Lost youth

June 28, 2017

lost-youthNot too long ago I walked a labyrinth.  You might have seen one or even walked one before. Maybe you know that a labyrinth is meant as a walking meditation about the journey of life. It’s calming, intuitive, peaceful.  I walked several in France last month, but the one I did in Portland was part of a workshop called Labyrinth Walk with Grief and the walk was a healing ceremony meant to help us heal and grow through our grief.

As I entered the labyrinth I figured I’d meditate on the people I’d lost.  But that’s not what happened.

To my surprise, something else came up: I found myself overwhelmed with grief for my lost youth. So overwhelmed, that I cried.

Here’s what came up for me:

Even as it brings gifts, aging brings many losses. Oh, I don’t mean supple skin and slim waistlines. Those are the superficial things. I don’t care about that. I thought about the loss of innocence, health, people, pets and even some functionality. Life as we knew it is gone and something new takes its place. Something quite different.

As I walked, I thought, I miss my youth and a flood of tears began.

And it’s true. I do. When I look at young couples with new babies I’m struck by the thought that they’re at the beginning of their adult life. With decades ahead of them, their children will grow up and have children of their own. Time will pass and one day they, too, will be old. When they get there, like me, they’ll think it passed in the blink of an eye. But today, they’re just starting out on that journey, like I once did.

I look at my young nephews just starting out in their careers and I get the same sad and nostalgic feeling.


Labyrinth at Edgar Cayce A.R.E./Virginia Beach

The truth is that I’d like to be young again and do it all over again. Exactly as it was.

Has my life been perfect? Absolutely not. I’ve had heartbreaks and tragedies and challenges. I’ve been down so low it seemed impossible to get back up. But get up I did because there was no one to do that for me. And I’d do it all again just the way it unfolded, all the bad stuff and all the good. Because I get what the lessons were meant to be and I emerged on the other side whole.

And because I love life and I loved being young. My tears on that meditative walk were because I’m conscious now that there are more years behind me than there are ahead. I grieve the lost sense of possibility, of an unlimited future laid out before me.

I hadn’t realized how much I grieve my lost youth until I walked that labyrinth. I’m grateful for that experience and the ability to get in touch with my grief, really feel it and, I hope, begin to walk through it psychologically, too. Because one of the big lessons I’ve learned in this life is to not fear grief: to embrace it, feel it and deal with it.

And that, of course, is what A Healing Spirit is all about.


52 comments on “Lost youth
  1. Yes. It’s true. Life is full of loss…including life itself. But I suppose that’s the beauty of living in the moment. It’s hard to embrace your joy and sad, for that matter, when you’re young. And I think that’s where the grief lies. We forgot to look at it, really look at it. But here we are now. And perhaps that is the wisdom that we’ve earned so that we embrace all our moments now with a bit more treasure. Love ❤️ to you on this beautiful day, Carol.

  2. Debbie says:

    This was very interesting and moving Carol, I hope you are feeling ok now.thanks for sharing your experience.

  3. I heard a guy speaking about his little boy and he said “he’s a typical rambunctious 18 month old” and I had a moment there where I thought “I’d love to be a rambunctious 18 month old again!” I think it was the idea of freedom and fun that youth has – no cares, no responsibility and that optimism that comes from thinking you know it all and having no idea what life is going to teach you in the decades ahead. I don’t really want to be young again but it would be lovely to visit parts of it now and then (young love and first kisses! *sigh*)

  4. Thank you for this post. I could relate to it. I’ve been feeling the same way lately. Grieving the loss of youth, thinking of regrets, good times, bad times. I’ve cried, too. I wish I could go back and relive it, change some things, but I can’t. I need to live in the present moment and appreciate it and do all I can to make it the best it can be so that down the road I look back and think, yes, I lived honestly, to the best of my ability and it was good.

  5. This post is so wonderfully thoughtful. I’ve never really thought about how life itself is lost as we age. I guess that’s why we have to make every second count!

  6. Bill Sweeney says:

    It’s really true. We’re dying from the time we’re born. Time just eats away. I often think about how time never stops and how I have to make sure I give myself and my family the best life possible.

  7. Diane says:

    The knowledge that more days are behind me than before is what I grieve over. I loved that tantalizing feeling that my whole life was ahead and I could do anything! Now, after over six decades, I realize that my days ahead are limited. Thirty years or so, if I hold true to my parents’ timelines. That makes me 2/3 of the way. But it also makes me more determined to accomplish those things I’ve ‘always wanted to do’! (Though I don’t recommend learning to snowboard unless you are on fluffy, fresh snow. Learning on ice would have been bad enough in my younger years! Ouch!) 😉

  8. Jeanette says:

    I think that new should all take a step back every once in a while and just reconnect with ourselves! I am glad that you were able to find your way through it and are now on the other side with more awareness of yourself!

  9. candy says:

    This was interesting in you were concentrating on loss. Would expect loss of parent, grandparents or friend. Fascinating how you focused on the loss of youth. Hope it was a good time of healing.

