New Relationships

“Grief can take care of itself, but to get the full value of a joy you must have somebody to divide it with.”   (Mark Twain 1835 –1910)

One way to overcome loneliness is to try and find a soulmate with whom to share the rest of life.   I observe my girlfriends, some young and others not so young in their quests.   Having become very independent and self-sufficient myself since my own divorce I wonder maybe somewhat cynically, if it’s worth the hassle!   Let’s face it; now that you babyboomers (those born immediately after World War 2) and older have reached this stage of life most will have acquired baggage.  Many will have acquired so much baggage along the way, both emotional baggage, financial and family baggage.  From the prevalence of dating agencies we know how difficult it can be for single women to meet suitable men in the first place, so it stands to reason that it will be even more of a problem for single women who have the addition of baggage.   Single men who are attractive enough propositions to risk everything for – baggage or no baggage – seem pretty elusive.   Making comparisons with past partners is the kiss of death, one must never look back, but forward with an open mind to what might be.  Of course we do hear of success stories, of mature women who do meet their “Mr Right” in their quest for love the second time around.    Perhaps for them, the best is yet to come?

But many discover themselves caught up in a complex situation, which they had not bargained for.   Relationships are far from simple the second – or third – time round.   All too soon a woman is likely to realise there are more than just she and her new partner playing their game.   She may also discovers new and unfamiliar rules.   Unlike young love the first time around, the couple may find they need more than just a parent’s approval of their new liaison.   Forming new relationships later in life often entails vetting by committee.   The couple have to run the gauntlet of family and friends before there’s any hope of their relationship progressing, or of it ever becoming permanent!   This can apply to both parties with the added complications of either partner’s children, or young adults, or even elderly dependant parent’s already living in the existing nest.  Offspring and other family relations have the ability to very quickly freeze out a prospective mate if they feel so inclined.   Indeed some family members may feel jealous of the intended, and display a need to compete for love.   There is no guarantee that offspring from one family will happily co-exist with offspring from the opposing camp.    The resulting emotional turmoil and blackmail can create divided loyalties for all concerned and makes choices regarding everyone’s future happiness very difficult indeed.

There are no easy solutions, and the second or subsequent partnerships will usually throw up individual problems, which will need to be overcome if the new relationship is to survive at all.   But it takes diplomacy and sensitivity to keep everyone happy in these delicate situations.   After the initial bitterness following separation or divorce has subsided, it is essential where children are involved and whenever possible, to maintain some form of contact.   Guilt is a strong emotion, particularly the guilt felt by a parent who leaves behind children when they make their break.    Christmas time and a child’s birthday affect all but the most insensitive, and many become aware of the void and unhappiness felt by their offspring.   These are difficult moments.  Inevitably there will be times when one or both former partners feel very alone, at family gatherings such as the weddings, christenings, or funerals.   Some women find themselves emotionally torn between an ex partner who needs support and a new partner who feels jealous and rejected if it is offered.    Over a period of time many divorced and separated couples do eventually work out a formula, which is acceptable to most involved.   However, they need to be aware that some occasions will always be difficult for the ex or new partner, as well as the children.   Someone will invariably get hurt, but in order to prevent further distress to the family; many ex partners manage to put on a united front, even though emotionally things can never be the same again.   I often wonder how many of these people who experience this emotional distress might be tempted to turn back the clock if they could?   It is part of being a human being to make mistakes and have failures, even so we must move on and not allow ourselves to become obsessive or dwell on them.

Happily, some couples will be lucky and find a new partner and despite all odds many make a go of their new relationships.   Other women slowly come to terms with life on their own, and over the years gradually accept being alone, and recognise the benefits of their new-found freedom.   They observe close friends in difficult circumstances, coping with bad relationships, abuse, cruelty and the constraints of a permanent, unsatisfactory partnership.   Many heave a sigh of relief that it’s not them who are going through the trauma of an affair, and realise that at the drop of a hat they have the advantage of being able to happily do what they want to do without having to consider someone else.

