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MIdlife Maze: A Map to Recovery and Rediscovery after Loss


M—Meet 5 Basic Needs after Loss

A—Animate Your Family/work Life

P—Pursue Your Bucket List


Born between 1946 and 1964, the Baby Boomers bloomed, well some of them. The generation following the Boomers (born between 1965–1984), Generation X, germinated, well some of them. Have you found yourself wilting in midlife, and wondering what you might do to flourish in your remaining years? Have you lost your “way” in the midlife maze due to a significant loss? Did you lose your job (or desired career advancement)? Did you separate or divorce? Did your last child leave home? Did your family experience bankruptcy or lose your life savings to Bernie Madoff’s fraudulent Ponzi scheme? Did you or someone in your family experience the loss of good health? Or did you weather the death of a family member, partner, or friend? Your loss story is personal. Your path through winding passages in the midlife maze is unique...

When you find yourself lost in the midlife maze after a significant loss in your life, you realize that certain plans may not work out for you. You still can choose hope. You can turn yourself to move forward in a positive direction. You can utilize your own creativity to look both inward (at your REM sleep and dreaming) and outward (at fresh dreams/goals for your future). Something interesting happens when you develop a growth mindset and gratitude for your own unique personality. One story of immense inspiration is that of the actor of “Superman,” Christopher Reeve, who experienced a catastrophic event at the age of 42. He was in a horseback riding accident that paralyzed him as a quadriplegic and confined him to a wheelchair and ventilator. And yet, he chose to exercise his brain. Reeve championed human embryonic stem cell research. He set up a foundation to help others with spinal-cord injuries. He continued to work, acting in TV films and directing two production films with health themes. Reeve said, “Once you choose hope, anything is possible."

When you create your Personality Map you will find
the hope and treasure you need to:

  • Rebound from grieving a significant loss,
  • Retool to make positive changes in your family/work life,
  • Regain energy to tackle your bucket list, and
  • Recoup a highly satisfied life due to mid-life choices you make during this crucial life phase.

“There’s a Hole in the Bucket, Dear Liza, Dear Liza…”

Loss can trip you. Just when you thought you were on your way to reach for those happy items on your bucket list, you suddenly drop your guard, or your usual personality functioning, and you drop your "bucket." When you try to pick up your "bucket" again, you find there is a hole in the bottom. The leaky hole in your bucket list of wonderful possibilities temporarily drains the contents of your future dreams. You feel “lost” in a maze of emotions. Now what? You have to change to process grief. You have to turn some corners in your mind and in your daily life.

Midlife is described simultaneously as being on top of one’s game and as full of strife and crisis. It is interesting how both of these extremes can be true. Midlife is the time in life when the old adage, “settle down,” is applied; you either choose a life partner or perhaps reconcile that you will remain single. It is the time when adults may choose to raise children. Many mid-lifers are raising careers. While these events can make life extremely pleasure-filled, there are inevitable losses. Enter the term, “midlife crisis.” In his 1965 article, "Death and the Mid-life Crisis," Canadian psychologist Elliott Jaques joined the words of midlife and crisis. Jaques described the now overused phrase as the timeframe when adults realize their own mortality.

Wait a moment! You do not have to experience a “midlife crisis.”

Please know that as an active learner with an intention to meet your potential you can change aspects of your personality to acclimate to coping with the losses in your life. Since you become acutely aware in midlife that you do not last forever, it is high time to be forward-thinking in growing a mindset of growth and resilience. You can learn to focus your attention to be in the present moment.


Also by Janis Clark Johnston, Ed.D.:

It Takes a Child to Raise a Parent: Stories of Evolving Child and Adult Development

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