The Yomiuri Shimbun Dear Troubleshooter:
I’m a woman in my 80s, and I have lost the willpower to live because my two children died before me.
My daughter was admitted to hospital this past March, and after just three days, her condition worsened and she suddenly departed this world. Up until then, she had gone to that hospital regularly for treatment with no urgent health concerns. On that day, she went to the hospital just to receive medicine, but was told to stay there and was admitted. She never came home. She was in her mid-50s.
My son also passed away four years ago when he was still in his 40s. I’m left with only my severely disabled husband and our grandson in his 30s.
I understand I have to keep going on for these two. But in reality, I have to go to the hospital myself for outpatient treatment, and it is all I can do just to manage the housework. I cannot pursue my hobbies of reading and handicraft. My days feel totally empty.
We moved to our current place only a decade ago, and I have little contact with the neighbors. I don’t have a desire to make new friends, either. I’m also discouraged to attend activities at the local community hall as I heard they are already dominated by established circles of friends.
I know time is a great healer, but I never imagined I would have such a life in my old age. How can I cope with all this?
U, Saitama Prefecture
Dear Ms. U:
Thinking of the great sorrow you feel about outliving your children, there are no words that come to mind to console you. In today’s aging society, it is unfortunate that more and more people will be experiencing such a situation. Children may die before their parents due to health problems and other reasons after reaching middle age. These are very hard times for the elderly.
As it has only been three months since your daughter passed away, I think it is only natural and unavoidable that you are deeply sad and feel an emptiness. As you fully grieve in your own way, I would ask that you think of what your daughter would have wanted you to do now. I don’t think she would want you to drown yourself in tears throughout your twilight years.
You need to focus not on what you have lost, but what you have. First, you have a grandson. Taking care of your severely disabled husband may be difficult, but getting up early to do so can lead to a life that is more fulfilling.
It is also important to ask for help from people around you. Perhaps there is a self-support group in your neighborhood for people who have lost their loved ones. I recommend you consult your local government to find such a group.
Keiko Higuchi, critic