These women have no constraints and nobody else to consider or please but themselves.    Work schedules and finances permitting, they can travel anytime, anywhere and are free to visit family and friends scattered around the country, or even the world, either alone or with a loyal girlfriend.   Being a good friend, they are able to answer the call of help from others in distress, and can soon be on hand, to care and console.   With only themselves to consider the world can be their oyster, and although they are alone in life, if they are well enough and enjoy travelling they need never to be lonely.   That is, so long as they can overcome the stigma that some older women still feel, a reticence or a regret, for not being part of a twosome any more.   But they need to realise that convention is a thing of the past, and there is no stigma whatsoever attached to a woman being alone, dining alone, or travelling alone.   In fact there can be a great deal more satisfaction and flexibility for those who find themselves on their own.   With the freedom and choice they are able to do whatever they think is right for them, and them alone, without any form of compromise.

Compatible couples who have been in long term marriages or partnerships are totally satisfied with their mates that they hate be apart from one another for a minute.   But in truth not many people have perfect partnerships and to co-exist a lot of couples make compromises.    Women in more constricting relationships often envy their single friends the opportunity to just be themselves.   We are all unique and would prefer to be able to do what is important to us personally if we are to be happy and fulfilled human beings.   It’s not enjoyable and is often frustrating to always be making compromises as one of a couple.   Being on one’s own again in later life can, by taking advantage of the circumstances, and with the right attitude, be very satisfying.

It is all a question of attitude.   We cannot remove the past, nor can we change the way people have treated us, neither can we change our destiny.   But what we can change is our attitude to life.   To my mind a positive attitude, the ability to turn a bad situation around into a good one, to our advantage, is one of the secrets of growing old successfully.   It’s part of coming to terms with yourself, getting to like and respect yourself.   It develops when you spend time alone, and you give yourself space.   These quiet times, undisturbed by the hurly burly of everyday life, are when you are free to explore your own tastes and talents, music, literature, painting.   It’s quality time, when you have the opportunity to get to know yourself better to become confidence in yourself and of your abilities.   Self-respect and self-esteem are your rewards.   But to achieve this end we have first to believe in ourselves to recognise our worth and not be dependent on others for our happiness.

As Martha Washington, First Lady (1731-1802) said…

”The greater part of our happiness or misery depends on our dispositions and not on our circumstances.”

Family Matters

“Love is staying awake all night with a sick child – or a healthy adult!”

In my experience a sure way to keep young in heart is to be in the presence of people younger than oneself.   Those fortunate to have a family will know what I mean, and others may have the privilege of working with younger people or mixing with them on a social level.   I am of the opinion that if we are lucky enough to have family and young friends we should nuture them.   We all have differences of opinions with our siblings, offspring and acquaintences over the years.   Sometimes things can get heated and out of control.   We express our differences of opinions or values and maybe, take up a moral stance. Of course some upsetting behaviour is quite unforgivable and a few situations involve serious injustice one to another.

But life is too short to harbour all but the most damaging offence to our difference of opinions, and few family feuds can be worth the cost of people spending the rest of their lives fighting and verbally slanging one another.   As the years go by surely there must come a time, when we should hold out the olive branch and make up.   But we should do it before it’s too late or we may miss the opportunity to make amends, since none of us are immortal.   If we don’t make up and mend with the passing of family and friends, we may find ourselves living with regrets.    Forgiveness and compassion can grow within us with age, and then we begin to see the futility and fragmentation caused by feuding and fighting.   If we older women have acquired some wisdom over the years, we should realise our fortune, and relish the comfort and strength proffered by a united family and front.   We need to strike a balance between things which have caused us disappointment, and the unexpected things which have brought us happiness

GRANDCHILDREN                                .

