It seems I have a special knack for stumbling onto unexpected things about retirement. Recently, I was responding to some emails when a new email, referencing one of my blogs, came in.

Her email read, “Thank you for your recent post. I never had trouble with low self-esteem before retirement.  I always associated my worth with what I did and/or being needed. Not just being. That was a big mistake!”

When stuff like that hits my desk, I drop everything and tune-in and find out what is going on.  So, I promptly responded, “Can you share a little more?”

That’s when she started dropping bombs at will:

“I am no longer needed in my relationship. I was a good corporate wife who stayed home to raise our son and daughter so Bill could focus on his career. Now that he's retired, I am not needed the same way, and the kids are grown, so I’m no use in that function either. When Bill was working, I was the person who held down the fort. But those days are over; I am no longer needed because he is here all the time. I know he used to be so proud of me, and happy about my performance, but no more. And of course, I'm not doing all those things he needed me for in our past. I have an active outside life, and healthy self-esteem there, but not as a wife. This can't be so unusual, I guess.”  

I’m not sure how that comes across to you, but it feels heavy and cumbersome to me. I can sense how she is feeling and the burden she is carrying from her email. She’s grieving the loss of her role as a corporate wife. 

I don’t know about you, but there was no mention of grief, let alone this kind of grief in my Series 7 workbook or in any retirement planning book that I read. Typically, grief is associated with the loss of a loved one or something like a divorce, but there are actually over 40 different types of losses that can be associated with grief, not to mention, close to a dozen different types of grief.

That makes it important for financial professionals to get more familiar with the different ways grief may play out during the transition into retirement. This is especially important for what is referred to as disenfranchised grief. In a nutshell, it’s grief that isn’t acknowledged or honored. Think of it this way, many people perceive retirement as this ideal time of life and a privilege to achieve, right?  Therefore, some people aren’t going to feel bad about someone losing their role as a corporate wife. 

But that doesn’t take away how a client may be feeling or interpreting a situation. It’s not right or wrong, it’s how they feel and they want and need permission to share their feelings, all the details, and how hard it is to change or adapt. 

Loss of routine, structure and a sense of purpose can all play out as forms of disenfranchised grief during the retirement transition, which puts a premium on an advisor’s ability to educate clients on things like this so that it doesn’t sneak up on them and derail their first few years in retirement.

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