Growing into Retirement

After the initial eagerness that comes with brand-new retirement, three or four-year new retirees start the battle with unexpected guilt.

Feeling guilty after the reality of retirement is quite common, says Joe Hearn of the blog Intentional Retirement. The transition of having more time can surprise people who spent decades working on hyper-speed obligations, deadlines and raising a family. It’s normal, he insists, and should eventually settle down once adjustments are made.

You may start feeling guilty because you are aware of your work cessation while plenty of others keep going to work (for reasons of their own). For many in retirement, this can create a sense of guilt.

Stephen M. Albert, PhD of University of Pittsburgh’s division of public health likens it to a sort of survivor guilt, when new time on your hands and the ability to survive without work obligations distorts your own feelings of deserving what you worked for.

Not all retirements are planned. Some retirements may be due to drastic employment changes or a medical or disability issue abruptly ceasing the ability to work in a current profession. A change of steady income is quite daunting to many, even if they’ve planned and contributed to retirement for years.

Balance is key. On one side, extreme lifestyle adjustment, such as toning down the choices at a restaurant or suddenly scrutinizing every purchase can actually cause harm to your health. However, an honest examination of your spending habits may reveal stressors you don’t  need, such as magazine subscriptions or kids still on your family cell phone plan. Rather than skimp on a memorable dinner, examine frivolous expenditures you simply don’t need anymore.

Then there can be regret or even jealously for others’ continued “productivity.” But rethink this: shouldn’t retirement mean more productivity in something you have a passion for or simply enjoy?

Instead of feeling guilty about what you could be doing with your own time, consider how you could be spending time with others, volunteering, or reaching out to unfamiliar neighbors – especially if you have relocated and feel suddenly isolated from your usual routines with friends.

Explore your surroundings. Go to a park close-by you’ve known is there but never tried. Foster a dog or join a book club. There are opportunities all around especially in our beautiful coastal community. 

If anxiety and depression are a growing concern because of your unexpected emotions, experts emphasize that social interaction is important, and maybe counseling, whether it is through ministry or a professional counselor. Perhaps travel can be an elixir, and it need not be extravagant. Changes in scenery allow us to enjoy the present and put the past aside a while.

Remember, you are in a chapter you have worked for a very long time. Give yourself a break and most importantly, re-learn how to play like you did when you were a child. As Oliver Wendell Holmes said, 

People do not quit playing because they grow old; they grow old because they quit playing. 

-Oliver Wendell Holmes

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