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How to Cope with the Loss of Work Friends After Retirement or Quitting

Resigning from my job was not an easy decision. However, I never thought I would experience the loss of work friends after retirement or quitting.

I knew I needed to leave that toxic environment and my bad boss! What made it more manageable was the never-ending support of my wonderful husband. It was extremely scary with so many changes happening so fast.

Getting through those last two weeks was a definite struggle. I spent time talking to the people I had grown close to so they knew what was happening. Happy stories were shared.

Some were in disbelief they wouldn’t see me every day. It was hard emotionally but necessary. I had worked with these people for seven and a half years. I wanted them to know my reasons for leaving and they were important to me.

I’ll remember that last day for the rest of my life. Walking through that front door leaving the office for the last time was surreal. I don’t think the full effect hit me until I arrived home.

I didn’t have to go to work anymore. Definitely, I never thought I would lose the support of my colleagues.

Are Work Friends Real Friends?

Some profess work friends help keep them sane. Others say the exact opposite and avoid friendships at the office. Definitely, it can make work more enjoyable and tolerable in some cases. There are pros and cons to befriending your co-workers.

Being in the work environment is kind of like being back in high school. You’re stuck in a building with people you, potentially, have nothing in common with day in and day out.

I believed I had true relationships with several of my colleagues.  We did things outside of the office and they even visited our home. I truly believed these friendships would last after I left.

Shockingly, they didn’t survive. I was hurt and felt so stupid. Sadly, I realized that these relationships were, really, never true or meaningful. I had become an expendable acquaintance. My mistake was holding them to the same benchmark and set of values I hold for my true, life long friends.

The loss of work friends after retirement had become a reality. This was the bad break up that I'd never anticipated. At the end of the day, I realized they were just people trying to make the work day pleasant. Nothing more, nothing less.

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Cheryl Holt from Pixabay">Image by Cheryl Holt from Pixabay

You Don't Have Common Ground Anymore

When you see someone every day, it’s easy to begin and maintain a relationship. You check in asking what they did on the weekend, how they’re feeling or find other topics to chat about with each other.  

This becomes a very unique sort of bond. They know every detail about your work. Who else sees what you wear every day? They know all about the daily struggles, difficult meetings, stress, heated conversations as well as all the triumphs.

There is so much shared with them that isn’t, generally, talked about outside the office. Your work friends hear and see it all.

When you don’t have that constant contact and communication, you find out that it’s just about sharing the same space and job.

Unfortunately, you really didn’t have as much in common as you thought. You realize what you actually shared were pleasantries, getting the job done and the daily challenges.

Don't Take it Personally - It's Not About You

I know, I know – easier said than done. I’ll admit I took it very personally at first! I felt rejected after not hearing a peep from anyone. 

However, it really isn’t about you. Friendships come and go. People get busy and tend to focus only on what’s important to them in the moment. In fairness, they are only handling things the way they are capable of or have always done.

There is nothing you could’ve done that would’ve changed the outcome of the situation. When the friendship drifts away, it’s probably because you each have different needs. 

You go into the relationship having very distinct expectations. If they don’t get met, it’s really not their fault. They just didn’t have the ability to give you what you needed or wanted. 

So many people have come and gone in my life. Yet, I’ve learned something from each and every one of them. That’s life.

There’s a saying, “people come and go; but the people that are meant to be in your life, stay”.

You wouldn’t settle for your significant other. So, the same should apply for your friends. It’s okay to be picky.

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Quote from Wisdom Quotes

Setting Boundaries

Some said, this doesn’t mean we still won’t get together, I’ll call you or let’s do lunch one day. 

At first, I tried to reach out to them (e-mail, text, etc.). They were polite however getting together never happened. Only a couple bothered to reply. That’s when reality settles in and takes over. 

As the weeks and months passed, it made me wonder if I hadn’t been a good friend. I was hurt, frustrated and confused. 

I thought I’d been there for them and tried to help as much as I could. I had an empathetic ear to listen to tales of woe or stories where they were unsure about what to do. 

The more time passed, the more I felt like some sort of leper. These people had been important in my life – wasn’t I just as important in theirs? Obviously not.

I tried to console myself saying they were busy or struggling with other stuff. Maybe they were they were instructed not to contact me. After all, many of them were still dealing with my bad boss and resentments may have developed. 

I’ve always been told I need to be hit over the head with a sledge hammer, not a hammer, to learn my lesson! I think my story above demonstrates that. 😊

It hit me right between the eyes and when the shock wore off, I knew a very valuable lesson had been taught to me by these people.

Some life lessons were good and helped me move forward. I was grateful for the time I knew those people. Others experiences were very hard and showed me how to set up proper boundaries.

The term “friend” is used way too much in modern day society. It’s thrown around just like love. We need to become more selective. Save that term for the people that truly deserve the honor of being called your friend (and you theirs).

The loss of work friends in retirement is difficult. So, going into any relationship with your eyes wide open will save a lot of hurt feelings and frustration.

Making and Maintaining Friendships

We all need human contact. Making, or maintaining, those relationships after you retire or quit is essential. Your social interaction could become minimal leading to isolation.

Loneliness has been linked to a higher risk for dementia, heart disease and cognitive decline just to name a few.

