Retirement: It's like the loss of a loved one

by Nancy
(Santa Claus, IN)

I've read a lot of this stories about anxiety and depression in retirement. I identified with the loss of identity.

This has definitely been a grieving process of my work career. I had lots of jobs, most of them in the counseling field or teaching. But I always worked full-time. It was hard to let go, but it was what I knew I wanted. It was hard for me to realize that this was what was best for me. I like the comment that "you will never finish the book if you keep reading the same chapter".

I've been retired for 2 years in January. Where am I today? I've found my niche, doing what I want to do, I have hobbies, quilting, reading, piano, and word games on my Kindle.

How do I feel today? Still feel that sense of loss, but it is fading. It didn't suddenly get better. The best thing that has helped me recently has been this website and reading others' stories. This is what I've been looking for all along. And an Al-Anon book, "Opening Our Hearts Transforming Our Losses". It's about grieving for all kinds of losses.

Each day is a little different in terms of how I feel. I feel a little down today so I logged on to this website and read some stories. I'm going to read my Bible and some other helpful books. What I need to work on are the negative messages, like, "Why don't you just get over it?" and "Why aren't you grateful?"

I AM grateful. I'm grateful I am away from the stress. I'm grateful that I can have lots of fun working on my hobbies. I'm grateful that I have a wonderful husband. But I also need to give myself permission to acknowledge my sense of loss and not beat up on myself.

As Louise Hay said this is the biggest adjustment of my life.

Wendy: Hey folks, first, I added the Amazon link to the book -- there are 40ish for under $1.50 (used), plus shipping, but still CHEAP -- so go grab them if you are having issues with this transition adjustment. This definately is a loss... and a huge one at that.

Nancy, Just wanted to acknowledge your progress... everyone has good days and bad days, but you recognize it as just that! You looked for help, intuitively considered your options -- and life is coming back into focus again! So thrilled for you!

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by: Sally

When I read what you wrote "my work WAS me", I knew that someone, somewhere understood what I meant when I said the exact same thing. My life was defined by that phrase.

When I was forced to retire in September 2011, because of my age, it took me awhile to come to that conclusion. I am happy to tell you that that has faded , and I am getting used to not thinking of myself that way. Hang in there girl, it will get easier!

by: Nancy

So I realized every morning I wake up I still think about what I would be doing if I were working and it makes me feel sad.

At the same time I enjoy my mornings of taking it easy, spending time with the animals, taking time with breakfast, taking time to do my Bible study and readings and prayer. However, that sticky regret is still there.

I'm working on not playing that regret game every morning. I am trying stop thought exercises and prayer, but it is still there big time, the regret and what ifs.

Still Adjusting
by: Patti

I have written before, but thought I'd post an update. I retired 04/30/13. I had extreme depression and anxiety for several months.

I see now that my work WAS me. I didn't have much of a life outside of working, so once I wasn't working anymore I didn't really have any other support group or community to feel a part of.

I thought I'd see more of my work friends, but that hasn't happened. They are all married with kids and grandkids and their lives are full. Most of them tell me that IBM seems like a lifetime ago. So here I am, re-creating my life again from scratch.

I've made some new friends at a water exercise class, and I do volunteer work driving people to doctors appointments. But I still feel like "is this all there is?" All the days run together and it doesn't feel like there is anything to look forward to. I used to look forward to the weekends, but now every day is like a weekend day so there's nothing special about any of them.

I keep waiting to feel this euphoria that my other retired friends feel about being retired. I seriously wonder if there is something drastically wrong with me.

[Why can't I just be happy?]

Sharing your story
by: Anonymous

Hi Christie

I retired this year from nursing. I also have had periods of sadness, loss of identity.

However, I am starting to feel less of a loss since I have started walking at a local facility.

This feelng comes and goes which I am told is quite normal for this transition.

My goal is to meet new people {which has been slow} because most people I know continue to work.

My husband and I spend time together, but I still
need to interact with others. My husband, who retired 3yrs ago, did not have any problems with his transition. He is unable to understand the emotions involved in no longer working. Talking to family and a friend who retired has been helpful. Most have stated having similar feelings.

I enjoy reading the stories from retirees who worked in many different professions who have kindly shared their feelings with [Retirement-Online]

I promise you, things will get better. Time and sharing have a way of helping us through transition!!

Reply to Pat
by: Anne

Hi, Pat

I live in the UK and like you was an executive secretary until I retired on December 31st. I left for the same reasons you did - my heart wasn't in in any more and at 65 I was also older than the parents of most of my colleagues. I was growing impatient and irritable with people and processes and it was time to go.

So, two days into retirement and I'm miserable and weepy. I am selling my little car - which has been a symbol of my independence - as my husband and I don't need 2 cars now and mine is really too small for the two of us if we travel at all (which we want to do). I know it's only a machine but I feel this ridiculous grief at letting it go. I've had a number of jobs so my pension income isn't great. We will manage, but it will mean a lot of changes. However, I did anticipate these feelings to an extent and I have a lot of plans for what to do with my time, so hopefully once I've got over the first weeks I will settle into a routine and live the life I've looked forward to for whatever time is left (I'm planning on at least 20 years!).

Good luck with your retirement - it would be great to hear how you get on!

by: Anonymous

I think all of your readers can contribute to this topic. I neglected to tell you I have always had a dog, but moving to this seniors apartment, I had to give away my sweet dog and my cat.

So, I "lost" my job, and one year later I had to give away my beloved pets. As you can imagine all of the loss I experienced in a short time took awhile to recover from.

