When you lose your purpose, life feels flat and meaningless. These seven tips will help you cope with the feeling of having no life purpose, and give you ideas for moving forward into a new season.
“One day, mustering up every ounce of courage she could find, she simply left,” write the authors of This Is Not the Life I Ordered: 50 Ways to Keep Your Head Above Water When Life Keeps Dragging You Down. “She took a bag of makeup, a book, and $500 in cash with no plan other than to free herself from a bad situation. She bought a one-way train ticket to the East Coast and moved in with an old friend. Today – 20 years later – she is happy and confident woman over 50, a well-known author, and a celebrated educator. She always comes to mind when I think of the word courage.”
If you’re a woman over 50 who has lost your sense of life purpose, have courage. Stand tall – even just for a second. Know that deep within your heart you will find the willpower and tenacity to face and embrace whatever it is you’re dealing with.
The woman the authors of This Is Not the Life I Ordered was talking about was a tenured professor living with an accomplished doctor in the suburbs.
“When I first met her I remember thinking how lucky she was,” says Deborah Collins Stephens. “Brilliant, beautiful, and wealthy, my friend had the perfect life. What I did not know was that inside of her lovely two-story home in the suburbs, a nightmare played out each night. Her husband beat her, threatened her, and in his drug induced paranoia, made her believe that if she ever left him, he would have her killed.”
Deborah’s friend left her abusive husband because she finally realized that the purpose of her life was not to live in a bad marriage. Her life purpose was to find what she was really supposed to do, and become the woman God created her to be.
What have you lost? What are you looking for, what are you hoping to find? Maybe your loss and your grief is so overwhelming right now that you can’t even begin to think what your life purpose might be. And maybe you feel like a failure because you are a woman over 50 who doesn’t know what the purpose of her life is.
If you’ve never written about your loss, grief, and struggle to find your life purpose, I encourage you to write your story in the comments section below. Better yet, write about your loss of life purpose in your own private journal. You’ll find that writing brings you a clarity and insight that simply thinking about your problems doesn’t offer.
7 Ways to Cope With Losing Your Purpose in Life
Maybe you’re a grieving widow, or you’re fighting cancer, or you find yourself suddenly unemployed. Maybe you’ve been searching fruitlessly for words of comfort for a broken heart. Here you won’t find action plans on how to rebuild your life or strategies for dealing with grief. Rather, you’ll discover stories of how strong and courageous women survived tragedy and learned how to cope with losing their sense of purpose and direction.
And in these stories you may see yourself and find your own sense of life purpose as a woman over 50.
Absorb the strength and courage of other women
“I want women to remember that when life leaves them alone on the tarmac – whether it be the devastating loss of a loved one, the shuttering of a lifelong dream – women can always learn to walk again,” writes Jackie Speier in This is Not the Life I Ordered. “I am living proof that women can reinvent and rebuild their lives, no matter what hardships they have faced.”
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On a rainy day in January, Jackie was three months into her pregnancy. She was driving to Sacramento; her secretary tracked her down because her husband Steve was in a serious car accident.
“I immediately phoned the emergency room and talked with the attending doctor,” says Jackie. “I could tell by his voice that my husband’s injuries were severe. When I finally got to see my husband in the ICU, he had a shunt in his head and was on a respirator. His body was warm, but the machines indicated he had no brain function. I kissed him. I held him. I told him I loved him, even though I knew he couldn’t hear me.”
She was now a pregnant widow with a young son. Her husband’s death was so traumatic that she no longer even wanted to get out of bed. “Yet, I really had no choice,” Jackie writes. “I was the sole supporter of two children, one not even born yet. Because we didn’t have life insurance on my husband Steve, I was financially destroyed. I had to sell everything, including my home. I spent the next eight years as a single mother raising two children.”
If you lost your husband, read Help Starting Over in Your 60s – After Your Husband Dies.
Allow yourself days to melt down so you can be renewed
When you have a sense of purpose in life, you like you can handle pretty much anything and everything. You feel strong even when you feel weak. You fill purposeful even when you aren’t sure what steps to take next. You feel hopeful even when things aren’t going your way.
But when you’ve lost a sense of life purpose, you feel overwhelmed and lost – whether you just turned 50 or 59. Maybe you can’t even find the strength to get out of bed – much less face a new day. You feel scared, paralyzed, depressed, and heavy.
What should you do on those days? Give yourself permission to stay in bed for as long as you need. Your system is overloaded and needs a day to recuperate and recharge. Losing your sense of life purpose is a huge ordeal – I’d even call it a tragedy. Give yourself time to grieve your loss. Catch up on your sleep. Take care of yourself. Gather strength by nurturing and indulging yourself. You need to build emotional, spiritual, and physical strength so that you can move forward with purpose. And trust me, you will move forward in your life with purpose again. Yes, even as a woman over 50!
You’ve come a long way. Even so, I bet you never dreamed you’d be forced to learn how to cope with losing your life purpose in your 50s. You may feel knocked sideways, shocked, dismayed, hopeless. Lonelier than you ever thought you’d be.
Take a deep breath. Let it out slowly. Know that you really have come a long way! You’ve seen a lot in your fifty years on this earth. Your relationships have changed and grown. So have you. You’re more mature, wise, and capable of handling anything life throws at you – including robbing you of your purpose of life. As a woman over 50 you have deep internal resources of strength, courage, resilience, hope and faith that are buried beneath your loss. Your resources are buried, but they are not gone forever. Your resilience may be hibernating but it is not dead.
Take another deep breath. How do you feel? Write everything that’s in your head, heart, soul, and spirit. I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below, but I think it’s better if you wrote in your own private journal.
