It Was Not Supposed to Be Like This!

by Christine McGruder

The day had finally arrived!! All the good-byes had been said, and there was nothing much left to pack, so I took one last walk through the building, and ended up in the church sanctuary to say a prayer of thanksgiving.

Yes, it was my last day at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, before my retirement adventure was to begin! I was so excited that I could hardly contain myself! I had made my plans very carefully; I just knew everything was going to be absolutely wonderful!

Fast forward to five months later -- I wake up to yet another cloudy, windy, and rainy day winter’s day. The days seemed to blend into each other, and at times, I find it most difficult to get out of bed, much less take a shower. I feel lost and alone. My companions for the day are Dr. Phil, The Golden Girls, Judge Judy, and Facebook.

This was not the plan I had in mind!

I try to explain to those closest to me how I feel. No one seems to be able to relate, and everybody tells me I need to find a hobby, and get out of the house more. They are not telling me anything that I don’t already know, but I do not seem to have the motivation to do much of anything. Out of shear desperation, I finally decide to see a therapist. I was diagnosed with Retirement Depression!!

I was totally shocked!

Retirement Depression – who in the world gets depressed about being retired?

Apparently I did, and so many people like me! Everyone has an expectation about what retirement is going to look and feel like, only to find that things do not always turn out the way we want or think that it will at all.

Now that I was challenged with this thing called Retirement Depression, what do I do? Like you, I worked many years helping corporations, and non-profit organizations grow and be successful! I had sacrificed more hours than I care to remember sitting in commuter traffic, and I had been on this career train for a long time. My stop had arrived, and it was time to get on with life in a different way, only I had hit a huge brick wall, and I found myself almost paralyzed as to what to do next.

Thankfully, I learned that I don’t just have to live with Retirement Depression, but that this exciting new chapter can be extremely rewarding, and one of the best seasons of my life. It takes work, and we all have to make a choice to find happiness in our retirement years.

Here are a few key things that have helped me to come up out of the retirement depression abyss.

1. First, ACCEPT the fact that Retirement, is our New Normal, and that you have earned 
 this beautiful time in your life. It is your reward for the many years of hard work, and 
 great sacrifices that so many of us have made. What do you want to do with this great
 time in your life? Make a list and put it up where you can see it every day.

2. CHOOSE to make the Adjustment. Notice, I said CHOOSE, because it is easy to stay 
 stuck when we feel unmotivated, and sad. But listen, we have all had those “never 
 done this before” moments in life. Remember, you did not know how to do your job 
 when you were first hired. You had to face your first day of school, your first date and 
 first kiss. You had your first experience at driving, tying your shoes; and many of 
 us have had to learn how to be a parent for the first time, and many have had to a first 
 time at being married, divorced, or widowed. Heck we’ve all had to learn to deal with 
 disappointment, but we also learned that life is also full of celebrations and victories. 
 Just as we have had so many firsts, this is our first time at this thing called retirement. 
 It can be the best or the worst of times. It is our choice to make.

3. Ask for HELP. Do not allow the feeling of shame or pride, stop you from getting the 
 help that you need so that you can enjoy this wondrous adventure. I wasted an entire 
 year of my life feeling sorry for myself, and lonely. Seeking out professional help, for 
 a brief period of time, was the best thing that I have done for myself. 

4. Establish a DAILY ROUTINE, and stick to it as much as possible. It 
 makes all the difference in the world. It is an EXCELLENT time to stop allowing 
 your emotions to boss you around. Have your say in what you will do with your day!

5. Plan an AGENDA for each day. Before I go to bed at night, I think about what I want 
 to do for the next day. Always include time for fun and hobbies. If you don’t have a 
 hobby, get one, or find a part-time job. Whatever you do, make sure you keep the 
 body and the brain moving along. What you do not use, it is for certain you will lose.

6. Make new FRIENDS. One of the areas that hit me hard was not having 
 friends around every day. I expected new friends to show up like magic, and that was 
 absolutely not going to happen! Some of us, including me, can get so angry at how 
 things have not turned out, that we merge over into this victim, or woe is me 
 mentality. There are going to be some things that you and I will have to move out of 
 our comfort zone in order to get what we need. This includes connecting with new 

Since this was a biggie for me, and causing me to isolate, which does nothing but 
 increase anxiety and fuel depression, I found a Tuesday morning Bible Study that I 
 attend every week, and I am not a member of their church. Yep, it was scary, but I did 
 it and I enjoy it.

