Surprised at my own struggles and learning what to expect

by M.J.
(Oregon)


Hi, I lost my mom nearly a year ago and, not too long after, I decided to take early retirement because money wouldn't be a real issue. I retired last August.

I am 58 and have been a busy paralegal all my life. My husband is still working and he supported my choice. I have always had a professional appearance and care about such things. I enjoyed working but I believed I was ready for a change.

I have two grown children in town and a daughter across the country finishing up school. (No grands yet.) My daughter has met a young man and will likely not be coming back to our home town to live after college, and this knowledge has literally thrown me into a tailspin.

I was caught off guard as to how this (accepting that my daughter will likely live out her life 2000 miles away) would affect me. We are very close and I always imagined having her nearby as she raised her family.

I am close to my sons too, but those relationships don't have the same sort of built-in friendship that a mother and daughter share.

Anyway, I believe this news has also really forced me to grieve my mother's death and now, 6-7 months into my retirement, I am "secretly" struggling with feelings of inadequacy, irrelevance, loneliness, sadness, and disappointment. And it is ridiculous.

I am ashamed to admit these struggles because I am perfectly aware of, and am so grateful for, my blessings. I am blessed beyond measure. I have no real reason to feel this way.

But leaving my home lately has become a chore for me. I dread nighttime as these feelings increase at night. I am withdrawing from friends, and I find myself avoiding commitments. I get mad when my husband sweetly suggests volunteering, but only because he can't understand that I can barely manage to go to the grocery store, much less commit to a volunteer job.

I have been taking anti-depressants and they help somewhat, but these feelings remain.

One friend of mine pointed out that my life has had several "upheavals" over the past year....lost my mom suddenly, lost my daughter (only to distance...we remain close) and I quit my job where I have worked for 19 years.

In hindsight, I probably should've kept my job for a bit longer. I want anyone reading this to forgive me for being selfish and "blue" when I know there are other moms in this world who may have lost their child to death or illness, and those moms would give anything to only be separated by distance, or others who were laid off and have no money to cope, and the list goes on and on.

I realize how fortunate and blessed I am, and I am ashamed for feeling like I do. I wish I could change it. I hope that, in time. I can get back to enjoying my life and shake off these heavy and unwelcome feelings.

One thing I was shocked to realize at this stage of life is that many of us are wading in very unfamiliar waters. In our early years, we learn over time about each of our life stages....we sort of learn what to expect or what it may be like when we go to high school, or when we start dating, or go to college, getting married, having a family, etc. But no one really teaches us what to expect when

suddenly our children have lives of their own and, while we are still loved by them, we are no longer as relevant in their lives. Or what it is like to realIze that your character and your heart are now what attracts others to you and it is no longer your beauty or charm.

It is sort of like we climb up a mountain all our lives, working toward that next level....dating, college, engaged, married, children, jobs, etc., and then, before you know it, you've reached the peak of the mountain, and you find yourself heading back down the other side...and you aren't prepared for what you might find because no one has told you what to expect. And going downhill is a slippery slope, and you cover ground so much more quickly.

It is surprising....At least, that is how it is with me. I admit I struggle with how to cope and feel old about myself. I know I should be serving others or finding a way to help others, but I seem to be stuck. I hope these weird feelings are temporary.

Anyway... Thank you for allowing me to share my feelings. I hope that, in time, I can add a new paragraph sharing how I have pulled myself up by my bootstraps and am doing much better!

Thank you all, and God bless!

Comments for Surprised at my own struggles and learning what to expect

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You're Not Alone
by: Patti/La Grange Park IL

Three years ago I lost a younger brother and my grief was so debilitating that I had to retire because I could not perform my job. Just taking a shower and getting dressed felt like a marathon.

My employer was very understanding and supportive but past a certain point he needed someone who could do the job...it had to get done.

It's not the circumstances under which I wanted to retire. I had always pictured it as being a time of celebration but there was nothing to celebrate.

