“What will this newfound present of old age and its unknown future demand of us? Where is dignity to be found in it? How shall we find ourselves the dignity we see is needed?”
Mary Morrison, Without Nightfall Upon the Spirit, Pendle Hill Pamphlet*
Moving through Loss: Illness, loss of mobility, hearing or sight, or other changes in one’s usual abilities can present spiritual and emotional challenges along with your physical concerns. One needs to validate the loss and allow grieving to occur, in order to move to a place of acceptance. We can find strength in our values and comfort in our spiritual community in facing our losses.
“The secret of finding joy after sorrow, or through sorrow, lies,…in the way we meet sorrow itself…accept sorrow as a friend, if possible. If not, as a companion…Together we can create beauty from the ashes and find ourselves in the process.”
Elizabeth Gray Vining, 1952, PYM Faith and Practice
Letting go of what was: Though we most often associate bereavement with death of a loved one, it is important to acknowledge that grieving occurs with other losses or changes that occur in our lives—a changed relationship, lost job, physical challenges, or illness. Understanding the bereavement process and moving through grief allows you to move to a place of acceptance, which will help you to make the most of your life under changed circumstances. For more information on the grief process, see the “suggested resources” below.
Understanding What Is: When you are ready, knowing more about your illness or challenges may help you learn to live with your changed circumstances. Find out what you want to know about your physical condition, or enlist a friend to help you.
Consider Possibilities: You may find yourself with a long list of “can’t.” It helps to think in terms of adaptation, rather than giving up. Are there ways you can adapt your home to accommodate your needs? Are there support groups in your area or online where you can learn more, and find others who share similar experiences? A friend who loved to cook and eat at restaurants had to give up many beloved foods because of her illness. Her doctor handed her a list of what she couldn’t eat. With a pared down list of ingredients, she researched recipes made with things that she could eat, and had fun creating some of her own dishes.
“I see this time as our opportunity to explore and experiment with this law of spiritual change in our own lives, beginning with little ways, infinitesimal ways, which will lead us to the larger, broader ones…There are infinite possibilities for us…”
Gene Knudsen Hoffman, 1982 quoted in Practicing Peace, edited by Catherine Whitmire
Actively Envision the Future:
- What are your core values, and what do you need to live in a way that is consistent with those values?
- Who are the people that can help you, and what do you need from them? Don’t be afraid to be specific. Many of us want to help, and don’t know how.
- What will you need to do differently than you used to, and how can you make the adaptations necessary to live your potential?
Creating an accessible worship environment for those facing physical challenges, such as hearing, vision, or mobility is an opportunity for creativity and broadening in your community. Let people know what you need to participate —sound systems for the hearing impaired, a wheelchair ramp, a certain place to sit. Sharing your story helps others grow in their understanding, and will help alleviate their fears as they see you facing your challenges.
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More articles on this website:
Continuity and Coping
Conversations About Driving
Downsizing and Spiritual Practice
Generativity and Aging
Spirituality and Aging
Coping with Serious Illness: Letting Change into Your Life, by Marcia Breitenbach
John Yungblut, On Hallowing One’s Diminishments, Pendle Hill Pamphlet 292, Pendle Hill, Wallingford, PA.
Mary C. Morrison, Gift of Days, Pendle Hill Pamphlet 364, Pendle Hill, Wallingford, PA.
* Mary Morrison, Without Nightfall Upon the Spirit, Pendle Hill Pamphlet, Pendle Hill, Wallingford, PA.