I am pretty sure I am on the right road, and I think each person has to do with is right for them to get passed the loss.

Thanks for your comments
by: Nancy

Thanks again for all the comments.

I have joined a Bible study group which is over next week, then another one starts on October 28. My church has pretty much ongoing Bible studies. Most of them are at 6:00 which is why I haven't been to many of them, but maybe I'll get used to going out at night! After all, the church is just across the road from us.

I also found a book club which meets at 1:00 once a month. I love to read, so this should be great.

Retirement satisfaction, for me, has been about finding my niche. I've realized that now that I'm retired, I don't have to do anything I don't want to do! I love to quilt and it has been great developing this hobby.

A lot of people are just full of advice, but for me, I do better with listening to people's own experiences rather than them telling me what I should do!

by: Anonymous

I was there and have a bit of the depression about not working, going on. Three years ago I was told I could ne longer drive a school bus because I turned 70. I know it was coming, but I ignored it. I had driven a school bus for 25 years.

The first year I couldn't be out and about during that time of day, because if I saw a school bus I would burst into tears.

The second year was better and now it is ok. There have been many times that I thought of going back to working, even part time, but I know that my heart wouldn't be in it.

I volunteer with Big Brothers and Big Sisters as an in school mentor, and I am on the board of the hospital auxiliary and the library board. the biggest thing that keeps me on an even keel is my roommate.

If I were to live alone, I would not eat right and I would not sleep right, either too much or not enough. It isn't enough to be 100% ready to retire, you need to find something meaning to you to do as well.

It does get better....
by: Carrie R

I've been home for ten weeks now. I was a teacher too. You know when it's time to get out of the classroom! I find a few things helpful:

1) Count your blessings everyday. Enumerate at least ten things you are grateful for.

2) Get out of the house and go somewhere, even if you don't have any errands. Just stop somewhere and window shop. It lifts your spirits.

3) If you don't have a pet, think about getting one. My dog keeps me company!

4) Get out and walk in nature. Exercise lifts the spirits.

5) Consider a part time job. I am going to tutor kids for my school district for 8 hours a week. That way I'll have another reason to get out, and I am helping people too.

Good luck and hang in there...It does get better!

Yikes! I feel invisible
by: christie

I retired from a 29 year teaching career last May. I was ready to do it as I was burned out. I at 53 and had all kinds of dreams of writing and exploring life outside of an English classroom. I get a great pension so money is not a problem, Since I retired I haven't been able to sleep...

I dread it when my husband leaves for work.. I cry all the time and I feel like death is down the street.. waiting. I don't want to get sick but I feel as if the future is one dark hole. I do not want to work again... I put in my time... But I am so sad.

I lie when people ask me if it's wonderful....because it is not.

Help? Is there hope?

Wendy: There IS hope and you will get past this. You'd THINK it wouldn't take more than a few months, but that isn't always the case. Please see a doctor if you can't get yourself out of the house, you need some balance. Please don't stay in the house , you will lose perspective about the opportunities that are all around you. MOVE and force yourself to do something!

by: Nancy

Yes, I too feel that sense of mourning. Big loss. Retirement is wonderful, but still there is that life of work behind me.

It has been over a year since I retired:
by: CB

Hello Everyone,

I can't help but feel like a few of you here, and know that loss feeling. I thought I was doing the right thing retiring in the month of October. The holidays would be coming, I would be busy and not notice the loss. Well it worked for a time, and then the onset of Winter came.

There are days I seem to wonder, I have crafts, but they do not fill what ever is going on, and one can only sit and read just so much. The garden helped some this past summer, but that often fades away also.

Has anyone here gone through this feeling of loss or as someone mentioned a sense of mourning ?

Toss your feelings out there to me, I will welcome reading your thoughts. Thanks for listening !

by: Kathy S Muscatine,IA

I will be retired 2 years in DEC. I can relate with much of what you have said. It is a huge adjustment to make. My husband still works and many of my friends do as well.

So some days I do get depressed. I miss the money more than I miss the job. But still it is hard sometimes to see everyone else go to work and not much on my calendar.

Since I retired my Moms health has declined so I am taking care of her part of the time. Something maybe I should have expected but I did not.

I volunteer at the local humane society as a cat photographer and I do work on my family tree.

But it has been a journey for me too.

Retirement loss
by: Pat

Thanks for the words of truth on how one can feel. I am retiring this January 2014 and I know I will feel an extreme loss.

Yet, do I know it is time, YES!

I'm an executive secretary, good job, but the time has come that I just don't want to do minutes, sit in meeting after meeting, etc. I just want more in life at 64 than 5 days of working and only 2 days of rest. I feel so tired at night that I just do not do anything anymore. I don't want to be the old lady that just won't give up her job.

SO...I'm looking forward and scared as hell on January! But thanks to reading your post I know I won't be alone - that is comfort knowing that I will adjust and like my new life.

Reply to Nancy
by: Dee


I found your post pleasantly uplifting and

As for finding your niche. I feel you will continue on that route and keep adding as you discover even more things that interest you .

Fresh air and exercise are of an enormous help too. Nature I feel is the greatest is one if the greatest anecdotes for those occasional low feels as well as contributing to their prevention.

Best wishes

Dee Davies

Thank you
by: Nancy

Thank you, Wendy. And thanks for this website. As I said, this is what I've been looking for all along. And thanks for that list of retirement movies you sent out yesterday.

When I was a substance abuse counselor, I showed movies about recovery to my clients. It helps people to show others' who have had struggles and reached recovery. I watched "About Schmidt" per your recommendation and it really helped me.

Thanks again.

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