My brother was gone and I was devastated. Then I lost my job (albeit voluntarily but it was still a loss). I've never been married and I have no children and my job and co-workers were my whole life for 36 years. I was completely unprepared for retirement.

Three years later I still struggle with filling my time. I do all the things that people suggest - volunteer work, walking, coloring, reading, visiting with friends - but even so none of that fills up all my waking hours. I wake up every morning and think "what the heck am I going to do all day?"

I'm telling you this so that you don't feel so alone in what you are feeling. Things have gotten better and I am really glad now that I don't have the job stress to contend with anymore.

My depression is well-managed with meds and counseling. I have a wonderful boyfriend now. I miss my co-workers (who are also good friends) but thanks to email, Facebook and lunch/dinner dates we have managed to stay in touch.

My mission in life now is to get the word out to my still working friends and relatives that you really do need to PLAN for retirement. You need to think about how you'll spend your time.

Before your last working day you need to become involved in some kind of volunteer work and have developed some meaningful hobbies. You need to think about what kind of routine you would enjoy.

I was even telling this to my dentist the other day! He hadn't thought about it, and he admitted to me that he loved his job and didn't have any idea how he would spend his time if he wasn't working. I told him not to wait until after he retires to work through these issues.

I hope things get better for you. They will get better - just remember that. You're not alone. For every person who tells you that retirement is the best thing that ever happened to them there is someone who is struggling. You tend to only hear from the ecstatic ones.

I will be thinking of you. You're not alone.

Patti

You are not nuts, just a mother
by: June

Well, I was 45 and had been single 17 years, having divorced early in life. I raised 3 daughters alone without financial help. Worked my tail off, 2, 3 jobs all the time.

When my youngest went off to college I thought I would die. They were my world.

Now that I am 67, retired almost two years, have a male friend and stay busy all the time, I only miss my daughters occasionally and holidays when we cannot be together. Two live 7 hours away and one a day away.

I miss them but they have a life. So do I and so do you.

After a while you won't miss your daughter so much; will always miss your mom sometimes but that too softens in your heart as time does heal.

Find a part time job, volunteer at a senior citizens home (the forgotten people) and be grateful you do not have to worry about money. So many of us seniors live on the financial edge.

And renew the spark with your husband. That in itself is something to look forward to every day.

Thank you
by: M. J., Oregon

Goodness....thank you all for your thoughtful and helpful responses. I am genuinely surprised and grateful.

When I wrote that post (recently...prob late March, early April 2016 in response to Tx), I was suffering...as you can surely tell.

The anxiety, loneliness, and fear of what tomorrow may bring had practically paralyzed me. And, while I have struggled with these life changes in varying degrees off and on over the course of the last year, I felt myself reaching a new low that day....and it was painful and so unlike the "old me."

I am already a strange sort...I appear very outgoing and gregarious when, in reality, I am a loner and a genuine introvert. (I cope with the stress of being around people by talking, laughing and using humor...but inside I am counting the minutes until I can escape).

And that type of personality tends to lend itself to more and more isolation as my recent life changes (retirement, empty nest, etc.) tend to enable or allow me to avoid or escape these situations quite easily. And while I crave "alone" time, I am learning that it can also quickly become too much of a good thing, and it was becoming more difficult and stressful for me to venture out at all.

And I knew it wasn't healthy, I knew my feelings of loss and irrelevance were mounting too quickly, and I knew it was time to research how others feel about life changes and how they cope.

And that is how I happened across this interesting site. In a way, just saying everything I was feeling was comforting to me...as tho I was purging unpleasantness and pain. That sounds lame, but it is the truth.

And reading your unexpected but thoughtful and insightful responses tonite has been so interesting and very soothing. Again, I appreciate your taking the time to help and reach out. I really do. As many of you have stated above, I do now know things will get better, I am not alone in my confusion about how to cope, and it was helpful to read about your similar experiences.

