Don’t let depression tarnish golden years

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photoJudy Canter is Founder and president of Mindful Inc.

As we age and enter into our golden years, there is a misconception of what this means. As a society, we are goal driven. We work to accomplish personal goals and meet set standards in our careers. People see retirement as a time to meet another set of goals. Most people can fulfill their retirement goals; but for some, retirement is difficult.

People retire to do the activities they have always wanted to do (travel, hobbies); but for some, this an emotionally empty time. The daily structure and social network is replaced with worry that turns into anxiety and depression.

When an illness strikes that impairs physical and/or mental capacities, the daily structure and purpose that fuels life is gone and life takes an unexpected turn. Depending on others to accomplish daily tasks can be emotionally demeaning and lead to feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. Planned goals for retirement are replaced with an existence devoid of purpose and joy. Many times I am told, “I am just waiting to die.”

Asking for help to own these emotions and learn coping skills will lead to a journey filled with hope, purpose and joy.

Patience is required

As we age, we may be told or think that feeling depressed is normal. Yes, we do experience loss -- this is a normal process of aging. We lose our friends and family as we age and sometimes our health and homes. But feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, excessive crying, changes in sleep and eating patterns or wanting to isolate for long periods of time are not normal.

All people grieve some time during their life, for everyone has losses of some kind. As you face grief, it is important to realize that grief is not a weakness, not a lack of faith but a psychological necessity. Grief is therapeutic.

It takes time to process through grief and loss, and we must be patient with ourselves. As you talk over the experience, the painfulness will gradually decrease. If you feel emotionally stuck, it is important to talk to a mental health professional.

You may become triggered from your past losses when you experience any loss. Grief can arrive from any type of loss, not just a loss of a person. It can be a loss of a pet, relationship, health, mobility or the ability to drive or be independent.

There is no timeline for grieving. It can start immediately after the loss or years later. You may feel emotionally numb for months after the loss. Everyone is unique in the journey through grief.

Remember, not processing and addressing grief can cause psychological and physical damage. Listen to your body and embrace your feelings. Ask for help.

Judy Canter is the founder and president of Mindful Inc. and the founder of CDM Adult Day Services Center in Vancouver. She is a licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker and an accredited Clinical Social Worker in gerontology, a Mental Health Professional and a Geriatric Mental Health Specialist. Contact her at (360) 567-4595, jcmindfulinc@gmail.com or www.mindfulinc.net.