I revel in the fact that my sons are my best friends too, but the pleasure and joy of holding your first grandchild is hard to beat.   My first grandchild (to date I have 4), was Charlotte, a beautiful baby girl, and the realisation that this wonderful bundle signified the continuum of my life affected me emotionally.   Words cannot adequately describe the feelings I experienced when I first held the newborn baby on that momentous occasion, nor express the awesome realisation I felt that Charlotte, my granddaughter represented my immortality.   At that moment I moved on one step in my own life.   Before I was just a mother – but suddenly I had become – a GRANDMOTHER.   Stereotype grandmothers jumped to my mind, and I felt aware of time passing.   But wait a minute, things have changed greatly on the Granny front haven’t they?

Soon it became clear that with the dramatic social changes which have occurred in lifestyles, relationships and families the UK over the past generation or two, so too had the role of grandparents.   Researchers agree that it is better for children to be brought up in a stable married relationship, but in these days partnerships and single parenting are common.   Consequently, we grandparents must now re-evaluate and adjust to modern times.   We should accept that there are committed relationships outside of marriage, where children, perhaps even our own grandchildren, are loved and nurtured.   It’s important that our generation don’t try to force our methods and opinions onto young parents, or be too judgmental, if we want to experience the potential joys of being a grandparent.

But should older women be expected to sacrifice their carefully planned retirement and freedom for their offspring?   Today this senario is becoming all too familiar with the increase in one-parent families.   And should mature women make themselves available to look after grandchildren, on a permanent or semi-permanent basis, at a cost to their spouse or partner, just when they both thought they were going to have quality time together?    It may seem grossly unfair to the older generation, but with the increase in young unmarried mothers in the UK, and the rising incidence of divorce amongst young people a reality, being put upon to look after grandchildren could be a difficult situation to avoid.   Many young men and women, some just teenagers, expect their mothers to become be a full time nanny when an unexpected pregnancy occurs, and many unmarried youngsters have nobody else to turn to.   Some are too young to cope and some are even too young to claim benefit.   It’s an emotional decision for any mother to make, and many a grandmother to be will feel a moral obligation to stand in as mother to the baby, because of a son or daughter’s mistake.   But should she and her partner stand the cost of their children’s bad planning or misfortune?

I don’t know the answers to these questions, and only the grandparents themselves who face these dilemmas can take the decisions, but I do find it sad that an increasing number of mature women are faced with this moral dilemma through no fault of their own.    Are they being mentally manipulated and put upon by their sons and daughters and shouldn’t they be entitled to lead the lives they had planned for?   Surely they deserve the retirement they worked so hard for, without the constraints of looking after exhausting young children again.   It’s problematical for those trying to find a satisfactory solution, when all around is mayhem and chaos.   Having a baby is an expensive business, as is divorce.    Some offspring seeking a way out of their problems and responsibilities may employ emotional blackmail at this time, putting their parents into an insidious position.

Women who are caught in this trap find themselves once again at home coping with young children on a full time basis, and some understandably feel disillusioned.    This is not how they had envisaged their retirement years and many feel the family should have more respect for them, and not put them in the position of having to pick up the pieces when things go wrong.    For years these women had looked forward to their freedom from paid work, and had anticipated time for themselves, for their partners and time to travel – not baby-sit.   Others agonise as to how they can guarantee quality time for their deserving partner, who, in many cases is not be the father of her offspring who have brought about the situation.   Further tensions can occur when husbands and partners feel jealous of the time she spends with her grandchildren.   Some voice strong opinions and take it out on the females in the house causing even more unhappiness, and many older men haven’t the time or the patience for small children a second time around.

Quite unfairly, older women find themselves having to make choices, torn between loyalty to their spouse, partner, and offspring.   Many women and their partners happily volunteer to look after and bring up a young family, but others find themselves unreasonably expected to be the grandchild’s carers.   Those who do say no to regular childminding may then feel guilty, and are all too aware that there may be further hardships for the young parents concerned.   Those grandparents who do warm to the idea of becoming surrogate parents get stuck into bringing up a second family realising that it will be both financially and emotionally beneficial to the family as a whole.   By sacrificing their own personal freedom and by sharing the responsibility of rearing the children, these grandparents have the satisfaction of consolidating, as best they can, a secure family unit for all concerned.

