How do I find a reason to continue when life events have left me with nothing?

Over 50. Due to several bad decisions I lost my job, spent my retirement, lost my apartment, owe lots to IRS, lost family support and purpose to life
Asked by Lost My Shoes

Hello "Lost My Shoes"!

Thank you for your question. It sounds like you are in a very sad state of mind. It is hard to find the good in life when a person feels like he/she has lost everything important. I am not going to be a Pollyanna and say "oh don't worry it will all be ok." I think that would be discounting your feelings and I don't want to do that. 

The short version of what is likely a really long answer is that there are ways to find meaning, purpose, and joy -- even after a person has lost what is most important to him/her. There is no such thing as "one size fits all" when it comes to coping skills. Therefore, you might need to try out a number of different things until you find something that really seems to help you.

I think that before I would try to come up with possible solutions, I would want to get a little history. I would hope that you would not mind talking about what has happened. How did you get to this place where you feel so hopeless? What kinds of decisions did you make that resulted in these losses? It is always easy to look backwards with regret and see what we did wrong. However, there is nothing to be gained by dwelling on the past because we cannot turn the clock back. What we can do is figure out what we have learned from these past experiences and how we can apply that learning to our life today. 

How does a person rebuild his/her life when everything seems lost? It would seem helpful to start with the notion of "what do I want for myself in the next few months?" Sometimes, it feels very hopeless if the goal we are looking at is so huge that it really seems impossible to reach. So, the idea is to break it down into smaller pieces. Maybe you cannot reconstruct your entire life in one fell swoop. But, what can you do? What is the most important thing that needs to happen immediately? Do you need to find housing, a job, a support system? The idea is to start with the most basic need and rebuild little by little.

Do you need to rebuild your faith? I don't mean your religious faith unless that is important to you. What I mean is do you need to gain a sense of hope? How would you do that? People find solace in a lot of different places -- some through their religious affiliations, some through self-help groups, some through friends and/or family members. Some find solace by immersing themselves in nature -- walks in the park, along the lakes, listening to the birds, watching the clouds. That might not be what will help you but again one size does not fit all.

Some people will find purpose again in life by doing volunteer work. This helps them divert their attention from some of their own problems to the plight of others. There is something to be said for helping others. It typically results in a good feeling that -- even if temporarily -- replaces the sorrow and pain one might feel as a result of their own losses. 

Would you benefit from therapy? Some people benefit a lot from talking about what is on their mind. Some people like to write about their thoughts, feelings, and concerns. Some people learn about others and how they dealt with similar situations. Therapy can be very helpful in terms of gaining a different perspective on things -- looking at what has happened in a different way. There is something called EMDR therapy which is a therapy that has been found to be helpful with people who have experienced trauma. While these things that have happened might be the result of some of your own decisions, that does not make them any less traumatic. There are a couple of other therapies -- Dialectical Behavior Therapy and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy -- which help a person manage their strong emotions and learn to accept what has happened so they can move forward. There is another therapy called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy which helps a person examine his/her thinking patterns and determine what needs to change in terms of the thinking in order to change how they feel and how they act.

There is a saying "One door closed, another door open." While this might seem like a trivial statement right now, you never know what is waiting for you around the corner. Everyone has something to offer the world. We can learn from our mistakes and do better in the future. Sometimes, we can make amends with people we have hurt. That is not always possible, but we can try. We can reach out and help someone else. We can look around and see the beauty of the world. In order to do these things, though, we have to have our eyes and our hearts open to the possibilities.

You asked, "How do I find a reason to continue when life events left me with nothing?" I would say that you are not left with "nothing". As long as you are on this earth, you have the potential to do something, be something, give something, learn something. It is always up to the individual person, but as long as the individual is willing to put in the work, the possibilities are there. 

I hope this message helped a little bit. Thank you for reading my answer.