Retirement depression? Say it ain't so!

by Paul R
(Northern California)

It was the beginning of 2013 and I was like a “retirement wind-up toy” -- wound tight! I was 57 and in good health, but had just laid my wife to rest after 34 years marriage. Retirement seemed to be the right move.

Now, however, almost years later, I’m not so sure.

Initially, although I was intensely grieving, I had a tremendous amount of energy! I entered a grief recovery group to help, and being retired, I actually did the reading and exercises sent as homework, that none of the “working people” had time do.

Grief was something I lived, I fought, I gave in to and, now, manage a little better.

And, now, out of blue, completely blind-siding me is this: Retirement Depression!? I didn’t even know “retirement depression” was a “thing!”

With the loss of my wife, I suffered through a period of depression, but with some anti-depressants, some “wine, women and song” and an acceptance that I was depressed, I worked through it.

Retirement Depression, however, and at least for me, is different. I was self-employed for over twenty years, and although I was never the “early bird catches the worm” type, I was typically on-the-clock by 9AM and I often worked until 9PM.

Being self-employed though, and working in Cloud Computing, I could make billable hours, 24/7, from my clients both national and international. There wasn’t a SET structure in my work, but there was structure. Now, not so much.

I additionally had goals. Ironically, mostly for retirement. We planned on going to Italy. Cruising the Mediterranean, retracing our honeymoon in Banff and flying to Hawaii A LOT more to visit our daughter.

I also had (have?) personal goals. I planned on riding my motorcycle across the US, taking up sailing and golf, spending a lot more time skiing, fly fishing, shooting my bow and firearms, buying more motorcycles and riding them EVERYWHERE!

My grand babies and children were also a top priority for both my wife and me, but it was going to be about adventures, not just babysitting. (Although I do a fair share of babysitting. No worries! I love ‘em!!! :-) )

Back to the “wind-up toy analogy,” I was living a busy life and knocking a lot of things off my bucket list. Plus, I did many other new things as well. I prepped my house for sale, bought a couple of those motorcycles, did a lot of activities and, for the most part, went to bed feeling accomplished (and exhausted) most nights.

But like a tightly wound wind-up toy, naturally, that energy is not a perpetual source. Wind-up toys, over a period of time, slow and, ultimately stop. And that’s where I now am. Although I would not say I’ve come to a complete stop, my energy level is way down and things that once seemed adventurous and exciting, now, seem overwhelming.

Numerous people say to me: “I wish I could retire young like you!” and I’m always sure to tell them how great life is, but the people that really know me, know I’m depressed.

Everyday, I ask myself “what can I do today?” Unfortunately, many times, the answer is: “I DON’T KNOW.”

And the “I don’t know theme” has come to permeate my life. I don’t know where move, if I should move, what new hobbies might be fun, when I’ve already got so many hobbies and toys, there’s no way I’ll have time for all of them.

People ask: “So what are your plans?” and, again, my answer is “I DON’T KNOW.” :-(

On the upside, I’ve realized I’m depressed. Apparently, retirement depression leads a lot of, mostly men, to suicide. Although such a thing would NEVER enter my mind, depression over the long term will take a toll. For me, I believe, I’m nipping it in the bud.

But it begs the question: “Now what?” And for the moment, at least, I still have to say: I DON’T KNOW.”

Comments for Retirement depression? Say it ain't so!

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Yup, what do I do now ?
by: Oregon USA

It is so helpful for me to read these experiences of getting depressed after retiring. It just hit me in the last year and since most people don't like to talk about it, or admit it, at least as I read about it here, I know I am not alone.

Your statement about " What do i do today or now "............. that is killing me right now.

I'm starting to volunteer more, but sometimes it feels like I'm just "doing it to take up time".

I am a Type A, over achiever and so yes, work was my life. I also was a single mom from when my kids were 6 and 8, so there was very little leisure time and now................. way too much.

by: Paul R

Thank you, everyone for both the sage advice and the encouragement! :-)

I've been looking into volunteer opportunities working with kids. I coached baseball for 17 years and I've been a ski instructor, so I'm looking into the latter currently and in the spring I'll probably coach two of my grand babies. That should help...

Additionally, in the spring/summer, I'm already planning travel. Typically, getting away britghens my outlook, so I'm going to give it a shot.

Again, thank you!


