Finding Joy Through Loss
- Helen Lambin, who is almost 90 years old, has approximately 100 tattoos all over her body
- Known in her Chicago neighborhood as Granny Ink, she only got her first tattoo at the age of 75 to find joy and new life after a devastating loss.
- She’s an example of persevering through incredible challenges, whether it’s from the loss of a spouse or a recent cancer diagnosis.
- Experts say prioritizing your mental health – finding joy and passions – is key to facing these challenges head-on.
So she made a new one.Read More
She now has 100 tattoos all over her body, and McNair has inked them all. She develops the ideas for the tattoos and McNair makes her vision a reality on her skin.
Lambin’s inspiring story of finding joy and new life through grief is part of the film “Radical Age” now streaming on SurvivorNetTV.
More "Radical Age" Stories
- 66-Year-Old California Man Skateboards to Grieve His Late Love – How the Young Person’s Sport Taught Him to Be Resilient: ‘You Keep Rolling’
- How This 56-Year-Old Punk Rocker Helps Her Bandmate Battle Cancer With Joy and Music: ‘It Makes the Difficult Bits Worthwhile
- How This MMA-Fighting Grandma Beat Breast Cancer and Expectations: ‘Something in Me Just Won’t Let Me Fold’
She’s known in her neighborhood — and beyond — as “Granny Ink.” When she rides the L train or walks out in the streets of Chicago, people stop her to exclaim or ask questions about her tattoos.
The attention is almost as satisfying as the tattoos themselves. Lambin has been excited by how others approach her or open up to her about the artwork on her skin.
It has made her realize how isolated older people are in society.
“A lot of older people never talk to anybody. People aren’t talking to them, many of their friends have passed on, their family members,” she says.
“If I get on the bus, I’m walking down the street or I’m in a park, now someone has to comment about the ink. Might go into where they’re from, where they’re going, what they’re doing, so it goes beyond the ink. It goes into a real conversation between two people.”
Finding Your Joy — No Matter Your Age
Helen Lambin’s story is an inspiring example of overcoming incredible challenges in life. Whether from the death of a spouse or a recent cancer diagnosis. And prioritizing your mental health is critical to coming out the other side.
SurvivorNet experts say that finding your passion is a key element in one’s mental health.
WATCH: The 3 Wellsprings of Vitality
Dr. Samantha Boardman, a New York-based psychiatrist, discussed what she calls the “wellsprings of vitality.” These are the methods by which people can develop resilience and find joy in life.
According to Dr. Boardman, these three wellsprings of vitality are:
- Connecting. Are you interacting meaningfully with others? Are you listening to and engaging with others in your life?
- Contribution. Are you contributing to the lives of others in meaningful ways that add value?
- Challenge. Are you expanding your mind and tackling new challenges? Is your brain engaged in activities that push you beyond your comfort zone?
Neal Unger, a 66-year-old in Thermal, California, is an avid skateboarder who shares his love of the sport with the youth in his community.
He only took up skateboarding as part of recovering from the loss of his partner. Learning new skills and tricks helped him cope with grief and channel his passion.
He claims that the secret to staying young is the acronym J.O.Y.
“Juice Of Youth,” he explains. “Joy comes from moving.”
One key to building resilience at any age is being mindful of the things that bring you joy.
Mindfulness is a practice in which you focus your attention and energy in order to stave off stress, anxiety, fear, and other things that lead to harmful thoughts. It’s a way of slowing down so you can be in tune with your actions and emotions.
Deepak Chopra, a world-renowned author and mindfulness expert, told SurvivorNet that mindfulness helps you achieve new levels of self-awareness.
“Are you changing the experience with the body, changing the experience of the mind, changing experience with emotions?” he asks. When you can do these things, through mindfulness, you can stave off stress.
SurvivorNet offers a guide for practicing mindfulness on a daily basis:
- Choose one daily activity to practice mindfully (e.g. eating your lunch, brushing your teeth or taking a shower). Resist distractions and be aware of your thoughts in this moment.
- Pause often during your day and use these moments to take a deep breath with your eyes closed.
- In moments of difficulty, acknowledge the stress you feel by asking, “How can I be kind to myself in this moment?”
- Don’t suppress your emotions; explore them to see where they are coming from.
- Try not to rush through an action or an experience. Stay in the present.
A Zest for Life
As Lambin approaches 90 years old, it’s hard to deny that she exhibits a magical zest for life. She embraces new challenges and finds reasons to be grateful every day,
She also shares her wisdom with others. A talented author, she’s spent the last few years writing several books, including From Grief to Grace and Prayers for Sleepless Nights.
“One of the last acceptable stereotypes is aging,” she said in an interview with Yahoo!Life. “The assumption is that you’re rigid, you’re biased, you won’t do anything new. I will not be patronized and I will not allow this stereotype if I can do anything about it.“
Learn more about SurvivorNet's rigorous medical review process.