Aging and Anger
They say there are stages of grief. Some of those stages include denial, depression and acceptance. But one that many of us experience is anger. While we most often associate grief with the emotions when a loved one passes away, we experience grief about a lot of things. People grieve when their house burns down or when they lose a job or a pet. An area of loss that we don’t often associate with grief is the resulting physical decline of aging.
You can detect a senior's grief of their loss of youth from comments they make. It is common to hear them look back with remorse at lost youth and with the loss of functionality and strength that happens when we age. As a senior sees their strength decline and perhaps go through one of the many natural ailments of aging such as arthritis or problems with elimination, it is not uncommon to see a response of anger result from their impatience with these problems.
Nobody asked to get old. It's not fair. If put to a vote, aging would lose the popularity contest of continuing to be part of our lives. As much as seniors hate to grow old, loved ones hate to see it happen too. While the senior may not see it happening, the family is grieving the loss of the “young mom or dad” as much as the senior is.
The problem with growing old is that it is so frustrating for seniors since they can't control the outcome. The result is often that they lash out at those closest to them because there is no one else to blame and the loved one or caregiver is the one who is handy to get mad at. They know this isn’t fair and when this rage manifests itself, the senior is truly sorry. Is it possible to find ways to cope with the anger about aging in a productive way?
This kind of coping is necessary to protect and shield the innocent from outbursts. But it is also healthy for the senior to learn to cope with the aging process. Allowing the grief process to spill out will create tension
within the seniors' emotional system, which can cause physical problems such as ulcers or problems sleeping. So how does a senior get rid of the anger naturally felt at seeing their bodies decline?
A wise man once said that we get angry because of a false sense of entitlement. It comes when our expectations do not line up with reality. A false sense of entitlement comes when we come to the conclusion that we do not deserve to get old. The best way to confront and put aside that sense of entitlement is to recognize it. It seems simplistic to just come out and recognize that everybody grows old and we are not entitled to be exempt from the changes that come with aging. But if you can recognize that consciously, it will help take anger out of the loop when coping with the affects of aging.
Resolution of grief comes when our expectations line up with reality. The attempt to deny the advance of years is the sole cause of midlife crisis in younger days and that emotional response to aging can create devastating results as the one in crisis tries to behave as though they are not growing old and make bad decisions based on that concept.
So too, recognize that these problems are the natural result of aging and the best thing to do is make sure the seniors are taking care of themselves to try to minimize the aging impact. The result is that the senior may very well live with a much healthier attitude toward aging. By focusing on their diet, exercise, a wise use of substances and doing all that can be done to stay rested and emotionally sound, seniors will see the negative effects of aging become minimized. Moreover, the senior will be a happier person and that shift in their emotions can go a long way toward keeping them young at heart. And that is the best way to turn back the effects of aging - from the inside out.