When I’m asked “what is depression?” the simplest way I can relate to it is the feeling of a sense of loss. As we try to make sense of these feelings, it can become confusing and we can spend time trying to pin down one situation or event that may be causing that sinking feeling inside. The feelings can cloud our thinking and judgement and sometimes we get short-term relief from our feelings by casting judgement and blame on others. Where depression is present the feeling of shame is never far behind. When we fear the loss of connection to others, self-criticism can creep in by telling ourselves we are not worthy, we are not good enough and that feeling of shame can wash over us like a tsunami and can be the biggest debilitating feeling that we all have the ability to feel at some time. It can isolate us and can leave us feeling exhausted.

Us humans are herd animals and we have only developed so well as a race over the years from a collective effort. We structure our lives to get our basic psychological needs of contact, recognition and stimulation met and our working lives provide so many daily opportunities to meet these needs. Getting up each day with a purpose, contact with colleagues and recognition for good work all provides us with a sense of value and self-worth.

I spend lots of time with PH7 Wealth Management clients from age 50-67, these are clients looking at retirement or semi-retirement and with the days of working to 65 and stopping now far behind us, more options have meant more important decisions are needed to be made.

I’ve noticed over the past year an increase in depression for people around retirement. Whilst some find the transition smooth and natural, I have experienced more people struggling to adapt to the change in structure.

If depression is related to a sense of loss and where depression falls shame is present, it makes sense that working for 40 years + could cause some challenging feelings of discomfort:

  • Loss of a structure
  • Loss of a sense of value
  • Loss of an identity
  • Loss of contact
  • Loss of recognition
  • Loss of stimulation
  • Loss of health

For some, this can be a serious accumulation of loss equalling in a serious amount of depression, guilt and shame.

Professional sports people and service men and women can have the same struggles and the above list is connected to the statistic that more people take their own life following leaving the army than actually die in combat.

The transition through retirement takes time and my advice to people alongside any form of factual financial planning is to start investing in retirement structure well before the time comes that you actually retire. Planning hobbies, giving back to the community, further education, self-development, spending time with family and friends and structuring trips and holidays are all healthy ways to build a new structure in what can be the most rewarding phase of life.

Above all this the real keys to a successful retirement are honesty and vulnerability about our feelings. Where honesty and vulnerability are present, depression and shame struggle to survive. This can lead to a place of acceptance and where acceptance is present anything is possible. I always ask clients ‘tell me what success looks like in retirement?’ I have had the pleasure of being part of the journey of many of my clients and seeing the transition into a happy retirement gives me a real sense of connection.

So if you relate to this or feel someone close is feeling the pain of loss, the message is that this is universal and is a very normal response to such a big change in structure and a real sense of loss – the real antidote is being open to talking about feelings and by working with understanding, acknowledgement and empathy this can set us on a new path of discovery.