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Grief and Loss in Retiremment

The world of chaplaincy is never dull, but there never seems to be enough time to do all that needs to be done! I may have discharged from the Permanent Air Force but that hasn’t stopped me travelling over the last few months, going from Glenbrook to Williamtown, to Richmond, to Penrith, to Orchard Hills and to Williamtown before going back at Glenbrook again. What have I learnt? Maybe, it would have been easier to stay at RAAF Base Wagga full time! Yes, I am still coming to grips with what it means to be a Reservist, to be part-time and to know where I fit. These sorts of feelings are not unique to chaplains and I suspect that it is part of the grief and loss that many are struggling with.

PPBlogImageExit02The obvious question is what do you do with those feelings? I tried to ignore them but that didn’t work. Then I tried to fight them but that left me angry and frustrated. So, after bouncing between those options countless times I have now progressed to an uneasy state of acceptance. I would like to believe that means I am moving forward with confidence but… that would be stretching the truth. Maybe you have had similar struggles, or issues following the breakdown of a relationship or other loss. Dare I say it, there have even been times when I have felt depressed, which is very unlike me!

What does it take to move forward? I obviously don’t have all the answers but here are three things I now recognise I need to do:
Re-define who I am! I have said it to many others but I need to really believe that my worth as a person is not dependent on my uniform. There is life after Defence, and I can choose what I want to do and become in this next phase of my life.
Re-consider what is important! This is a great opportunity to rethink and re-prioritise, to move beyond the urgent and see the great opportunities that are out there that may take me into new and exciting directions. Maybe I have allowed the urgent to dictate my priorities for too long at the expense of the important.
Re-hear what God’s plan is for me! We live in a very noisy world, and it seems that everybody wants to tell me what I should be doing. My past experience tells me that to hear what God is calling me to may require me to get away from all that noise and allow Him to speak. One book I was reading this week put it like this:

“the reflective life is a way of living that prepares the heart

so that something of eternal significance can be planted there.”

(The Reflective Life, by Ken Gire, p41)

No matter what your struggle at the moment, knowing who you are, what is important and what God’s plan is for you, is a great place to start. So over this next couple of weeks while I am away, I am going to do some of that reflecting which will allow me to ponder the right things and grow something of eternal significance! What are you going to do with your frustrations?

Chaplain Ian S Whitley