships, and efforts into what matters most.
It is so very important to realize that some of our greatest contributions to the Kingdom can come from times of grief, change, transition, and loss. These are often the areas where God can use us most. With each grief event, God widens our ministry and gives us a larger capacity to be used by Him. As we grow older, we will continue to find our purpose. We will find greater hope and joy in the Lord. We can see that our lives , no matter what age we are or what we go through, still hold great value to God.
Kim Niles is the author of Getting Your Breath Back After Life Knocks It Out of You and is the co-founder of Grief Bites. She is a writer and partner for YouVersion and has several free reading plans available on the app. Mrs. Niles is a regular contributor for Biblical Leadership, a community leader at her church, and an inspirational speaker. After experiencing the deaths of her father, sister, grandparents, uncles, aunt, and other treasured family members and friends, and going through intense grief—especially with her son’s illness and tumors, Mrs. Niles became passionate about helping others through grief and counts it a privilege to encourage the grief community.
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