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Planning Retirement Online


                           October 2009

Maggi Stamp, LaterLife's Relationship Counsellor

Every month Maggi Stamp, a qualified and experienced relationship counsellor for Relate and in private practice, writes about some of the emotional challenges we meet in later life.

For reasons of confidentiality Maggi never writes about a particular person's problems unless you have sent one in to be answered, but all her examples are based on problems raised by clients, family and friends over the years.  

You can write to Maggi at for her to respond in the column.



My son was made redundant

Dear Maggi

In spring my son was made redundant due to the economic down-turn and has been unable to find another job. I think this is because he is depressed and finds it hard to get motivated by anything.

I paid for him to go to New York for a holiday recently and he says he felt so at home there. He came back excited by the thought that he could live there but isn’t able to work out if he should go. But then he comes up with so many reasons why he can’t.

It has been a difficult year for us both work-wise and, as he is in his late twenties and I have raised him alone, it is hard to talk about him leaving home though I know he needs to.

He is highly intelligent, bi-lingual, artistic and talented. We don’t talk much as he gets up late and spends his time playing computer games. He doesn’t have many friends and seems so scared of the future. He has lost confidence.

I long to retire and not struggle to fund him. It would be wonderful to see him established in work and living independently.


Maggi Replies:

I’m so glad it was a stimulating trip, good old mum eh?

And you say he would love to live there? You know what? He already has as much of a chance to thrive there as the millions who have been drawn to NY from Europe and the rest of the world. The people who have made it such a fantastic melting pot have got there in all kinds of ways, with no money, no clothes, no English, no friends, no contacts, no job and nowhere to live. What they took with them was hope, and a determination to work hard and take whatever work was available to feed themselves and pay for a room until they could find what they wanted. They were willing to live in some place they'd prefer not to, but made the best of it, always telling themselves that it was only temporary.

What would he take? Fluency in two languages, an proven ability to work hard, skills and experience in several different kinds of work, an ability to be charming and kind, a natural intelligence and philosophical approach to life, and an obvious artistic gift that would be valued over there.

Would he take hope? Would he take confidence that he is worth employing? Until he has those things, self-generated, it will be impossible to persuade a stranger to have that hope and confidence - they need to feel it in him, then they can see it is worth giving him a chance. It is up to him to tell them.

So this is what you could tell him.

The whole of the modern US was founded on hope and determination by people who fled depression, poverty, cruelty, and desperation in (mainly) Europe, and that is still happening today. Don't just say’ I wish’ if you really would like to try. Try. Go. Chance it and grow. Even if you decide after going that it isn't for you, there is pride, not shame in that. It means you have made an inner change and broadened your ability to move forward. Tell him how much you love him and know his many talents and see them languishing because he is afraid to try in case he fails. You see his disappointment in life and himself. We all fail - at many things - throughout our lives. But the trick is to see these inevitable tests as a way of finding out more about our strengths and learning huge amounts about the way we deal with those attempts that didn't work out the way we hoped. It doesn't mean we are banned from hoping in another sphere, another place - or in another attempt.
New Americans, especially New Yorkers, need balls.

Actually we all need some kind of determination and find some way of liking ourselves. For instance, when other people say nice things about us or do good things for us unasked for, it is because they see something in us that we aren't allowing ourself to see or admit to. Why do we do that? (I include myself in this because it has taken me some years to accept openly any kindness that is offered without questioning why someone would do that). Why sabotage our gain from the unconditional gifts of others that can only be ways of verifying and strengthen our faith in ourselves?

For many, the reason it is hard to accept kindness can be fear. Fear of trusting that act of kindness, great or small, or fear of letting that person down because you think they will ultimately be disappointed in you and reject you. "After all they don't really see how bad/lazy/ineffectual/stupid/.....etc I am". Of course they don't. They only see what they see, and trust, and they accept it. It is not for us to prove them wrong - or feel obliged to prove them right. It is up to us to accept a gift when it is offered and honour that giver by using the gift. And if that is someone telling you they see how talented or kind you are, thank them, accept it and further inform and feed your own sense of self. “These people see this in me. They are not idiots. They are not habitual liars. They are not 'just saying it to be polite' “.
What they see is coming from you and they are appreciating it. Their 'kindness’ is a mirror to your inner self.

Tell him you are happy for him to go. Reassure him that you will be fine, and love the idea of him following his own directions. He can act on it or ignore the whole thing. It is up to him. Say you have no expectation of him. You just want to shine a torch in the dark and say "Ooh, here's something that might be useful”. He decides.

He is an adult. He’s too old to be told, but none of us are beyond encouragement. He might not go to New York but he will have strongly considered the possibility, and will know you are right behind him in whatever decision he makes. Only he can make a change happen.

Good luck.


You can write to Maggi at for her to respond in the column.
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