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Planning Retirement Online



Relationships - June 2014

Talking it through


Maggi Stamp is a highly qualified relationship counsellor and trainer who writes each month about emotional and practical concerns and challenges that many of us meet in later life. For 20 years, as well as running a private practise, Maggi worked with the organisation Relate to help married and single people, cohabiting couples, same sex couples, families, young and old people and the bereaved to develop, foster and enjoy healthy and fulfilling relationships. No less important, as she is herself a wife, mother and grandmother, she brings a lifetime of varied and eventful experience to enhance her empathy and understanding.  

Many of her examples are based on concerns that clients, family and friends have presented over the years. In the monthly articles where she responds to issues raised by readers, she strictly respects confidentiality and never identifies those who write to her. But the individual worries they raise are invariably felt by others, so her responses can help many.

You can write to Maggi at for her to respond in the column.

Who's Having Fun?

I retired a year ago at sixty with good health and plenty of energy. I was really looking forward to having time to slow down a bit from commuting to work and all the juggling of life outside of work. But I am so disappointed.
Now I realise that work was what my life was all about. I thought I'd spend more time in the garden, with the grandchildren, travelling to see friends and having holidays when I wanted. None of that seems to be working out.
The garden is small and takes very little looking after, the grandchildren are all in school or nursery and have after school clubs galore, my old friends seem to be travelling all the time and I can't keep up.
I live alone, my husband died 8 years ago. I miss him even more now I can't share this time with him
What is wrong with me? Everyone else seems to be having a great time.


There is such a lot to acknowledge in this situation that I hope I can cover it all. Certainly there are so many more opportunities for retired people to keep busy and take advantage of longer life expectancy and better health, even if finances are tight. Thinking carefully about one's situation and forming some kind of plan is the key.

Let us start with your bereavement. It often happens that a person can ease their sense of loss by distraction, working harder being a perfect example. You say that you “realise that work was what my life was all about”. Perhaps that was deepened after your husband died. With your family busy getting on with their own lives your main way of coping might have been getting up to go to work each day. Now work no longer softens that sense of being alone you are having to complete your grieving. Of course you must miss him more keenly now. Though long years together couples plan their joint retirement with great pleasure. When one is cheated of realising that plan, it feels so unfair on them and upon their bereaved spouse, left to work out a life alone.

Although the loss is ever there in some way, life alone need not be crushed by it so long as the changes in life pattern are accepted as being in a state of flux for a year or two. Over that time give yourself 'permission' to try out a series of activities that you might like. Only might, mind. There is no written constitution here, just a testing of the water. Dip into plenty of things, but don't punish yourself or be apologetic to anyone when you decide this or that is not for you. Go to any groups or clubs which meet in your area you fancy trying, even if you feel you aren't really a 'joiner of clubs'. Most of these, the Women's Institute, choirs, sewing bees, history groups, film clubs, arts societies, bridge, bingo – you name it - welcome people as guests to see if they might enjoy coming more often.
If you wish there were more garden see if there is someone less able nearby who needs their garden kept up and used. If you are pleased now that the garden is small and undemanding rejoice, and look for other things. Perhaps a kitten or small puppy would give new focus and companionship to your life?

Talk to your children about doing more after-school care or weekend baby-sitting if that is what you would like. Explain that you wish you could see more of the children than you presently do. But don't be too surprised when they come home from school or club and disappear into their rooms with an iPad or laptop or slump in front of the tele! It is a sad fact that some children have no curiosity about their grandparents and have all-consuming activities which make little room for conversations. But, if you are able to put the time and energy into finding out from them – not mum and dad - what things you could do together, you could have priceless time with them.

It is hard as a person alone, initially, to spend time with couples. But if they are old friends there is always something to reminisce over and friends have an understanding of what you have been through. Don't stop inviting them or suggesting meeting somewhere, just because they are active too, you'll find that a day in the company of a good friend will sustain you for ages, so press on with checking the diaries even if for months ahead. It will be something to look forward to. Pretty soon you will be sharing plans for a ladies-only trip somewhere warm and beautiful and your pattern of life will have left the crutch of work way behind.

Retirement is such a massive change for most people that it needs time for planning and preparing, and time when newly retired, to adjust. We have all worked for so much of our lives so far, and many of us will have quite a few active years left. So it is worth taking time and giving thought as to how you will spend that time. It is always worth taking a look at the Retirement and Pre- Retirement courses run by Laterlife, or try the online Retirement MOT, so for you or anyone else nearing that step, take a browse over what the website has to offer.

Disappointment is natural when there has been a great change already for you. But there is no reason to accept that as the norm from now on.
Check your appetite and how you are sleeping. Is there anything more in your negative feelings that might benefit from talking it through with someone? It is just possible that you are a little depressed, given how hard it is for you to be without your husband. Your GP would soon put you in touch with a counsellor, or talk to someone at Cruse about things which worry you.

You are in good health and have plenty of energy. There is no reason why, once you have adjusted and become accustomed to new ways of spending your time, you won't be one of the busy ones, having fun and finding fulfilment in retirement.

You can write to Maggi at for her to respond in the column.

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