Mom Is Depressed About Her Looks
Caregiver Column #332
"Mom was a beauty in her youth. Now, at age 84, she comments frequently on how hard it is to get old. She’s talking about her looks, and sometimes I think she’s rather sad about how she looks now.
I want to offer support, even though aging is something we all struggle with. I don’t know what to say to her. Is there anything I can say that will actually comfort her? Frankly, she just looks like every other 84 year old. I don’t want to lie and say otherwise."
Your mother is dealing with an aging body just like most everyone alive today. The effects of aging start kicking in around 21—yes, that young! So for most of our lives, we experience a decline in how well our bodies function, as well as what society believes is conventional beauty. Quite sobering, is it not? Yet, we all manage to get ourselves out of bed every day and carry on with our lives.
I do understand that as our youthful glow lessens, so too does the attention we get from others. The problem is that physical attraction is not enough to fulfill a life, unless that life is extremely short.
Your mother can live with her memories of the past, or focus on creating memories in the present as a completely worthwhile octogenarian. As Yogi Berra said, “it ain’t over till it’s over.” If she can move forward and live each day to the fullest, she will have less time to bemoan her fading beauty.
I realize that it’s much easier to give the advice to move on than it is to take it. What might be helpful is to focus her on what she contributes to this world. As a young person, it was beauty, among other things. Now, as an older adult, she can refocus on actions.
Do your best to engage her in activities and worthwhile pursuits. There are many opportunities to give, create, and benefit others.
When family gathers, watch how your mom engages. Is she part of the active conversation, or is she off on the sidelines? Careful observation might give you a clue as to why she is feeling less valued. Talk with her about her thoughts on aging. Share your own journey.
If you feel your mother is stuck in a funk about this, it may be best to seek a few counseling sessions to help her resolve her disappointment.
I hope you’re able to help your mother process her feelings so that she is able to spend less time distressed about aging.
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