By Sandra E. Shilling, MSW (Temple Graduate, 2011)
“I´m an alcoholic. I drank away the years I could have spent with my kids, drove away those who loved me, and have been generally unsuccessful in every respect. If you ask me now what I think I´ve done with my life, I think I´d say not a damn thing.”
These words peppered the first conversation I had with Ms. V. and foreshadowed the great struggle she would have in her process of dying. I was green—new to social work and without any idea of how to respond—so I listened. Though it was a painful process, we spent the next few months examining her past. The evolution of her spirit was palpable. What was once an embittered shell of a woman became a proud resident of earth for the last few days she spent on it. In identifying who she had been, we determined who she desired to be and what she could do to make that happen.
Ms. V.´s feelings are not uncommon. Many older adults struggle with feelings of inadequacy as they reflect on their lives and, much like Ms. V., may experience depression if those feelings remain unresolved.