A woman contemplating her retirement

Retirement Is Not What I Thought It Would Be

Karen and I met during a Zoom network­­ing event. When she learned of my position as a Retirement Transition Coach, she told me she’d had high expectations for re­­tire­ment.
How­ever, after closing her office door for the final time last year, she found retirement disappointing.
Although she was enjoying more leisure time with family, she didn’t feel she had a purpose or was making a difference, and she missed her colleagues.
I explained that many retirees find that retirement is not what they thought it would be like. While they may enjoy many aspects of retirement, they may also feel a sense of loss. I told her I, too, had felt the same way after retiring.

Homesick for Pre-Retirement Life

Loss is the sense of leaving our careers behind. Every day, for many years, we rise and shine with a structured day in front of us. We have places to go with our own identity and purpose. We feel like we are making a difference.
We have coffee, lunch, and conversations with colleagues. We have things to look forward to, deadlines to meet, and opportunities for continuous learning.
So, within days or months of retiring, we may get “homesick” for these things left behind. We didn’t anticipate how much this change would affect us. We are not homesick for the workday, but rather the sense of belonging and satisfaction it gave us.
I shared with Karen some strategies to mitigate this feeling of loss:

  • Anticipate what will be left behind when you retire and understand you will need time to “reset,” just like after any major life change
  • Plan other activities to bring about the feelings you are missing from your pre-retirement life.
  • Practice self-care.
  • Structure your days.
  • Talk to a friend who has transitioned into retirement. Ask about “lessons learned.” Consider visiting with a professional retirement coach.
  • Set new goals.
  • Give yourself time to figure things out.

 

When I spoke to Karen a few months after our conversation, I was pleased to learn she was using her professional skills to volunteer for a cause important to her. She was taking better care of herself. And, she and her husband adopted a puppy!
The best part? She researched a vacation destination she now looks forward to enjoying with her family when they believe it is safe to travel.
If you are finding that retirement is not what you thought it would be like, and are longing for some aspects of your pre-retirement life, try the above strategies. If you are still struggling, a retirement coach can help you adjust to your post-retirement life.

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