Dale Carnegie listed key factors to keeping and building a long-lasting friendship:

  • Show a genuine interest in the other person – it’s not all about you.
  • Be an active listener. Ask questions to engage them and pay attention to what they are sharing.
  • Sincerely make the other person feel important and valued.
  • Don’t interrupt and jump in with your story, thoughts or ideas. Let them speak
  • Smile. 😊
  • And remember, everyone loves to talk about themselves.

When you make a big change in your life, like retiring, it can damage some of these key areas. Removing the structure of work, often, changes meaningful interaction. 

Now, you don’t see each other on a daily basis. You could have trouble relating to your friends that are still working. The loss of work friends after retirement becomes a real possibility.

Making and maintaining these connections in retirement will require more work from you. You’ll have to put yourself out there. Be open to new experiences and meeting new people.

For example, taking a class, starting a new hobby or joining a bridge club are good ways to, naturally, meet new people.

Volunteering is another option. You’re helping out your community while meeting similar minded people.

And, naturally, there is travel! You could go on an organized tour, cruise or vacation through a local group or club.

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silviarita from Pixabay">Image by silviarita from Pixabay

Closing Thoughts on the Loss of Work Friends After Retirement

Don’t expect you’ll keep in touch with all your former coworkers after leaving. Once the common ground of work is gone, your differences become very pronounced. Often, the relationships don’t survive.

Make sure your social circle will be compatible with your new retired lifestyle. Know your boundaries – what you’ll accept or not.  

Don’t keep the companions that add nothing or seem to suck the life out of you. Do make and maintain relationships by actively participating.

Expand your associations. The young have the energy and enthusiasm. Older adults have the benefit of wisdom, time and inclination to expand their social circles.

We can learn something new from anyone. You might be pleasantly surprised. There are a lot of wonderful, funny, intelligent people out there.

Celebrate your new stage of life and look forward to more experiences and joys. Retirement is as great as you make it.

  • Avatar Steveark says:

    I spent over 30 years at the same location, same corporation. Literally over half my life. I started as an intern but eventually became the big boss. When I left I didn’t expect to stay close to my team members, my social circle had never been my work associates. Plus if you are the boss you can’t be anybody’s best buddy at work. I still do stuff with four or five of my former coworkers, they are also retired. It went exactly as I expected.

  • Avatar Tina H. says:

    I spent 31 years at my job and decided to retire at 53 years of age. Thankfully, my husband is retired. I would be so lonely without his company. I really miss the daily interactions I had with folks I spent many, many years working alongside. Frankly, I feel a little lost right now. I’ve been so excited to reach this milestone, but I guess I didn’t consider how much I would miss the people I spent a large portion of my life with. It’s only been four weeks, so I hope this passes! I know I’m so fortunate to be in a position to retire at a young age, and for that I’m grateful.

    • Yes, the first few months are very hard – not having those daily interactions. With time, it does get easier.
      I am very grateful for my close friends that have always been there for me. I don’t know what I would do without them.
      Now that I am “retired” (if you want to call it that LOL), I find that I am busier than ever. It is good to be grateful for the things we have and appreciate the people in our lives.

      I am so glad you enjoyed the article. Thank you so much for stopping by!!
      Debbie

      • Avatar Tina H. says:

        Thank you so much for responding. This is the most honest and reassuring article I’ve read! I don’t feel so alone knowing others feel the same loss after retirement.

        Take care,
        Tina

        • Tina,
          You are very welcome :-).
          I am so glad you feel that way. We try to be honest, reassuring and real. You are not alone! All us retirees are in this together.
          Thanks, again, for sharing and being so open yourself.
          Stay safe and healthy,
          Debbie

  • Wonderful article! The only friendship I’ve maintained is with the author! (My dear and beloved friend, Debbie.) Actually, there is also one other, but we don’t physically visit, just chat on Facebook.

    It was quite shocking to lose some people I talked with daily and I was very saddened for a long while, but then I remembered what you said here, that the only thing we had in common was our bad boss! I was also moving on personally to a much happier place and I think that also cause some jealousy in some people. I imagined they gossiped about me and it was hurtful (this was never confirmed, it was only in my own mind.)

    I am so glad to have left though, and know who my true friends are, and to have made room for new and exciting relationships in my life with others that share the same values. Thank you for reminding me of this.

    • Awwww, thanks Tracy! After all the years of working together, you remain my dear and beloved friend. I better understand how hurt you were after leaving. It was quite a shock to me as well. I really believed I would keep in touch with some people. It’s taken me a long time to get over that pain. That’s why it took over a year to write this article.

      Sad to realize isn’t it? Yes, you’re much happier and you deserve to be. For myself, I am happier, more settled and getting healthier day by day. No more energy vampires or life sucking people. I agree with the jealousy part. I think they’re that way because they’re stuck and we CHOSE not to be.

      At the end of the day, I’m very glad and grateful I left, as well. I found out who my true friends are and this next chapter in life has been so exciting and challenging. Just what I needed. We will succeed and prosper because that’s who we are!! I’m glad I reminded you of this. Stay safe and healthy. Debbie

  • i really only had one very close work friend. he was best man in my wedding. the others will come and go and the last time i saw those colleagues was at a funeral. there are some people i used to work with i would be glad to see but that would more likely be due to a lucky run-in in public.

  • Avatar Barb says:

    Nice article. It is good to remember that your co-workers continue on at their daily work & lives. Life moves on. It is the one who retires or leaves that has to make the most adjustments to their new normal.

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