But not all young people are happy to have their own parents play a part in the upbringing of their offspring.   Perhaps these offspring didn’t appreciate the method of child rearing imposed on them and strive to contrast it.   For traditional grandparents this causes anxiety and there is a temptation to interfere and to impose their own standards.   But they need to realise that a softer approach is necessary if they are to maintain good relationships with the young family.   Times have changed and grandparents need to keep an open mind and keep many of their strong opinions to themselves.   They can play an important role in the upbringing of their grandchildren by just listening to the grandchildren whose young parents are often all too busy to hear.   By being interested in what they think, say and do, they will get closer to their grandchildren and be able share the joy, laughter and the tears.   Just by lending an ear is an excellent opportunity to form a mutual bond between the generations

Grandchildren with thir single parent living at home without a partner as a result of divorce or separation are another emotional challenge for grandparents, who worry if their own offspring can cope with this awesome and lonely task.   Given the opportunity grandparents will do everything possible to ensure their grandchildren have a decent start in life.   The secret is to go lightly, not to interfere, but to be there to give confidence and support when it is required.   It can be a delicate and sensitive situation and one wrong move could leave grandparents without easy access to their grandchildren.   A sensible policy is not to get drawn into the couple’s arguments or to take sides.   Have your opinions by all means but keep them to yourself.   It’s wise to ensure that as far as your grandchildren are concerned you can be regarded as neutral territory and not part of the battleground.   Visiting grandparents and staying over in their house should be regarded by the children as a safe haven from possible storms, and from this stress free environment come rewarding pay backs.

If young children feel secure and happy they will enjoy the experience of grandparents sharing the role of parenting, either full time, part time or just for an occasional day or two.   Grandparents are likely to find themselves doing special things, unusual things with the youngsters, sharing experiences with their grandchildren that they would never have envisaged or thought possible at their age, activities usually reserved for parents.   I speak from personal experience after another busy weekend with my little granddauhters, who had me spinning round like a top in the fairground, frightening myself silly on the Dragon ride in Legoland, and took me swimming, trampolining and boating.   Many childish activities require stamina, and however fit you think you are it’s easy to find yourself exhausted by the exuberant energy of youngsters the second time around!    I regard it as a privilege to be with my grandchildren and I feel they enjoy themselves in my company too.   We all look forward to these special times and I hope very much that they benefit emotionally from these wonderful and rewarding occasions as much as I do.   Through two sad situations – my own divorce and that of my youngest son, has come the opportunity for me to get to know my delightful little granddaughters very well.   I have the time and the inclination to give to them without ever having to force the situation.  Today, many members of one family find themselves uprooted from their original family home and live scattered around the country (or the world) because of their jobs.   Consequently far too many women have to make do with being long distant grandparents.   However, I know that it’s well worth the effort of a journey, the writing of a post card or the sending of an e-mail to keep in touch with those family and friends we love.


Breaking Up, Separation & Divorce

When I look back over my life and the past 70 years I realise how young I was when I married for the first time.   I was just 20 years old and had no experienced of the world whatsoever. My traditional marriage was in 1959 and I was a virgin bride.   The pill, which was to change courting and relationships completely and forever, had yet to make it’s appearance.   I don’t regret my marriage for an instant, but like many  young wives who married in 1960 I became restless and felt constricted by the confines of conventional marriage.   During the early years of my marriage I observed other women, just a few years younger than myself, who encouraged by the 60’s Feminist movement, were cutting and thrusting in what had previously been male domains.   They were carving out satisfying careers for themselves and were financially independent.

