Welcome to Part 5 of our Life Transitions series. This is the end, literally. Titled, Love Never Dies. In this week’s installment I’m going to address a topic that not a lot of people will talk about, and in my opinion, it needs talking about.
This transition is aging and end of life. Whether it’s the death of parents or a spouse, as we age, it’s going to happen. It’s all part of the natural order of things, and is to be expected more than dreaded. While none of us wants to lose our loved ones to illness or age, it’s the way life ends, and we need to get more comfortable and prepared for it to happen. American culture has focused for too long on youth and beauty. Plastic surgeons are making millions off of our insane desire to look young, be perceived as youthful and beautiful that we miss the beauty that is inherent in aging and end of life.
You see your partner through the eyes of love and to you they are beautiful at any age. The gray in their hair, the character lines in their face, all hard fought and won through the years of being a parent, spouse, hard-working provider and friend. When you look at your partner, you still see the girl you fell in love with. You still see the boy who won your heart. As you approach the end of life together, love doesn’t die, it simply changes.
The way you love your partner now is different from the way you loved them in your youth. Your love is seasoned, tempered with time and softer, more practical. You are more in the moment with your partner than looking towards the future. You look back now more than you look ahead, enjoying memories from your years together, enjoying your adult children, your grandchildren and if you’re blessed with longevity, maybe even great- grandchildren.
Now is the time to discuss end of life options. Talk about your wishes for healthcare, end of life care, and your burial wishes. So that if the unthinkable happens, your partner becomes ill or incapacitated, you’ll know how to proceed. This kind of preparation is also important for your children and grandchildren if you have them, so that they, too, can be on the same page with you and your partner when it comes to end of life decisions.
If your loved one requires care at home, you can love them through ‘til the end of life in a very practical way if you become their caregiver. This changes your relationship in a way because they then become totally dependent upon you for everything. This is one of the most difficult and beautiful ways to love your partner at the end of life. To show them kindness and care for them until the end and to give them a ‘good‘ death, where they can be at home with those they love and be cared for by someone familiar. It’s not always possible, and it’s definitely stressful and difficult.
When your partner does get to the end of life, if you can be there it’s so helpful to reassure them that you’re going to miss them but you’ll be alright without them, give them permission to let go and pass over if it feels like they are holding on to life because of you. Love never dies, it only changes.
Your grief at your partner’s death can be debilitating and painful, and there’s no way to really prepare for that deep emotion, even if you’ve mentally prepared for the logistics and details beforehand. You’re going to be dealing with some of the strongest emotions in your life. Make sure that nothing remains unsaid between the two of you and that you and your partner express the way you feel and resolve any unresolved issues and feelings before your loved one reaches the end of life. You don’t want either of you to have any regrets after the fact.
Grief is unique to the person who is grieving, so never let anyone tell you that you should “get over it”, do something to feel better, or that “it’s time to move on” .Only you can decide if and when that time comes. Deep grief is a price we pay in life for having great love. Don’t deny it or try to move past it before you’ve acknowledged and dealt with the deep love you have had for and with your partner through ‘til the end of their life. Love never dies, it only changes.