Spirituality and Aging–Holding On and Letting Go

Picture

Religious and spiritual beliefs and practices are important in the lives of many of us. When we get older, we reflect back on our lives and also look forward to a sense of meaning, purpose and connectedness in aging. Some of that involves deciding what we want to hold on to or let go of.
 
So many of Ebenezer’s new residents have to engage in the process of holding on and letting go simply by moving into a smaller apartment than the home they had previously lived in.
 
“What do we do with the desk that won’t fit in? How about the Holiday decorations – maybe our daughter and son-in-law could use them for their house? What will it be like to get to know all of these other people?”
 
While this process can be quite painful, it also prepares us for a journey of holding on and letting go of other things. Which unresolved conflicts prevent us from feeling at peace? Can we let them go? Can we seek reconciliation?
 
According to a Gallop poll, the four major spiritual concerns Americans have about aging, death and dying are:

  • Forgiveness by God or what one holds sacred
  • Reconciliation of broken relationships
  • Giving and receiving forgiveness for past offenses
  • Having a blessing from one’s loved ones.

 
These important concerns can be engaged through our spiritual or religious practices. Prayer, meditation, pilgrimages, fasting, and reaching out to neighbors can be very significant religious practices at any stage in one’s life. Spiritual practices are equally diverse and may include meditation, yoga, walks in nature, appreciation of art, music, joining with others for a common purpose. In addition, writing a legacy document or videotaping an autobiography can be quite meaningful for those creating it and those with whom it is shared.

The magazine “Real Simple” published an article in 2005 titled “Getting to know you” by Erik Jackson. He starts off by saying: 
“Photo albums? Check.
Family Tree? Got it.
A deeper understanding of our relatives and friends?
That starts here.”

 
He then lists many questions as conversation starters or almost as an interview format that a good friend, spouse, sibling, or other loved one can ask. Some unique questions are: What is the bravest thing you have ever done? Was there one person who had a big impact on your working life, like a mentor? What are the secrets to a good marriage or relationship? What have you always regretted not asking your parents? 
 
This process of making meaning out of one’s life can be a source of hope, strength and peace. It can bring us the depth of love and connection that we may yearn for. 

–Rev. Mirjam Berger
Ebenezer Corporate Director of Spiritual Health