Blog 103. Endings and Grief: Retirement.
Most endings can produce feelings of grief depending on the gravity of the situation. However, endings can also be avoided or even denied. As a result, when feelings of grief and loss emerge unexpectedly, they can come as quite a surprise.
And over the years I’ve noticed that when clients retire, often they are bewildered when they’re suddenly confronted with the 5 stages of grief as explained by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, the Swiss-American Psychiatrist in her book called, “On Death and Dying”.
Unfortunately many believe that grief only belongs to the loss of someone loved and cherished. However, grief can show up in many areas as a response to a loss. And sadly, few realise that they when they retire, being liberated can also bring feelings of sorrow. But also, the change that a new lifestyle may bring can require letting go of the past. And this often triggers a period of grief. Usually this is because change can sometimes be difficult to accept or adapt to – even though retirement was longed for and possibly even celebrated when it finally arrived.
But when we suddenly realise the enormity of the change and what it involves, this can create moments of deep sadness, even though what has been lost may also bring relief.
For many however, the ending of a life time’s work that retirement suggests, can also feel like a death – and sometimes this can come as quite a shock. Usually this is because retirement is a moment of reflection. And it can mark the stark reality of either a successful or a failed working life.
And if someone was not able to fulfil their dreams or if they didn’t do what they hoped to achieve, retirement can represent a very difficult time during which immense loss can be felt.
Sadly, few realise or indeed fully prepare themselves emotionally for the eventuality of this moment – when retirement can result in feelings of redundancy or even feelings of being surplus to requirements.
Many also don’t adequately prepare for many years of doing nothing – which can be a reality for many. And if they don’t have any hobbies and possibly grandchildren to help care for and so on, then sitting around doing not much, can lead to feelings of unworthiness and even depression.
This is usually because they’re no longer privy to the daily work conversations or the activities of a working life. And many forget just how important it is to get dressed, and to head into the office and so on.
Retirees often report feeling very lonely. Because when we engage in daily routines over many years, we forget the bigger picture of what being employed actually means.
And not being employed, can result in a:
- Change of one’s daily routine.
- Decrease in social interaction.
- Loss of identity and a sense of purpose.
- Less mental stimulus and physical activity.
- Loss of a pay check.
But for those who are self-employed, and depending on their work situations, often they are more able to adapt to retirement, if of course, they chose to do so.
And others may actually experience an enormous amount of relief in never having to do any of what they did for years and years – ever again.
But even so, retirement often comes hand in hand with a period of reflection as well as a possible daunting admission that one’s significance, influence or relevance has ended.
This can result in a the 5 stages of grief when,
are worked through.
However, it is important to recognise that asking for help can be vital – as we can sometimes get stuck in some of the stages, especially if they press buttons belonging to the past and so on. Working through any or all of these 5 emotional stages is normal. And learning to be patient and allowing oneself time to let go, is just as important – in order to adapt to the new circumstances and what retirement may mean.
Retirement can also mean many positive things too. It can be the beginning of a whole new life.
But before retirement begins in full, it is important to allow any grief to come to the surface. If not, unrecognised grief and possible anger and so on, could get in the way of any new decisions. It is therefore important to take some time before any of these new decisions are made – so as to prevent them from being the wrong ones. And like with any grief, this may take longer than we think.
Retirement can however offer an excellent opportunity to reframe one’s identity from ‘what we do’ to ‘who we are’. What work we did is important – but we are also far more than the work we did. And what we are able to offer as a result, is far more important too.
It is therefore crucial to redefine your identity because not doing so can lead to an unfruitful retirement.
These days however, being able to offer mentoring services is on the rise. Offering valuable insights and wisdom to those less experienced and in need of advice and guidance should be considered. And thinking about offering a service that brings in a further income is always helpful. And by realising the value of one’s life’s experience, helps take care of the feeling that retirement is about becoming redundant.
There are also many charities requiring volunteers and many report that this has helped loneliness and depression.
No one should feel redundant. It is therefore incredibly important to begin to prepare for the reality of what retirement may actually mean – and this starts now.
The need for preparation brings to mind that excellent quote by Benjamin Franklin who said that, “By failing to prepare – you are preparing to fail”. Wisdom indeed.
© 2018 Deidré Wallace All rights reserved.
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