I am happy to be writing this response as I sit on my sweet daughter's couch. Yes, I am visiting her and it is helping me realize that sometimes things can work out, even when life isn't taking shape exactly like I had hoped.

I am slowly trying to control some of the things in my life that can be dealt with or improved, and I am visiting with my beloved and much missed daughter.

I am also taking baby steps as one of you suggested, even when I most often prefer to stay holed up at home. And each small step lifts my spirits little by little.

I have also been more earnest as I seek the Lord's guidance and I have decided to stop selfishly praying for the Lord to "fix" and make things better. Instead I now ask for help In understanding what it is God wants me to learn from all these life changes and the timing of it all.

I recognized all along that my pain and sadness also included a large dose of selfishness and I was troubled by that. Having each of you tell me to "give myself a break" was freeing for me...that is not something I have been able to do so far. It was very comforting.

My heart broke when I read the comment about coping with the loss of a young child. Those kinds of devastating experiences always serve to remind me that I am blessed, and I need to always try to be mindful of my blessings.

I have a long way to go, but I am better. I am aware there will be other difficult days of missing what was, fearing what may come, and longing to have my daughter close by, but I do hope to continue being more accepting, less mournful, and I will also try to continue reaching out to others. And I will also always continue to be prayerful.

Thank you all again for taking the time to share with me. I did not expect to receive responses as I was seeking information about my struggles. But reading what you all had to say was very helpful to me. - M.J.

LIFE CHANGES
by: GOLDIE

Dear MJ,

I enjoyed reading your post. At this point in life it seems quite normal for feelings of loss to emerge. It has taken several years to find some direction; I still miss my parents and people who mattered in my life.

Prayer has given me strength and courage to continue on my journey; I hope you will discover peace, joy and happiness in your journey too.

We could be twins!
by: Tx

Seriously, we could be twins!

I am brand new to this site and I am not sure how current any of these posts are .... But I found the site while searching for 'relevance in retirement.'

I am the same age; lost my mother last year; voluntarily left a job -- which I don't regret as it was time, but I am struggling with how completely out of touch I am with former coworkers; I have two sons in state and a daughter 2000 miles away.

Your thoughts were eloquent and spot on -- I especially liked the climbing the mountain and feeling like we're sliding down the other side.

I was shocked how bad I am with coming up with things to 'fill the day' and that's what it feels like, just filler. And health wise, I keep telling folks, "I've always known I would fall apart -- I just didn't know it would be this fast!"

I think the hardest part is imagining the future and it scares me that I can't.

It sounds like your husband is very supportive. I have found that exercise does help my mood. I can't take medications, but a lot of them have side effects that may not help.

Thank you for sharing so we know we aren't alone and I wish you all the best!

No need to feel ashamed
by: Nancy

You said it yourself with the analogy of climbing the mountain to the peak. I don't have any kids of my own, but I understand the grieving process of losing my mother and grieving over the loss of a job due to retirement.

After I retired, I felt as though I should have stayed longer and regret was a big part of my life. For me, it did get better.

I wish you all the best. It sounds like you are doing all the right things, antidepressants. Maybe you need to stay home and grieve.

Take care of yourself and keep coming back.

A common journey
by: Sandy

Your journey sounds so similar to mine and I am just slightly past where you are. I can assure you that it does get better, albeit slowly.

If I can figure out how to "friend" you, (I am still new to this site), I will connect and we can hopefully blab about it. You will get through this with the help of family, friends, and activities. It certainly is new territory for many of us with some surprising twists and turns.

Hang in there.

Response to surprise
by: Carolyn - Toronto

What you are going through sounds exactly what I went through when I retired - and then a bunch of negatives came my way - my sister became ill, they were planning to jack hammer our balconies at my condo for 6 months, the family dog died, my best friend married and left town .

I had to try 3 anti depressants (some of which made me worse) before I found one that worked and after a year I am myself again - I too felt guilty as I have so much to be thankful for but clinical depression (which it sounds you have) is not rational - if the medication is not working and you are still struggling see your doctor and time will also help.