I was envious of their achievements and longed to be part of it, but realised that with my family restrictions and conventions I couldn’t be.   I did do some part time work during my marriage, but my career eventually took off when I was 40 years old, and my boys had grown and flown.    Although my 25-year-old marriage to the delightful father of my two sons had been a good marriage, by that time it was nearing it’s end.   We had drifted apart as so many long married couples do, partly because I didn’t communicate my feelings well.   Feeling guilty about having failed in my marriage I broke loose and began a 5-year affair.   The affair eventually culminated in my second marriage.   However, after 5 years the second marriage ended painfully and abruptly whilst I was undergoing health problems, when my second husband betrayed me to have an affair with a younger woman.   I have always been encouraged by other’s words of wisdom, and at that difficult time took strength from the following St. Barton’s Ode;

“I am hurt

But I am not slain

I will lay me down and bleed a while

Then I will rise and fight again.”

That was 17 years ago and today I’m fighting fit and fancy free.   I have my romantic flings and enjoy every minute of them, but it will take a very special man to make me give up my career and my new-found independence!   Nowadays instead of being at home as might be expected of an older person  I can travel, socialise and have fun like a teenager.    I sometimes wonder if I have led my life the wrong way around!

Some women are not content to spend the rest of their lives in a safe, but boring relationship, making compromises and regretting what their life might have been.   They decide to risk the comparative security of their married life and make a change.   Following the confines of a poor marriage with bad or little sex, life can become a ball for some women, leading her into unknown and often exciting situations.   Many women rediscover their sexuality in the process.   After rediscovering herself, some will go on to find a partner who has undergone his own midlife metamorphous.   They may spend the rest of their days together happily relishing their luck in at last finding a compatible partner.    Many women go through a messy, confused period immediately after they split from their partner, particularly after a very long relationship or marriage. Women who are unhappy about being single need to ensure that any new friendship is for the right reason and not just to fill a gap because they fear being alone.   Wildly grasping at relationship after relationship in an attempt to couple again only puts unfair expectations on a new partner.

Other women behave like promiscuous men, moving from one relationship to another, with no view to commitment, sometimes using their male partners as a meal ticket, or a means to satisfy their re-awakened sexual appetite.   But many newly single women don’t find single life all it’s cracked up to be.   Some live to regret making the change for change sake, without having thought the decision and consequences through sufficiently.   Other more fortunate women find their new found freedom liberating, and appreciate at last being able to “do their own thing”.   Alone they can indulge themselves by focusing on things they consider to be important, without fear of being criticised or called selfish.  They relish being on their own and love making decisions for themselves and achieving own goals.   Many learn to enjoy their own company preferring it to the risk of an unsatisfactory relationship, and rid of the frustrations and constrictions of domesticity, have no intentions of ever coupling again on a permanent basis.

Women friends, not men friends become incredibly important to women going through a marriage or partnership break up.   Sisterhood support is also of great importance to women when their partners have died.     Women who have been in marriage and heterosexual relationships for many years report that they find it difficult to keep up regular contact with their single girlfriends.    Family lifestyle is of great contrast to a single girl’s way of life.   For a family woman time is precious, but it can also be very restricted with her home, partner and children to care for.   When a women suddenly and maybe unexpectedly finds herself on her own again for the first time since her youth, her life changes dramatically and the sisterly bond between women friends becomes incredibly strong.   Women will support each other emotionally through the difficult period of re-adjustment following the separation, divorce, or death of a beloved partner.   The single “sister” has all too often “been there, done that and has the T shirt to prove it!” herself.   She knows from first hand experience the pitfalls of living alone, and can skilfully guide the new, recently singled sister, through the trauma and loneliness, which can be felt.   Her sisterly support is paramount at this crucial time and a true girlfriend becomes a lifeline, a trusted confidant and is always there for the hurting sister in times of crisis.   Learning to be happy independently takes time and finding yourself alone after years of marriage or partnership can be a pretty scary for all but the strongest of women.   Sadly many vulnerable and emotionally disturbed women are vulnerable and easy prey for the wrong sort of man at this time.

