• Few or No Friends

Retired and Feeling Disconnected

September 18, 2020 | By | 8 Replies Continue Reading

Many people are feeling disconnected during the pandemic. This retired therapist has lost her friends and seeks advice.

QUESTION

Ciao Irene,

No getting around the truth….I will be 69 years old soon, and I have no friends.

Looking at my life in totality, I have always been independent. In college and in my professional life, I had many acquaintances and a few very close friends. Most of my close friends were older by at least ten years or more. Sadly, for me, they have all passed away. 

My dearest friend for over 40 years was my age. We went through college together, worked together, had marriages, divorces and I am the godmother to her grandchildren. She passed away five years ago. I have no children, no family left and have been more or less a recluse for four years. 

Always one who enjoyed my alone time as my profession as a therapist involved being there for others to listen and support them in their journey. I needed time to decompress as I tended towards being too empathetic. It seemed I couldn’t fully engage with my own feelings, but I could feel very deeply the pain and confusion of my patients. After so many years, I just was so saturated with the angsts of those around me.

I retired. Like most, I wore a mask of being one who could handle anything. These last four years I just refuse to wear the mask. I was on the witty and funny side and could make people laugh. No comedy to depend on anymore, I found it hard to connect for any length of time with anyone. I get it…..I just don’t like it. 

Loneliness is not exactly what I feel. It’s the lack of connection. Either I really don’t want to connect because it’s too difficult or I just can’t connect anymore. Tried many things, I have to get involved again with people and life. 

The result wasn’t promising or enjoyable. I sometimes wonder if I still exist, as I now envision myself as being almost invisible to others. My sense is that many, many people are in a state of invisibility and disconnect. It’s a sign of our times. People wave, but nobody waves back. 

Thank you for listening

Maria

ANSWER

Hi Maria,

I’m sorry that you are feeling so alone and disconnected. Although you haven’t mentioned it, the pandemic has exacerbated these feelings for many people, especially people who live alone. When people are working, particularly in the helping professions, they have many opportunities to connect with people during the course of a day. You also may have had contacts with co-workers, too. In fact, therapists sometimes complain of too-much-people-contact. Your life has changed totally.

When people retire, they suddenly lose a bunch of connections in the workplace. You also mention that you had older friends who passed away, A string of losses like that can be very hard to adjust to.

No simple answer can solve your dilemma but a few thoughts come to mind:

  • Try to spend as much time outdoors as you can on walks or hikes (with a mask, and practicing social distancing, of course) because seizing such opportunities to see neighbors or even people in the supermarket can help you feel more connected to your neighborhood.
  • Can you use this time to nurture interests or talents you didn’t have time to pursue while working? Perhaps, you can take one of the many free online experiences now available through museums, destinations, cultural institutions, and such.
  • Try not to limit your contacts to people who are the same age as you. Just as you drifted to older friends in the past, many people younger than you may welcome having someone more mature to speak to. And rest assured, feeling disconnected right now isn’t confined to those over the age of 65.

You talk about wearing a metaphorical mask in the past but now, we are all (hopefully) wearing masks to protect ourselves from getting close to others. Thus, It’s a challenging time to make new friends but not one that is impossible.

This previous post on The Friendship Blog: How to Make New Friends During the Coronavirus Pandemic might offer some useful ideas.

I also maintain a Facebook Group called The Friendship Blog Connection, which could be a place to meet other people who are seeking connections too. Why don’t you introduce yourself there?

Hope this is a bit helpful. Hang in there!

My best, Irene

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Category: HAVING NO FRIENDS

Comments (8)

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  1. CynthiAnn says:

    This post reminded me so much of how I felt after my son left home for college and I suddenly became an empty nester. I had worked from home, for a while, but still felt a lot of emptiness after no longer being involved in my child’s life. I was very active volunteering at his school, in even his later high school years, and was friendly with many of the parents of his friends.

    However, after my son left home, I started realizing I didn’t have as much in common with the other parents when our kids were no longer hanging around together. Those school friendships naturally drifted apart even though we tried meeting occasionally. It felt very lonely for a while.

    It took another year, but I threw myself back into my work mode in a bigger way. I started teaching more workshops in the community (related to my work) and did some volunteering. I know this is hard to do now — during a pandemic — but I also made an effort to get to know my neighbors better. Since I’d been working and raising a child, I didn’t bother knowing my neighbors to any degree. But we started meeting for lunch or breakfast and that helped a lot too.

    I agree with the other comments — about following your interests and meeting people that way. Good luck. My heart goes out to you!

  2. Bette says:

    I suggest the questioner offer her professional mental health services as a volunteer — either online or in person. She reminds me of me — someone who is happiest working and contributing. While she will no longer be paid for her services, her expertise and life experience may be of huge value to those who desperately need it.

  3. Amy says:

    You can’t replace connections that are built over a lifetime overnight, but you can start making new acquaintances who may turn into friends at some point, if you focus on good interactions, rather than a deep interpersonal connections, you will have those memories even if they don’t turn into personal connections.

    I’ve met more new people and developed a number of friendships and acquaintanceships since taking early retirement than I did while I was working through participating in liberal political groups and social justice movements like Black Lives Matter. I’ve been to social distanced, masked rallies so there are opportunities for meeting people in person. The women who organize a lot of these things are retired in your age range, some older and others a few years younger.

    If you’re experiencing depression, Medicare is temporarily reimbursing online counseling.

    • Suzanne Fluhr says:

      When I was working as a more than full time lawyer, my friends were people I worked with. Since retiring I’ve had the time and energy to explore new interests which expanded my social circle beyond lawyers. I also made on line friends. I know a lot of people consider social media to be a poor substitute for in person interaction, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find I’ve made some genuine, supportive friends all over the world via on line platforms. Back when we were able to travel, I had the chance to meet some of them in real life.

    • Irene says:

      I believe, too, that you find kindred spirits when you follow your interests.

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