Despair: What It Means and How to Deal With It

Despair: What It Means and How to Deal With It

According to, the definitions of despair are:Despair: What It Means and How to Deal With It

  1. loss of hope; hopelessness
  2. someone or something causes hopelessness
  3. to lose, give up, or be without hope
  4. to give up hope of

What word is found in every single one of these definitions? Hope.

When people are young, many of them have a lot of hope for the future. They dream about what life will be like when they become adults. They think about what they would like to do for a career, getting married, and having children.

As some people approach the last stage of their life (retirement), they begin to slow down. Not in mobility or cognitively, but in hope. They start to have a difficult time dreaming about the future. Many older people don’t dream at all. They simply enter a world of stagnation. Each day is the same as the next and the ambition they had a decade or more ago has left them.

Why does this occur?

It makes sense how older individuals end up feeling desperation. They may have:

  • Lost loved ones they used to dream with.
  • Experienced physical problems that have made it difficult to do the things they used to.
  • Depression, which makes it difficult for them to see the good around them and their true abilities.
  • Convinced themselves that the future is bleak and there is nothing they can do about it.

There are many reasons people begin to feel despair and let it control their lives. The reasons are usually justifiable, but they are not excuses.

No matter what happens to you or what your future may seem like, there is hope.

As long as you are living, there is hope for you. There’s hope for your mental, physical, and emotional health. You have great strength. You’ve proven that to yourself over the years with everything you’ve been through. Just because you are many years older, it doesn’t mean you’ve lost that strength. You may not feel it right now, but you can feel it again. Don’t allow your beliefs to cloud your future.

How to Deal with Despair

The first step in dealing with despair is acknowledging it. After reading the definitions and explanations, if you feel you are dealing with despair, acknowledge it. Own that feeling because facing it is the only way you can start to change it.

With the label of despair, begin to come up with the reasons for it. It doesn’t matter what those reasons are, as small or large as they are, write them down.

Once you write them down, you can start to separate the response you’ve given those reasons. The response is the despair you feel – what is killing your hope.

Now, try an exercise that many clients seem to enjoy.

Vocalize the reason and then contradict it. For example, you may not be able to walk a far distance, and that may be one of your reasons for despair. Say out loud, “Despite not being able to walk a far distance, I am still able to do many things sitting down. What would I like to do from the comfort of my home?”

Just by saying this to yourself, you may start to feel a glimmer of hope. It’s true, isn’t it? You may not be able to walk far, but you CAN do things from your home or from another place where you don’t have to walk a long way. What can you do? Think about it. Give yourself the opportunity to think of possibilities – those possibilities are your hope.

Do this for every reason you’ve written down.

Once you’ve done this exercise, it’s time to take action. The answers to those questions you’ve asked yourself should be taken seriously and used.

Don’t try to implement them all at once, but just pick one – the easiest one. When you accomplish it, you’ll start to feel more powerful to attack the rest of them.

Take a Minute to Feel Hope

Hope is a real feeling. Feel the excitement, the openness, and sheer joy that comes from it. You can have that back. If you’re struggling with bringing that part of yourself back, contact me. I’m a personal consultant that help people just like you start to see the hope in life again, no matter what stage you are in. Let me help you bring your old self back, so you can live a life of joy and optimism again.


Image courtesy of Stuart Miles from

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Kendall E. Van Blarcom, Psy.M. Licensed Psychotherapist (Retired)


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