Facing retirement as part of a whole life
Updated: Jan 22
With so many of us living longer, retirement can represent a larger proportion of our life span we might ever have thought possible. But with retirement come challenges to adapt to a new way of life without the structure of work or the sense of identity and status paid employment might confer.
Author Wendy Billington advises taking time to rest and make a plan when one reaches this stage of life. Her book Retired and Inspired: Making the most of our latter years (BRF, 2019) is divided in two parts – 'Clearing the weeds' and 'Sowing the seeds'.
It gives a Christian perspective on retirement both for individuals contemplating it – perhaps finding it tougher than they had expected – and for their families, friends, carers and professionals.
'Jim's story' runs as a thread throughout many of the chapters. His experiences as a widower, beset not only by grief at his wife's death but by memories of the sudden death of his father when he was young, allow the author to explain the value of spiritual care. Jim finds help from a member of the ministry team at his local church:
'Jim had always found Peter a good listener and an easy person with whom to share his concerns. He had already shared during the weeks following Ann's death the depth of his pain and his dread of facing the future without her. He could scarcely believe that it was only the previous evening when, on the verge of reaching for his pills, he had felt compelled to pick up his phone and cry to Peter for help. He was in such an emotional state that he couldn't remember what he had shared with Peter. What he did know was his deep need to offload at last the tragedy of his father's suicide. This he was able to do in the calm environment in which he found himself. Peter listened intently, encouraging him to share all that he remembered of that terrible day. It was heart-rending to hear about the events, the effect they had had on Jim's life and the way his memories had been triggered by his loss of Ann. Yesterday he had wanted to run away from it all as there seemed nowhere to escape. Today it was different.
'He had been given permission to unburden himself of the memory and all the emotions that went with it, knowing that he was listened to with an empathetic ear and with total acceptance of his deep distress. It was apparent to Peter that Jim still had a long way to go and this was just the start of his journey of healing.
'Listening is powerful. To grasp the skills and to practise them could well change another's' life, as it did Jim's.' (p. 82)
Wendy Billington draws on her time as a Pastoral Assistant in Rochester Diocese, and as a trustee of Sevenoaks Counselling in Kent, to share important insights into a period of life that can prove problematic for some. Her Christian view of retirement could help many face life after work not with fear and anxiety but with greater optimism for the future. Find out more here