ASK DENISE: Reader having trouble adjusting to retirement

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Editor’s note: Writer’s answers do not reflect those of the Mitchell News-Journal and are not meant to replace medical or mental health care.


Dear Denise: When I was in my late 30s, my husband had a fatal accident at work, and I was left with raising two small boys on my own. I threw myself into the task of being a good mom, and I think I did a good job. They both grew up to be outstanding men. Both have families and good careers. Both have moved away to bigger cities, but I hear from them at least once a week.  

I have worked my whole life, and when I turned 62, I was thrilled to retire. I was finally going to have time for myself. Well, I am miserable. I sit for hours feeling as though I can’t move. I don’t know what I want to do, so I do nothing. I do know I don’t want to spend the rest of my life feeling this way. What can I do?

Dear Reader: I am glad you wrote to me. You are right; you don’t want to continue with these feelings. I think I see what is happening. It has often been said many women define their sense of self by their relationships with others. 

You grow up being someone’s daughter, and then you become someone’s wife, then someone’s mom, etc. 

Sooner or later, there may come a time when those roles start to fade. When that happens, we often feel lost or even detached. We think we no longer know who we are. It sounds to me you have been so busy for so long taking care of others, you never had the time to learn who you were. This feeling of detachment, along with a possible sense of loss for those prior roles, can make you feel empty. I suggest talking to a professional. He or she can help you to turn this period of feeling empty and lost, to feeling excited about rediscovering yourself, and maybe acquiring some new interests and goals. 

Hopefully, you will learn to embrace this new stage in your life.  Best wishes.


Dear Readers: I have received some feedback, an anonymous voicemail, about a letter I answered a couple of weeks ago. If you recall, the problem being addressed involved a young, healthy-looking person who had a disability and felt others were judging her because her ailment wasn’t obvious. 

The caller thought I neglected to admonish the young woman about using the handicapped privilege only when she felt bad. While I do appreciate all feedback, I think this caller misunderstood my purpose.  

When someone writes or calls me, it is anonymous, and I must work with the information the person provides. I have no way of gathering further details. 

I could not tell from the young lady’s email the level of her disability or the frequency she was using the handicapped spots. 

I interpreted her message as asking for help with dealing with other’s judgment of her, so that is what I addressed in my reply. 

I do hope this clears any confusion, and again, please keep sending questions and feedback, I enjoy hearing from all of you.


Denise Harrison is a Licensed Counselor in Spruce Pine. Send questions to or call and leave a message at 828-467-0037. Submissions are anonymous.

The MItchell News

Mailing Address: PO Box 339 
Spruce Pine, NC 28777 
Phone: 828-765-7169
Fax: 828-765-1616