You said it!
by: Len-Pacific

I totally relate to what your saying here except I have two more years before retiring. But I have no idea what I will do.

When I lost my love one, friends and family told me that life moves on. It does but most times you find yourself held back by all sorts of memories from the past.

I am still working on it and in the mean time I bury myself in work. I envy you.

Good luck and best wishes to future endeavors.

retirement depression
by: portsmouth uk

I know what its like to be retired after working so long as it makes one get up and go out also my husband left me , a woman can join clubs to meet other lonely people as men don't.

I also did a computer course and now have done my family tree to keep my mind active. Ive met a lot of friends online not that ive met them as I send them jokes also. I keep my garden nice as I love flowers.

I do get lonely as a lot of people do, but you must make the effort to ring up friends and go out with them for a drink or a meal or join a rambling club. there must be something todo were you live. I have just found out we have a whist club which I have joined and its been going on for years, just google something and you may find something to do.

all the best

A Huge Challenge
by: elna Nugent

Dear Paul:

Retirement is not only an adjustment ,it is like a death, especially for a man. In your case you are going through two bereavements.

Unless you have a life threatening disease or are poverty stricken, you can get through this depression sooner than you think.

You are in a place you have never been before. You have only yourself to live with and deal with. The big question is, " Are you a friend to yourself or are you running around like crazy because you really don't know who you are and why you were even born."

your life can change dramatically if you can go to a well recommended counselor who will see you in a new objective light.

All of our life we run away from ourselves and immerse in a myriad of distractions so we can avoid seeing who we really are and make ourselves our best friend. You are a miracle of life and don't realize it. When you do, your life will automatically change.


Transitions take time
by: Anonymous

I retired one year ago and gave myself permission to do nothing for an entire year. The excitement of being so free was great, but now my mental time line is over and I feel depressed. Because I retired at 56, most of my friends still work.

I decided to substitute to be in touch with people. It helps, but a lot is in the thought process. I am still a productive person and I know transitions take time. Support from others in similar stations help.

Stay focused on being good to yourself and others who cross your path and allow TIME TO transition to a different pace in life.

Lot of us who are missing work life
by: Dave, Calif

Yeah, leaving a good exciting job for retirement isn’t always a good tradeoff in the "feeling good" department.

I retired over 3 years ago. For the first 4 or 5 months I felt good about not getting up at 5AM and not fighting commute traffic jams. But mostly since then, I’ve also got the feeling that you have, … now what? And like you, … I don’t know. It's like so many others have said, Retirement ain't always Golden Years.

Kinda like when James Bond retired from being a secret agent. They took away his license to kill. And in retirement, he now has only a license to slap. Not quite the same excitement wise, huh? ;-D

Retirement fun
by: Ron/Illinois


I hope that you can find a hobby or some volunteer work that will keep you busy and happy. I am a 56 year old divorced retired man that went back to my old hobby of riding horses after I retired.

Not sure what i would do with myself if I did not have these two horses at a boarding barn to tend to and ride. However as winter has set in here in Illinois (it's 8 degrees right now) I am starting to think about a warmer climate for the winter months in the future.

Hopefully somewhere that I can find plenty of retired people to have coffee and visit with. Wish you the best my man!

Take A Deep Breath
by: John A / Tyler, TX

Sit down, sit back, take a deep breath and relax. You need to gather your thoughts before you make any life changing moves. Don't make any rash decisions since they often come back to haunt.

Retirement Depression is a real thing and not just a part of your imagination. Often times this happens soon after one retires since the hustle and bustle of the old job stops and wondering what comes next is often the question of the day. But, in your case it appears this happened quite some time after your retirement from the job.

My gut tells me you are still grieving to some extent over the loss of your better half. And I wonder if you are grieving over the fact you lost your sense of purpose in life because you no longer work. Only you can answer these things.

I think it is vitally important to have a sense of purpose in life. Your wife may have been more intertwined into this than you think since I feel she was definitely a big part or your life and the kids. That's a pretty difficult thing to replace after so many years. Now you're asking which way do I go? That's a normal thing to happen.

Doing the things on you bucket list or buying things may not fill the void in your life. You must be content with yourself and in aloneness; to be comfortable in your own skin after some life changing event.

