Every stage of life has shining moments and crashing disappointments and retirement is no different.  But if all we do is joke about the “tarnished years” and “freedom 105” no one around us is likely to understand that it really does hurt when we realize that our dreams aren’t going to turn out the way we hoped.

The people who love you want to know what’s going on in your life but how you express your frustrations and disappointments makes all the difference between whether you are perceived as a gracious font of wisdom or an old crank.   Many of us were raised to “make light of things” and to “count our blessings” but doing that only shows people one side of who we are and what’s going on in our lives.  So how do we find the balance that lets us talk about our successes as well as expressing our fears and frustrations usefully?

Begin small. Begin with the truth.

When life takes a turn and possibilities that you thought were guaranteed suddenly seem unlikely, talk about that. Talk about the fact that you expected it to be different and that you feel disappointed and frustrated.

Telling the truth about how we feel is a new skill for many of us so it’s important to start small.  If you start with the little everyday disappointments that we all know so well, you’re not opening any big scary doors.   Trying to communicate effectively is easier when there isn’t much at stake.  If you wait until your whole world crumbles before you try to talk, the backlog of events and the big emotions of loss will make it harder.   So start small.

Retirement is not always what we expect it to be but none of life is.

Start talking now so that your kids can see how it’s done.   Life is too short to waste.  Encourage your kids to enjoy life now.   Find something that brings you joy and revel in it.  Talk about your joys and sorrows, successes and failures.  Show them that a life well lived, has both ups and downs.

When we open up to people about what’s really going on, we create safe spaces where everyone can connect.   Celebrate your successes with the people around you and let yourself lean on them when the sorrows come.  It’s never too late to set a good example.

Written by Catherine Mitchell, Certified Grief Recovery Specialist serving the Durham Region.

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