  10. pia says:

    Once I asked my mother why she never slept. “I’m afraid I won’t wake up.” I had just turned 50 so I thought I understood.
    I didn’t
    I was always an amazingly healthy person.The past few years however have been filled with “health challenges,” grief–today’s an old friend’s birthday. He died several months ago. Keep seeing his birthday on FB. And I was tormented with everything that you wrote about.
    A strange thing happene: I confronted the “health challenges” as if they’re a true marathon, and in between doctor’s appointments for an unknown pulmonary disorder that caused me to gain an incredible amount of weight–kind of hard to exercise when you can’t breath, I focused on me. I had vison surgery–you do get used to perfect sight very quickly but then comes a night where every star is out and you realize you never saw them in real life before. And wow!
    Because I live in the land of too few doctors and I’m very very fussy I couldn’t get eyelid surgery in the spring and am getting it in 12 days. People always commented on my eyes–and I’m getting them back.
    So I’m beginning to look at aging differently again. It’s a time when I can improve me, me and more me. And because I’m vain, hopefully, people will notice. And this time around I will gladly accept any and all compliments. I took my looks and my health for granted and looks are important to a point. No I will never have an incredible waist again–I think, but my smile will be big. and I won’t be “the cool girl” (so help me people have said that) who was too cool to look at the camera
    My niece is my favorite person. Though not related biologically we’re very much alike, and I look forward to going to my favorite small city Cambridge to see her. She’s in grad school at Harvard, gorgeous and sweet and yes I so want to see how her life unfolds. Odds are I won’t see much of it, but I cherish what I do see and am so glad she asks me for advice that she takes.
    Youth went on forever and I loved it but I’m beginning to love the here and now too.

  11. Great post! I’m not sure I would want to do it all over again…but each to their own! Good reflections, either way!

  12. Cassie says:

    Thank you for sharing your story. Life is a funny old thing. Sometimes I think we can be guilty of looking at the past through rose coloured glasses, and looking at the future as some scary unknown abyss. What’s most important is to be present in the here and now 🙂

  13. Sarah says:

    I’m only in my mid twenties, but often think about the past and get that nostalgic feeling. I always want to go back. But at the same time I enjoy my present life. The worst part is actually that I realize the older I get, the older other people in my life get. It reminds me that life is not forever. But I try to focus on living in the present, not the past or future.

  14. Yes, so true, we do lose some things….and I miss them too.

  15. Joely Smith says:

    I understand where you are coming from and I miss some things from my youth but still would not want to do it over again. I am happy where I am now. I grieve that my daughter never had time for a true childhood due to illnesses. For her I would give my youth so she could experience one.

  16. Claudia Krusch says:

    Sometimes I long for my youth. I really believe youth is wasted on the young. I would love to be able to go back and just be a carefree kid again.

  17. Scott says:

    If we could only figure out a way to regain our youth, but keep our wisdom. Life would be perfect!

  18. Jenn says:

    What’s an amazing post. I can totally relate. I feel a sense of loss at the decision that my child bearing years are over. I should feel honoured that I was able to be able to have kids but I’m having trouble believing that part of my life is over. I guess it is a normal part of life

  19. I am glad for you that you found your way through it. You are an inspiration. I totally agree that grief should be embraced and you have to face it for you to be able to move on.

  20. I must admit that I am no really nostalgic for the years past. I would love to be a kid because adulting is hard, but I do not want to relive my past.

  21. A very good reminder to live life to the fullest all the time! You never know when you are gonna leave this world so youth could mean different things to different people!

  22. ricci says:

    This was such a good read! I wish we could regain our youth but then I also don’t want to relive all of that again.

  23. Victoria Heckstall says:

    I am totally enjoyed reading your story. So nice to share your experience like this. I hope you’ll be better.

  24. Is it weird that I don’t really know much about a labyrinth?! LOL I barely have a clue.

  25. Donna says:

    I needed to read this today, my kids are still young and there is an element of wishing time away but for me that has suddenly stopped and i am wishing the time would slow so I could enjoy this stage for longer. It’s all about being where you are and being really present.

  26. kelly reci says:

    It was nice to remember the good old days!But life must go on, we have to face the future!

  27. Helene says:

    As someone who is close to your age, I totally relate. The years fly by faster than we can imagine. Life is short and must be cherished every day.

  28. Czjai says:

    I like reminiscing the past with my high school friends. We meet up from time to time and we’d often talk about the good old carefree days of our youth.

  29. Jennifer G says:

    I am happy with who I am today and although I sometimes miss some of the “Freedoms” of youth, I am glad to be rid of my childhood and have my own chance at raising a family.

  30. Marysa says:

    I had a really rough childhood, so this part of my life has been about reinventing myself and raising my children differently than I was brought up. I try not to get sucked into hashing over the bad times, but use it as a motivation to make my life better.