 I have also fallen in love with nature photography, so I joined two online photography groups. Besides posting my photos, and learning so much about photography, I have 
 met incredible people from around the world. Friendships don’t have to be people we 
 meet with over coffee any more!

Remember, it is now your turn to enjoy life in a way that you never have before. Yes, some of us were forced into retirement, and others have entered into it by choice. But for as long as you have breath in your body, you have a divine purpose on this earth. Retirement is the end of one thing, and it is a beautiful new beginning of another. Let’s make it a joyous, happy, fun-filled, adventurous, exciting, and awesome journey – you have earned this fantastic new normal. You can do it!! 

Comments for It Was Not Supposed to Be Like This!

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by: Allan

I read your fine essay on retirement and wished that I could somehow transfer some of my own experience with the retirement process, but that is impossible.

Apparently I am the rarest of the rare birds. I thought that retirement sounded great before I had even graduated high school, much less University.

I had to keep readjusting my retirement age target (reality bites), but once that the big day arrived, and on my own terms, I was almost giddy in anticipation. As it happens, it has turned out to be everything that I had hoped and more.

I have had not one minute of regret at being out of the workplace -- and I had a pretty darn good career. It's hard to explain it to others, but I guess that it boils down to never having defined myself by my work.

I never got sentimental about the workplace. I did a good job, they paid me and that was that. I keep very active in retirement and often fall behind on my daily to do list. I am never bored. I have a new career now -- me, and he's a great boss.

All of this doesn't really help you, but you do seem to being making your own progress in dealing with the matter. Most importantly, my experience doesn't make me better than anybody else, just different

Well said
by: Sally

I too was shocked to find myself depressed after retiring. It's more common than we think. I could not understand why I was so grumpy when I should be so happy.

It would seem to be such an easy adjustment. But once you realize what is going on, you can begin to make a plan to make this phase of life rewarding.

Thank you for this great post.

Thanks for your encouragement
by: Larry Steward / South Carolina

Hi Christine,

I enjoyed learning about how you managed you transition to retirement. It is a journey with ups and downs as you mentioned that I think all of us bump into along the way.

I especially like the way you concluded your post with these words,

" Retirement is the end of one thing, and it is a beautiful new beginning of another. Let’s make it a joyous, happy, fun-filled, adventurous, exciting, and awesome journey – you have earned this fantastic new normal. You can do it!"

Thanks for your uplifting encouragement.

Thank you
by: Karen/plainfield,il

Wow, did I need that! What an awesome way to look at things!

I've been fighting this thing called retirement and dwelling too much on the past with a lot of regret and being fearful of the future.

I will save this post and refer back to it whenever I start to feel depressed and sorry for myself. Thank you!

Oh Boy!
by: Dean/ Nashville TN

Christine, As I began to read your article I said oh boy another retiree with the blues! What surprised me was where you went with it.

Great advice and what any retiree with depression needs to read. I am so glad you are fixing with therapy and not drugs. You explain that depression can be defeated but it takes work.

When I retired I went through a period where I felt guilty but never depressed. I have an adult special needs child who keeps me busy 2-3 days a week. When I'm not helping her it feels like a day off! Sometimes I find I am pressed for time.

Any way, kudos to you Christine for a great article!

by: Marcia, Fort Lauderdale, FL

I think you have made some very good points here. I retired at the end of January from a 30 year health care career. So far and I realize some will say I am in the honeymoon phase, I am thoroughly exhilirated.

I am having some difficulty getting into a routine but that will follow. I would like to say this is our reward for a lifetime of time crunching, long commutes, meetings and workplace politics not to mention fatigue. I don't want to feel guilty for a day or two a week of doing nothing, or rather doing the kind of thing I did on a "staycation" or when I took a few days off to regroup. When I got the rare day off, I could sleep as late as I wanted, sit outside in the Florida weather, go to the beach, or even watch TV if I desired.

This doesn't mean I am without goals, I am far from it but one of the things I enjoy now is that "doing nothing" once in a while. Some reflection is good if it isn't overdone.

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