I was struck by some threatening ideas, in a recent book.  They hit quite close to the bone – too close really. I am not too far away from retirement myself.

Riley Moynes, a former CEO and founder of a large investment company, was struggling with retirement and decided to cope with his struggles by writing a book,  The Four Phases of Retirement.

According to Moynes, the first phase of retirement is the easy and enjoyable one. He called it the vacation. This is when you can relax and travel and generally enjoy being off of work. Of course, this implies that it was your choice to retire – retirement forced on you by injury and illness is a whole different thing. But I am getting a little ahead of myself.

After the first phase, some people have done all of the traveling they want to. Then, they don’t know what to do next, with their life. This was the part that hit Moynes quite hard.

The second phase of retirement is what he called “a plunge into the abyss of insignificance”. Wow, this is a dark. The image of an abyss is black enough, let alone an abyss of insignificance.

At this stage, many people struggle with five unavoidable losses:

Structure, identity, relationships, a sense of purpose and a sense of power.

Structure – daily routines are important to our sense of control over our daily lives.

Identity – work and productivity give us a sense of self-worth, we can earn money to support our families

Relationships – without going to a workplace we can lose contact with many people in our lives

A sense of purpose – work can be closely tied to our values and goals in life

A sense of power – by this, I do not mean power over others. I mean power over ourselves and our lives – a sense of control, security, money to do things and to help others

Take a real close look at each one of these. These are a major parts of a person’s life. Losing any one of these is like losing a part of yourself.

Unfortunately, this can get worse for some people – especially those people with  health problems so serious they are forced into retirement. They skip right past the vacation phase and fall deep into the abyss.

This is life for many of the people I have seen over the years, with disabling forms of chronic pain and fibromyalgia. No wonder depression is so common.

Moynes offers a way out that can help some people. He discusses Stage 3 as a time of trial and error, where individuals try different things to lessen the five losses. With some success in the trials and errors, some can find a sense of purpose and meaning. This may involve part-time work, volunteer project, or meaningful time with grandchildren, as examples. For Moynes, the writing of his book and related talks to people in retirement helped him to find some new structure to his days, some feeling of power and usefulness in his life and some new friends.

There is also hope for those forced into retirement by disabling health problems.

I was a talk recently, given by Alison Rae. After years of suffering and loss, she gathered her strength and started a new advocacy organization, called CIND, to help people with Chronic Inflammatory & Neurological Disorders.

Ms. Rae has created an amazing organization. She is still quite limited by her illnesses, but has recruited many volunteers who work together with her to get things done. In turn, this organization, she created, has helped Ms. Rae gain a new sense of purpose and power in her life. It has saved her I think.

An abyss of insignificance can be a scary time. Heads up everyone.

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Thank you for reading. Thank you to Magne Traeland  (photo above) and Rachel Walker (image below), both from Unsplash, for your creative work. And, please feel free to steal, share or join our growing list of subscribers.