Changing the status quo is never easy and the ripple effects of retirement decisions are often underestimated. Deciding to move or to spend significant time away from where you live changes both your community and your connection to it.
Neighbors may subconsciously or consciously begin to exclude you from activities “because you’re not going to be around.” Your excitement about your retirement plans may alienate others for a variety of reasons. Time away may trigger sadness, anger, abandonment issues or other emotions in those you leave behind. They may not be aware of these emotions or express them in ways which further compound the issue.
Time away may necessitate resigning from boards or committees you serve on in your community such as your neighborhood HOA. Your absence may also change the way in which you participate on those boards or committees. Returning home after time away may trigger feelings of exclusion and “being out of the loop.”
What’s the solution? Communication.
“The majority of us are creatures of community,” said therapist Barbara Sheehan-Zeidler, LPC. “When we feel disconnected from community we may feel as though we have lost part of our identity. Regular communication can keep us connected on many levels.”
“It’s important to identify what’s going on at a deeper emotional level, such as ‘I feel lost.’ ‘I’m scared.’ or ‘I’m angry.’ and find ways to communicate those feelings in ways that are meaningful to both parties,” she continued. “Disengaging from reactive behavior and engaging our higher (adult) self is key.”
Assuring those involved you will keep in touch can diffuse the situation. Ascertain the preferred communication style of each person involved. Do they prefer phone calls, texts, FaceTime, Skype, emails, letters, or acts of kindness? Do they prefer a set time to talk or are sporadic communications okay?
It is well worth the effort to tend to friendships and maintain communications with neighbors to ensure a warm welcome when you come back.
If you notice changes in the behavior of friends and neighbors as the time for your departure approaches, keep the lines of communication open.
Take time to identify what may be going on at a deeper emotional level such as sadness, fear, or other hidden emotions and discuss them. Listening to and acknowledging fears and concerns may be all that is needed or wanted.
Assure those close to you that you will keep in touch and establish the guidelines for those communications.
If possible, avoid springing major changes on those in your community at the last minute. Ample advance notice gives those involved a chance to adjust to and accept changes.