Divorce is horrid for all concerned, but it is a sad fact of life that in the second millennium, one in three of newly married couples in the UK are likely to end up in the divorce courts.   To be in control of the marriage break up, in other words to be the partner who wants to leave, or to mutually agree with your partner to a separation and a future alone, is one thing.    Unpleasant and upsetting as it may be, another and worse still, is to be the victim who is unceremoniously “dumped”, especially after a  long and eventful marriage.   The experience is truly traumatic and emotions run very high at this time.   After the break a grieving process has to be gone through, before any kind of normality can return to life.   It takes an unbelievably long time to acknowledge to oneself that the partner you loved has gone, and to accept they have gone forever.  As one comes to terms with the situation, the trauma and accompanying disturbing emotions can be likened to dealing with the tragic and abrupt death of a loved one.   The length of time taken to heal depends on the emotional strength of the individual concerned.   Circumstances surrounding the separation or divorce will contribute to the duration.   Support from close family and friends during this unhappy period is vital for maintenance of the victims self worth.   Self-esteem can so easily plummet in the struggle to cope with the collapse of a relationship, the end of a marriage, a divorce or the death of a partner.

Many times desertion comes as a complete shock to the other partner.   They search often in vain, to find an explanation as to why it happened.   Some recall warning signs and wonder why on earth they didn’t heed them.   If the departure was sudden the partner left will often look into themselves to see where they themselves went wrong.   All too often they take the blame for the break up of the relationship onto themselves.   Many women who have been left by their husbands continue to love their husbands for a long period of time delaying the healing process.   These women are dismayed and feel that they wasted their love, but wonder how they can just “switch off” their emotions overnight?   They can’t.   Confused they continue to blame themselves for the failure.   Guilt and self-loathing compound their total lack of self-confidence and self esteem.   Overnight their world has shattered and understandably they can feel worthless.  The process of coming to terms with what has happened can take months, or many years before final acceptance of the finished relationship.   Eventually a woman will accept the facts, and get on with her life, but emotionally she never completely forgets and the scars remain.   These scars can impinge on and make future relationships difficult.

Losing a partner to somebody else is extremely painful.   Women find it difficult to believe that the partner she trusted and gave her love to has abused that love, and deserted her for another woman.   She questions whether her partner ever really loved her, and can be excused from feeling that the relationship was just a sham.   She may challenge her lack of judgement in picking the wrong mate.   It’s hard to accept that the partner she trusted with her innermost feelings could abuse her love.   How could he lie to her, how could he turn his back on all they had built up together, how could he disappear never return?   Understandably she feels betrayed.

I’m reminded of the extract from the “The Magus” by John Fowler.

“How shall I explain to you?

If Maurice were here he would tell you that sex is perhaps a greater but in no way a different pleasure from any other.   He would tell you that it is only one part – not the essential part – in the relationship we call love.   He would tell you that the essential part is truth, the trust two people build between their minds, their souls, what you will.   That the real infidelity is the one that hides the sexual infidelity.   Because the one thing that must never come between two people who have offered each other love is a lie…”

Gradually the hurt partner attempts to pick up the shreds of their shattered life. but the pain continues, it’s always there, day in day out, and it can seriously affect a person’s health.   Some people may find it impossible to do anything to get out of the downward spiral they find themselves in.    Extremely painful feelings colour everyday thoughts and actions, and they feel totally out of control.    Intense anger and vengeance eventually replaces the devastation, but loneliness and emptiness follow quickly in their wake.   Friends, however supportive at the beginning, begin to tire of continuous propping up.   Insensitive people can think it’s time the person concerned “pulled up their socks” and got on with life.   But it can take an extremely long time to emotionally let go, to say goodbye to a past in which one had invested so much time and effort.   The disappointed felt by betrayal is the hardest thing of all is to accept.    But one day the grieving does lessen, the feelings of guilt and failure leave, and the death of the relationship is finally more or less accepted.   It may be over, but it is not forgotten, and many women are never able to fully trust again.

