The 8 emotions of Retirement

2016-07-21 19:56

There is a common belief system about retirement – that it is our opportunity to sit back and smell the roses, that it is a time of perpetual bliss, where we don’t have to do anything we don’t want to do. But in the background there is another belief – that we are old and useless, sick and frail and waiting to die.

Both are true – and both are false. But it is our opportunity to be our-self. We can make of this opportunity whatever we want it to be. However there is an emotional journey that we have to take before we can realise that opportunity.

The first is anticipation – many of us have looked forward to our retirement day for years – and that can be little sad because it suggests that our working life has been unfulfilling. And unfortunately for many of us that is true. So we see our retirement as a release and an opportunity to do the things we really love doing. I will no longer need to get up early, fight the traffic and work for an ever demanding boss or customer.

The second is excitement - as I plan the things I’ve always wanted to do - the holidays in exotic places, the trips to see the grandkids, a chance to catch up with old friends, giving proper attention to my hobbies, enjoying quiet coffees in my favourite cafe, the books I want to read!

The third is contentment - as I settle into a life of leisure. What a pleasure to be able to lay back and to enjoy the 4 “G”s of retirement – Golf, Gardening, Grand-kids, and Google.

The fourth is disquiet - as the days stretch out ahead of me and I find myself pottering around doing nothing really. This is reminiscent of my school days – particularly that lovely long summer holiday. The first 4 weeks were great, the fifth was a bit boring and by the sixth I couldn’t wait to get back to school – even though I didn’t enjoy school much.

The fifth is concern – this is a 20 year holiday! What am I going to do for the next 20 years? Pottering around and the 4 “G”s ain’t gonna cut it for me.

The sixth is depression – what’s the point? What’s the point of getting up, getting dressed then flopping in front of the TV for the next 10 hours? “Maybe I can go for a walk – but it’s dangerous out there, someone was mugged on the street corner just the other day”. “Haven’t seen the kids for ages and haven’t got together with friends for quite a while”. “My knees hurt and my tummy’s not working properly”. I’ve nothing real to do and I just seem to get under people's feet. What am I going to do for the next 20 years?

The seventh is fear – is this it? These are old-age years - will I be healthy? Will my life have meaning as I get older? What does it mean to get frail? What does it mean to die? And loneliness – how will I cope if I’m left alone; through death of my partner, through my kids moving away to follow work opportunities, through friends unvisited for months and years?

The eighth is acceptance – not resignation, but acceptance. Frailty and death will come – but until then …. who do I want to be? How do I want to be in the world? How can I be of service? It is in acceptance that I can look to the contribution I want to make.

So, who am I (without my career to define me)? Where does my passion lie? What is it that gives me a “rev”?  What makes my blood race? What makes it boil? How do I be there to make a difference?

These emotions will come and go, perhaps in a nice orderly way, more likely in a disruptive, roller-coaster sort of way. Feeling one today, another tomorrow, and a couple of others in between. And it can be lonely. Everybody else looks OK. What is wrong with me?

So, how can I make that emotional energy work for me rather than against me?

Alan Maguire is a Retirement Coach. He works with people to help them deal with the emotions that retirement brings. He can be contacted at

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