  31. Heather says:

    I may be able to relate a little bit. It’s not that I had a childhood that was great. It was far from great being in foster care and having a single mother with boyfriends who molested me, I grief the childhood I never had. The carefree childhood who’s family took vacations to Disneyland or actually spent time with their kids. I wish I had had a family like that and as I raise my own kids I want to give them everything I never had. I grieve the lack of support I’ve had my whole life. I get jealous when I hear that a mom took their kids to Grandma’s house for the day. I don’t have that help or support. It really upsets me sometimes, but you have to just keep on keeping on.

  32. JenNY T says:

    I recognize that I am a strong person with some good qualities having come to me from a hard childhood, but my flaws are so overwhelming sometimes that I wish things could have been different. I think that you are an inspiration for me to face it and move forward.

  33. Vicky says:

    So often we are too busy in the daily tasks and living of life to really stop and think about how fleeting it is and how we need to savor and make the most of it. Thank you for this reminder.

  34. This is a very touching post. I feel what you are going through. Yes, I miss the superficial things. I though I looked young for my age until I put on my glasses in front of the mirror yesterday. I saw all the time-weary lines. I look at my grown sons and wish I could do it over again – promising I would be a more patient, better mother. I regret so many bad, youthful decisions and miss friends I lost.

  35. blair villanueva says:

    Hey, time flies really fast and yes our youth are not like yesterday. But there is no point on regretting. Just be happy today and the brighter tomorrow.

  36. brook clifton says:

    What a beautiful post and I really enjoyed reading this glad that you share this post with us

  37. Lacey says:

    This is so reflective! What a great perspective!

  38. uprunforlife says:

    I don’t regret the life that I chose when I did. However, if I had the knowledge that I do now, I would have made a few different choices. I just tried to teach my kids the mistakes that I went through so that they didn’t have to go through it. They will be young adults though and do what they want. 🙂

  39. Time heals all pains. I’ve been thinking lately too of the lost of my youth as I aged. It’s sad just thinking about it so I decided to just make the best of everything now before I aged even more. Thanks for sharing this lovely post!

  40. Elizabeth o says:

    What a powerful experience and a reminder that we are all aging daily in small and large ways. I hope the experience opened a door to healing and acceptance.

  41. Some days I want to go back to those days but most of the time I like the control over my life now.

  42. sara says:

    Wouldn’t it be nice to go back in time and be able to do things differently.I wish I could just stop time and enjoy my kids at the ages they are before they are grown and flown away.

  43. Tiffany says:

    Honest, thoughtful, and emotional post. Thank you for sharing your story. 🙂

  44. Elizabeth says:

    I have recently turned 40 and I too am grieving for my youth. SO many mistakes, so many things I would have done differently. It’s a very real pain.

  45. I feel the same way too. Having regrets and lost my youth at the of 19 because i got pregnant but one thing that i never regret that having my kids. They are my life.

  46. Cat says:

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this. I always find it interesting what peoples take on this is!

  47. Emily Morton says:

    This is such an inspiring piece. It makes you really want to live life to the fullest.

  48. Echo says:

    I grieve for my lost youth. Mainly because, I feel like it was stolen from me and I feel like I never got it back.

  49. Loss is something we all deal with and I don’t think it’s easy most of the time. I hope you’re doing ok and hanging in there.

  50. Vicky says:

    Grieving, not regretting, my youth as well. So many moments I wish I could experience again, and appreciate more! That feeling that your whole future is ahead of you, your hopes and dreams, and that it only gets better and better . . . the end so far away that it hasn’t ever even occurred to you yet. First loves, first kisses, sure, but I would like a do-over on some of the lasts, too. The ones that I never knew were going to be the last. The last time I nursed my baby girl, the last time my son held his little arms in the air and reached for me to hold him, the last time my best friend, the love of my life, said he loved me, held me close, and meant it…the last mile I ever ran without having a full on asthma attack! How I would love to hold my great grandma a little longer and a little tighter that last time I said goodbye, and thank my grandmother for making me feel so loved the last time I saw her alive…I even miss walking on wall that encircled the library at my old college campus, colorful leaves floating all around me, the crisp smell of fall in the air, my college boyfriend laughing, holding my hand, or the warm glow of the sun setting on the beach where I did my internship in the Carolinas, a small group of friends horsing around on the sand, the warm salty sea breeze brushing our hot, sticky, sun baked, salty skin from a day spent in the sun, drinking, swimming in the ocean, seaside walks, goofing off…

  51. T J A says:

    OMG you folks are lamenting your youth at FORTY_??? YOU’RE A BABY, you are still YOUNG. WHAT’s WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE. You better enjoy your 40s, & 50s because after 60 life is hell on earth.

  52. Wanda says:

    I’ve lost so many friends and family in the last few years. I’m almost in a panic at times that I can never go back, never see the people I knew, that things will never be the same and I am afraid. My grieving combines the loss of my loved ones with the loss of my youth and I find it difficult to know this next part of my life. I don’t think I can bear to lose anyone else and I don’t want to be left alone.

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