I must also ask the question if you have allowed yourself to grieve the loss of your wife and the job? Those are two huge life changing events that all of us must deal with at one time or another. For all I know, you may have not allowed this to happen by putting other things into your life before you've had time to deal with those two issues.

From a personal standpoint, I feel having a personal relationship with a higher power is vitally important. I'm not talking about religion here, but rather about a personal relationship between you and him/her.

For me, this relationship helped me get through some very difficult times in my life. I set aside a time in the morning and early evening to meditate and have a conversation (prayer) with my God. It's amazing how this helps clear the mind, get comfort and direction. You may want to give it a try since you have absolutely nothing to lose and all to gain. It certainly won't hurt you and will most likely help.

Finally, I suggest writing about your thoughts and experiences. Get a pen and paper and start writing about what ever enters your mind. It's very cathartic. After a few months go back and read what you wrote to see what has changed or happened since then.

Good luck my friend! You'll be in my thoughts and prayers.

I Don't Know
by: Anonymous

Your experiences are probably played out by many senior men and some senior ladies.

Women normally have permanent social clubs where they can go to talk about their problems, etc. Men today have more challenges because they generally don't go to social clubs for answers. Instead they go to bars & casinos where their problems will become bigger not smaller. And, as a result anxiety & depression are accentuated.

I suggest finding out what you really care about and pursue it. Don't work alone. Get some new friends and sign up for activities that make you happy today not yesterday.

Good Luck with the second or third act of your life.

Joe W.

Wendy: JOE, So True! I have a male friend who attended a Mens Grieving Support Group and they said little. He then joined the WOMAN's Grieving Support Group and found all the chatter and help he wanted....

Look outside!
by: Sheila

Paul, you are so lucky! You seem to have everything a retiree could wish for, so why not spread it around?

Are there charitable institutions in your city? Ask them what help they need. They likely can come up with something that would use your talents or resources. And you would come to realize how valuable you are TO OTHERS!

When that happens, depression will disappear. Try it and see.

Wendy: Absolutely... DO for others, and you'll feel oodles better!

by: Sharyn

Sorry u lost ur wife ~ ya retirement depression it is REAL. And it is so !

2013 Dec.19 / 13 l was 66 yrs old ~ had enough of early mornings & all nighters, sleeping during the day, waking up @ 2pm to report for work @ 3pm, off @ 11pm, wide awake & 3/4 of the universe just down for the count.

Make a long story short, been having shortness of breath & other health issues. Just when l was hoping to enjoy RETIREMENT.

2014 blah blah blah DR. reports need another hip replacement (R) (L)was inserted back in 2008 works grt. 2010 chest x-ray shows scaring on my lungs ? hmmm 2012 more scaring, more testing.

LUNGS ~ Now on puffers, when l feel short on air. 2014 diagnosis IPF a rare lung disease, there is no known cure 3~5 yrs prognosis.

HAPPY RETIREMENT to me ~~ having been a nurse for over 30 yrs. was my greatest joy* Now , it is my turn to be taken care of when the x comes?

So, u know what buddy, find something anything that may appear to make u happy or full of joy & go for it , cause LIFE REALLY IS TOO SHORT to just sit around becoming DEPRESSED <3

loved reading this
by: Rose Raintree Arlington Wa.

I am 72 and retired 3 years ago as and RN, I went through a bit of retirement depression but I found once I accepted that things were going to be different and began to slow my pace and enjoy the hobbys I didn't have time for in the past I began to fully love being retired.

I too have enjoy spending time with my granddaughter. But now at 3 years I too am kind of wondering what next. However, I am excited that I am going to Hawaii next month for the first time and celebrate my birthday there and I am excited about this.

I am sorry for the loss of our wife I have been alone for a long time and I think when we retired one of the hurdles is being a lot more alone when we no longer have the daily contact with people like we did when we were working.

But I do think if you can stay positive and continue to engage in life even if at a slower pace this can be some of our best years, at lease I will continue to believe this and make every effort for them to be.

Good luck don't give up.

Give Yourself a Break...
by: Wendy


You've only been retired a few years... some with 3 years into retirement would still be in a state of confusion.

Then, you faced a double-whammy: you lost your wife and retired. WOW.

You are young. You have much to do on earth still. Give yourself a break, take deep breaths, walk in the sunshine... meditate. Give your heart and soul time to heal... then life will become visible again.

Until then, I will be praying for you!

Just take it one day at a time...

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