From our failures we learn more about ourselves and after a betrayal of friendship we question how we could have ever trusted people who didn’t deserve it.   We all remember regrets in life, but we must learn not to dwell on them.   If after bad times we can pretend to ourselves, and tell ourselves we are strong enough to cope again  – we will cope.   Life does eventually go on in a similar or familiar way, but most partners who have been left will have been changed by the experience, and hopefully become stronger.   Loneliness can be a very real emotion to come to terms with, often as a result of death or divorce, and it has to be hoped that family and friends will come to forward to offer their support.   But human nature can be very strange.   All too often people shy away from those who are grieving, just at the very moment when their support is most needed.    This avoidance by people or family, who were regarded as being close, causes unnecessary upset and the person concerned will feel further rejection and grief.   In a divorce situation hitherto friends sometimes take sides, they reject one of the former partners in favour of the other, causing added loneliness and isolation.   Who needs enemies with friends like that!  Divorce seems to bring out the worst in human nature.   Money, or more likely, the shortage of it, following death or divorce, can cause unbelievable financial problems, mental and emotional stress.



Few us will escape the experience of losing a loved one through death at some time in our lives.   As a young teenager my own mother’s sudden death from a cerebral haemorrhage at the age of 47 years has had a profound effect on my life.   It caused me great distress and the trauma of discovering my dear mother dead in the bathroom of our home still haunts me today.     The moment I saw her my childhood ended abruptly and overnight I was forced to grow up and take on family responsibilities.   Although  young and distraught I the future to look forward to.   But coming to terms with the loss of a husband, partner or friend at a later stage of life can create added problems to the grief already being experienced.   There may be a very real fear of a future lived alone, and the possibility of having to cope with disability or ill health.   This worry may be may be compounded by the fact that supportive family and friends live a long distance away.

Grief is difficult to bear at such times and all of us react differently to the death of a loved one and the individual circumstances that surrounded the death.   It may be totally unexpected, as it was in my mother’s case, or be anticipated or prolonged.   But whatever the circumstances are, the death of someone close to us is likely to be a highly personal and traumatic event.    Historically in the UK, and still by tradition in many other countries today, a period of time was observed for people to openly express their grief.   At this time of mourning emotions were quite literally worn on the sleeve, a black band or black clothing depicting the outward sign that they were in mourning.   The time of mourning allowed others to openly show their respect and offer their support.   Today in the fast hurly burly of modern life this tradition has all but disappeared, but nevertheless the stages of grief that those left will go through are the same, and all too real.   Such people will need support, but all too often other people today are too busy with their own lives to give it.

Immediately following the death there is a feeling of shock and disbelief which is followed by a time when the grief is openly expressed.   Sadly this can be followed by a period of depression accompanied by apathy.   This can make it difficult for the person concerned to remain optimistic of their future in order to get on with their life.   These emotions are predictable but their timing will vary from one person to the next.   For some who are left on their own, family members, close friends and their religion will be of immense support during their grieving.   This encouragement can help people to move on and should be continued until the bereaved show signs of recovery, which will signify the final stage of the grieving process.   But grieving is unpredictable and people can find their emotions swinging between periods of anger, misery and depression as they attempt to come to terms with their loss and re-adjust to life on their own without their loved one.   It is essential for people to express feelings throughout this time because bottling them up causes further emotional problems which will delay the healing process.

Sometimes there are feelings of guilt after the death of someone very dear to us.   How many of us regret not having been nicer, or more understanding to somebody when we saw them last, who subsequently died suddenly?   A lot of us feel there were things we should have said or done for our loved ones, and now it is too late.   This “unfinished business” is difficult to live with.    Getting on with life, but continuing to live where you and your partner shared your life together can be tough too.   Some people are comforted by their familiar surroundings, but others find the constant reminders of their departed, painful to come to terms with.   Gradually with time there is an acceptance that the loved one cannot and will not return, only then can these reminders of happier times turn into objects of comfort and consolation.