I am now back travelling and doing volunteer work and seeing freinds when I never thought I'd be "me" again.

On January 25 of last year I was in bed crying according to my journal - this January 25 I was swimming with dolphins in the Caribbean.

I hope you get better soon but you are going through what many do when they retire - its just that I wish I had investigated it more. It was the right decision for me in the long run but it took time for me to realize that.

disappointed in retirement
by: mildred/tn

I thought I had prepared for my retirement 23 yrs ago but boy was I surprised. I finally saw a psychiatrist after just like u I could not leave home etc. He told me to go back to my child hood and search what had made me happy then.

It was dolls and babies.. I took a doll making class and it did not satisfy me. Then I became a foster parent asking for babies only. Now I was needed, loved and caring for others. Very rewarding. was happy and at 60 adopted one of my foster sons who is 18 now.

Now it is another time for me to reinvent something to live for...Searching again...

Stop Being So Hard On Yourself
by: Barbie NJ

Don't be so hard on yourself!! You have had 3 MAJOR events in your life!! It's hard enough dealing with one, let alone 3!!

Back in 2006 or so, I had my daughter and her family living with me. Their 3 yr old son passed away that Fall. My mom had passed away in 2004. My boyfriend and I were having problems. All kinds of stresses going on.

I decided to go to counseling, and I'm glad I did. My therapist helped me work through it, gave me insight.She helped me to get on with my life.

I used to work at a mental health center. People would call to ask about coming there. Some were embarrassed about calling,the thought of them even maybe needing to come to a mental health office.

I assured them that there is nothing to be embarrassed about. They are there to help people through the tough times in their lives. Have you considered talking to someone? There are different groups for grieving, depression that may help.

My daughter was very depressed for a long time, having lost her son. She went for therapy. It was a 8 week or so program through our local hospital. I saw the changes in her more and more. At first she didn't care about her appearance, then she started wearing a little makeup. She met people experiencing some of the same feelings. She made a few good friends through her going to.

A lot of times we think we should deal with our troubles on our own, but God's word says it's NOT good for us to be alone and we are to share each others burdens.

Helping others, in whatever way you would choose to do that, will ALWAYS make you feel better. Find one thing a day to be a blessing to someone for a start if you feel you couldn't do volunteer work right now.

Are you able to go for a visit to see your daughter? Why don't you plan for that? I'm sure that will lift your spirits!! My son talks about moving out if state all the time. I dread that thought, them being far, far away. I am on a fixed income and would not have the means to travel to see them.

You need to make up your mind that you will do SOMETHING,however a small step it may be,to get yourself headed in another direction.

"If you always do, what you've always done,
You'll ALWAYS GET, what you've
always gotten. "~Unknown Author~

Take a baby step today. 😊💖💖


by: Wendy

It's OK to grieve... give yourself a break. Grieving the loss of your employment (voluntary retirement too), is a bit hit, and enough to bring many to their knees.

Seriously, many who simply retire, no other life changes, are down and out. You've had several losses, as your friend pointed out...

Give yourself time to breathe, to break free from what you thought might be your retirement, to what lies beyond the next corner.

On your daughter, life has it's own ways of working things out. My sisters eldest son is really getting great jobs (right under the CEO) in Credit Unions... we prayed he'd find the next job, he wanted more responsibility, again. Guess what? He found the perfect job, in DELAWARE. They moved, we are left here in Michigan... and my sister was devastated. Now she travels there every few months and they travel back home - it's not ideal but it is working.

Who Knows? Your daughter and/or husband may find a better job closer to you, even in a different state nearby. OR You might travel there more, Life will work itself out...

p.s. just reading your story makes me guess that you are thinking it all out, and will turn the corner soon!

p.s.s. Love the part about climbing the mountain and might have to quote you elsewhere on the site... just brilliant! Thanks!

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