Say the unsayable
“We have found that one of the keys to welcoming change, instead of running from it, is to give ourselves permission to articulate what’s going on in our gut,” write the authors of This Isn’t the Life I Ordered, “even when it isn’t pretty or politically correct. This isn’t just our discovery. Activist and author Gloria Steinem said every woman needs an outlet for saying the unsayable.”
Who can you talk to about what it’s like to cope with a loss of purpose and meaning in life? If you have female friends over 50, you may need to be the first to open up and be vulnerable.
Examples of “the unsayable”:
- My husband cheated on me and I’m thinking about leaving him.
- I’m on the verge of financial bankruptcy.
- My aging parents want me to care for them, but I don’t have the energy, time, or will.
- I have a lump in my armpit and I’m scared it’s cancer.
- My daughter is using drugs.
- I lost my job, and I’m worried nobody will want to hire a woman over 50.
- My husband/children/job was the purpose of my life, and now it’s gone. I feel like I’ve lost everything.
What happens when you find courage and strength to share the “ugly truth” about what’s really happening in your world? This:
“Your friends offer sympathy and support so you don’t have to shoulder that burden alone. You get it off your chest so you don’t feel so weighed down and immobilized. Instead of it being a deep dark secret that you have to carry by yourself, it becomes something you see clearly and are empowered to face.”
Take power – even if it’s not given to you
“Jan Yanehiro trusted that the television station she had worked for and made millions of dollars for would take care of her after the showed was canceled,” write the authors of This is Not the Life I Ordered. “After all, she had racked up an impressive set of ratings and three Emmys over a 15 year run with Evening Magazine. It was a beloved daily television program that came into the homes and hearts of millions of Canadians. In a matter of days, her contract with the network had dropped from $200,000 per year to $26,000.
Jan learned quickly that all who promised they would take care of her disappeared when the cold, hard facts of the new contract were spelled out. ‘I trusted that this company, where I had spent most of my adult life, would somehow take care of me,’” she said. “It was a big mistake.”
We have to accept responsibility for our own lives, and we always have to be renewing our sense of life purpose. Every day. It’s especially important when we have lost something or someone that we made our life purpose to be….and when we don’t know what to do with our lives.
Change what you have control over
Many women – including me – rest in the false comfort of believing we will be taken care of. We think that because we had a strong sense of family, love, security and purpose in our lives when were in our 30s and 40s, will have the same sense of life purpose when we’re women over 50. But the truth is that we’re always on shaky ground. Life is unpredictable, free, and dangerous. It is also achingly beautiful.
While you may not be in control of everything that has happened to you, you control how you respond to what has happened. Concentrate on actions that serve you and help others, instead of going to the dark side and wallowing in how unfair or undeserved your situation is.
Hold your hand up and feel the power humming through the universe
And finally, here’s my own personal source of power and energy and spirit and courage and strength: God. Not “just” believing in God or going to church or worshiping Him, but actually having a personal relationship with the Creator of me, this world, and universe. He brought you here – you are reading these words because of Him.
How do you feel about God these days? As a woman over 50, is your faith stronger or weaker then before? Has your sense of purpose in life changed over the years according to His direction and guidance, or were you creating your own path? Have you drawn closer to God through your losses, or has your experience put a wedge in your relationship with Him?
Your faith can sustain you through anything – if you hold onto it. Your faith gives you power and peace that surpasses all understanding – if you nurture and grow it. God is always here, waiting for you to turn to Him and see Him. Like any relationship, a deep personal connection with God takes time to develop…and boy is it worth it!
You may feel like you’ve lost your sense of purpose in life, and as a woman over 50 you may feel like it’s too late to rebuild and re-create your life. But don’t forget that you are under His wing, even if you don’t acknowledge His presence and protection. If you pay attention to the blessings He wants to give you, you will soar like an eagle.
Help Rediscovering Your Lost Life Purpose
In This Is Not the Life I Ordered: 50 Ways to Keep Your Head Above Water When Life Keeps Dragging You Down, Deborah Collins Stephens, Michealene Cristini Risley, Jackie Speier, and Jan Yanehiro offer a collection of lessons and stories and wisdom that can help any woman turn any misfortunate event into a joy-filled opportunity.
I love this book! I’m not yet a woman over 50 (I’m 47), but I know I will hang on to this book until I’m 150. The authors share practical tips and encouragement that will help you find your purpose in life.
Together, these four women have a history of six marriages, ten children, four stepchildren, six dogs, two miscarriages, two cats, a failed adoption, widowhood, and foster parenthood. They have built companies, lost companies, and sold companies. One of these women was shot and left for dead on a tarmac in South America, and two lived through the deaths of their husbands. Raising babies and teenagers together, they have known celebrity and success along with loneliness and self-doubt.
In The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For? Rick Warren says that self-help books often suggest that you try to discover the meaning and purpose of your life by looking within yourself…but that’s the wrong place to look. You must begin with God – who created you for a purpose – and discover His reasons for creating you. If your purpose of life was something other than God, then you will never find your true calling.
You were made by God and for God; until you understand and accept that, your life will never make sense. This book will help you understand why you are alive and God’s amazing plan for you – even if you’re a woman over 50 who feels hopeless and alone.
“Without God, life has no purpose, and without purpose, life has no meaning. Without meaning, life has no significance or hope.” – Rick Warren.
How are you doing?
While I can’t offer advice on how to cope with losing and rediscovering your sense of life purpose, I do read every comment. Feel free to share your experience below – especially if you’ve never written about your loss before. I really encourage you to write about your grief and sense of loss in your private journal, because you’ll find healing and insight there. But I’m equally happy if you would like to share your thoughts below!
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Take care of yourself. May God grant you peace, joy, and love as you move forward. May you embrace your life as a woman over 50, may you find your sense of purpose, and may you see the joyful possibilities that exist in your life – may you be willing to reach out and grasp hold of them.