Death of someone close to us is a confusing and often frightening experience but eventually the pain and grief does grow less and the depression lifts.   As life becomes more bearable people who have suffered the loss of a loved one begin to pick up the threads of their former life, but it may take months or even years before this happens.   For some people the depression may persist.   These people should be encouraged to seek to seek professional help.   People with clinical depression need to talk their emotions through with a professional    Some  bereaved may be prescribed medication to get them through their difficult period, but others may need professional counselling.

Body For Life Charity Work

“I expect to pass through this world but once,

Any good thing, therefore, that I can do,

Or any kindness that I can show to any fellow – creature

Let me do it now;

Let me not defer or neglect it,

For I shall not pass this way again.”

As retirement approaches there will be people who seek to do something different with their lives.   A chance to do a job both interesting and rewarding, but ideally in total contrast to work they were obliged to do in order to fulfil their obligations.   For some people charity work offers a purpose to life and is a fulfilling way to contribute to their social world.   They derive satisfaction from doing something for the benefit of others instead of for financial benefit for themselves, and they have fun doing it.   There are many active people who are fortunate enough to receive a retirement pension, but who still have the ability and desire to continue working.    They feel they have many good years ahead of them and want to give something back to society.

200.000 charities now exist in the Great Britain and many depend on voluntary staff.   The larger charitable organisations employ directors, senior managers and those with leadership skills as well as using volunteers.  Remuneration for the senior posts doesn’t usually compare well with other commercial concerns, but for some people money isn’t the only motivation.   But of course all charities depend enormously on unpaid helpers and the generous time and effort given by their volunteer workers.   If you have skills or a training, which could be put to good use, why not consider calling one of the large national charities or perhaps a smaller local charity near your home, and volunteering your services?   Your skills or experience could well be of assistance in either a permanent or temporary capacity.   Skills such as nursing, teaching, selling, driving, computing, cooking, decorating, sewing or shop managing are but a few skills, which are constantly in demand.

Since my own brush with cancer in 1988 I have worked voluntarily with many national charities, concentrating my efforts on those researching cancer causes and treatments, or those caring for cancer patients and their families.   My other group of interest and effort are charities who are concerned with the health and needs of older people.  Through my voluntary work I feel I can put something back into life, which has been good to me.   It gives me a sense of pride and usefulness. All charities depend on the good will and generosity of the public.  You may be pleasantly surprised to discover that by keeping yourself busy and giving a little of yourself for the good of others, you receive an unexpected bonus in return – that of new interests and friendship.

Voluntary Service Overseas (VOS) has a record number of people over 50 years of age taking up voluntary posts in VOS work overseas in developing countries. The over 50’s represent 16% of the 2000 VOS volunteers working abroad, and the figures are rising.   A representative said that the over 50’s  “want to give something back to society”.   These people are more concerned with helping the needy than making money. It’s interesting to note that as a result of divorce, death of a spouse, or early retirement many more people in this age group find themselves alone and with time on their hands.   They feel fit are active and have good brains, and feel they still have plenty more to offer in life.   They are not prepared to retire and give up; they are men and women with valuable experience.

Some posts require teachers, but VSO needs to recruit skilled volunteers, and craftsmen such as carpenters, builders, mechanics and metal workers all of whom are in great demand.  Many older people have acquired patience along with age and fit in well in the developing countries whose pace is less frantic than the UK. Mature people thrill at the opportunity to travel and rise to the challenge of the unexpected. Those of sound health view this opportunity as a bonus time in which to do something completely different and at same time do something to benefit mankind.   A recent report found that a VSO volunteer could be as old as 70, could represent one of 50 professions and could be posted to one of 74 countries.  Many VSO volunteers let their houses in the UK while they are temporarily away.   They feel excited at the prospect of adventure and of taking risks in contrast to many friends of their own age, who have retired in front of the fire with their slippers.