As I look back at the many transitions we’ve endured since the start of the pandemic, I feel a mix of emotions. I feel joy at being vaccinated and able to visit family and friends without a mask or the fear and anxiety of becoming ill. But I’m also intensely aware that many people have experienced unexpected change and loss—and haven’t fared as well.

Transitions can be both anticipated and unanticipated. Graduating school, entering the workforce, having a baby, and retiring are examples of anticipated transitions, while things like the pandemic, a job loss, illness, relationship change, and canceled celebrations are typically unanticipated transitions.

Last year, at a time when we were suffering through unwanted and unanticipated transitions to a world of unknowns, best-selling author Bruce Feiler came out with his highly respected book, Life is in the Transitions. Feiler notes that the most common transitions are “personal voluntary” ones—and that’s good news for those of us who are baby boomers and anticipating a transition to retirement.

As I move closer to retirement age, I’m starting to think about what that will mean to me. How will it change my identity, which is so closely tied to my work, my self-esteem, my sense of time and place?

Borrowing from one of FEI’s webinars and service offerings, “Retirement, It’s Not Just About Money,” I am aware that adjusting to retirement can be a difficult transition. Those in my community who have recently retired say it can be a shock, even though their retirement was happily anticipated. They did not fully understand just how deeply they identified with their work and its social environment.

Newly retired individuals may find themselves missing their old work life, routine, and work family. They may endure confusion and hesitancy when forming new connections and routines. Dealing with these emotions during this transition can be physically and emotionally draining—and take a toll on your time and energy.

During the early stage of retirement, it’s not uncommon for these emotions to give way to feelings of disenchantment, depression, anxiety or fear. Many years ago, I helped create FEI’s “Transition to Retirement Services,” which helps pre-retirees prepare for this life change, and those who have recently retired handle the realities of life after work.

Retirement is a major life transition and not a single event. It is a difficult process of letting go of an old lifestyle, dealing with the confusion and fear of the unknown, and searching for and creating a new life for yourself. As is the case with any major life transition, retirement requires a period of adjustment and re-orientation before a new sense of purpose and meaning develop.

A positive reframing of retirement can provide much needed guidance—for renewal, rejuvenation, reinvention, rediscovery, and redirection—and a way to face this anticipated transition with confidence.

If you or a family member needs help preparing for retirement or adjusting to this new way of life, please contact your EAP for information, resources, or referrals. For more information about FEI’s EAP, please click here.