Christine Webber

Last week, I wrote about change in terms of improving ourselves.

In this column, I’m focusing on change that is unwanted and out of our control. 

In such situations, we tend to sigh and say: “Things will never be the same again”.

And actually, we’re often right in our assumption that life will be forever altered. But that doesn’t mean it has to be disastrous. This time of year is crammed with new beginnings.

These may have affected you if, for example, you have grandchildren going off to university.

Much as you’re pleased for them, you’re probably feeling shocked by how quickly they’re growing up, and how it only seems like yesterday that you had Empty Nest Syndrome when your own kids left home.

You may well be feeling unsettled and rather left out and have a sense that much of normal life nowadays no longer seems to involve you. 

But do remember that you can still be part of these young people’s experiences especially if you take some positive steps. WhatsApp or other digital contact will cheer you up and help them as they adjust to new circumstances.

And, once they have settled, perhaps you could visit? They’ll probably be delighted to show you around the town or city they’ve chosen to live in and introduce you to their new friends.

If you work at this, you’ll find you can begin to develop a special and rather more individual relationship with this particular child than you had when he or she was at home with the family – and this could be a lovely bonus for you both. 

It’s harder perhaps to cope if your adult children decide there’s no future for their family in the UK and opt to move to another country. This is a huge adventure for them. But can feel like the end of the world for those left at home.  

However, people of our generation should remember that we often chose lifestyles our parents didn’t want for us or understand. And we have to accept that our offspring are entitled to forge their own way and make their own decisions. 

I know this can feel like a massive loss but your best option – for your state of mind, and as a support of them – is to take real interest in their plans and find out all you can about where they’re going to live.

Also, keep in touch regularly.

Their new existence may well give you fresh perspective, broaden your horizons and expand and enhance your own life. It will certainly provide a holiday destination, so start saving up!   

The truth is that mid to later life is a rollercoaster of change. Our parents die. We give up full time work. Our children increasingly have lives of their own. Friends relocate to be near their families. Our partners fall ill or die.

We ourselves may become sick. Or less mobile. And even quite small alterations to how things have always been, can generate distress and make us feel redundant.  

A friend who has always hosted Christmas in her house for the extended family has just learned her son wants her to spend the holiday with them. She suspects he believes she’s no longer up to all the cooking and organisation involved in having people to stay.

Part of her is relieved, but she feels uneasy at the thought of her long-held role being taken away. 

We all experience this as we age but we can find new roles – like becoming the granny who’s the one to beat at board games.  

The fact is there are going to be more and more alterations to our lives in the coming years, and we need to deal with them. Here are some tips:  

  • Accept that change is happening against your will and acknowledge that this is painful and difficult. 
  • Take great care of yourself. Get as much sleep as possible. Eat healthily. Keep your alcohol intake down. And exercise as much as you can. 
  • Make yourself digitally competent. Being able to instantly contact those you love, wherever they may be, is a vital benefit.  
  • If you’ve lost a partner who was ill for a long period, get thinking about engaging with hobbies you’ve not been able to do for a while. Go for city breaks with friends. Or find an activity holiday that interests you. Vacations with schedules, such as a walk a day, are full of single individuals rebuilding their lives. You’ll fit right in.   
  • If your life has changed because you’ve been diagnosed with an acute or chronic illness, access as much information as you can. Don’t forget there is a support group for practically every known medical condition. Use the internet and find one for you. 

People often say that a change is as good as a rest.

Sadly, lots of changes don’t feel good at all. But we are adaptable and there are almost always positives and opportunities to explore even when the going gets tough.

So, let’s make sure we do that.