Guest Blogs

I wasn’t expecting that

19 Aug 2022 | Written by By Peter Slee

A photograph of Peter Slee, a man wearing glasses with long white hair and a large white beard

I wonder if you’ve ever been confronted by a situation which threw you off balance?

Coping with unexpected change can be challenging for any of us.

Two years ago, I was faced with such a situation:

For 11 years, I had been working for a large charity in the care sector, as a chaplain, supporting residents, their families, and colleagues to navigate the complexities of life.

During that time, I had worked alongside older people in two care homes, and then was asked to take on a wider brief, supporting other chaplains across the South West.

It was a job that I loved, mainly because it suited my personality and skill-set (oh and it did allow me to travel, on expenses, to such lovely places as Penarth, Poole, Barnstaple and Falmouth in my native Cornwall).

In 2018, I had the opportunity to apply for a newly-created senior position within a larger region, as well as regular trips to the Head Office in Derby.

I had been in this role less than eighteen months when Covid-19 hit the UK. Without dwelling on the sad reality of those times, suffice to say that those leading our charity decided they must take rapid action to mitigate the effects of potential financial difficulties.

Each department was asked to find significant cost savings. As a part of ours, we decided it would be necessary to lose one of the three newly created senior posts.

I was faced with a dilemma:

I was in a post that I felt was making a difference and using my strengths and experience; I was very fulfilled in this role – valued by those around me – and hoping to give another five years, health permitting, before retiring.

Suddenly, I was faced with the prospect of possibly being asked to leave, or offering to take, effectively, early retirement.

How do we feel when the unexpected pops up and bites us?

It certainly shook me – and gave me a lot of food for thought, as you may imagine. 

I felt caught between a rock and a hard place:

I certainly did NOT want to leave this post at this time – it was probably everything I had dreamed of and I truly felt I was making a difference.

On the other hand, I knew there were three of us in the same position, one of whom would need to become redundant. I knew my colleagues were considerably younger, with family commitments.

I volunteered to be made redundant.

It all happened very quickly after I had made my decision and I, with a number of less senior colleagues, left the organisation.

Retirement for me began just after I turned 65 – not particularly early, you may say, but too early for me.

No, I never expected that!

Two years on, how do I feel about it?

Well, that’s the thing, I am still grieving…

I’ve realised that any sudden change or loss will – inevitably – involve an element of bereavement, grief.

I am aware that it is nowhere as serious as the death of a loved one, for example, but it is still a bereavement of sorts.

I now acknowledge that I’ve been finding it hard to let go. 

You know how with grief there can be an element of anger? Well, I certainly don’t blame my employers – they did what they needed to do, but it’s hard to blame a pandemic. It’s just the way it is, but that doesn’t make it any less frustrating that my time in that role was cut short.

Of course, retirement has a lot to offer, and I have enjoyed the freedom for more photography (a life-long hobby) as well as lino-printing and a bit of painting.

More time around my grandchildren is a bonus that I don’t take for granted, either.

However, in transitioning from a very busy job (often away from home a night or two a week) to “not working at all”, I have tried to take steps to soften the blow.

I decided to give a half-day to helping with a group at my church. Also, I took the opportunity to give a half-day to charity by volunteering at a local Oxfam bookshop (years ago I also managed a bookshop!).

I have built some structure into my week, while having a lot of flexibility to meet friends for coffee.

Additionally, I have been keeping my chaplaincy hand in by facilitating a monthly session at The Joy Club; ‘Listening Ear’ support group, a space for folk to talk through some of the stuff they’re dealing with.

Perhaps, like me you’re struggling to adjust to changes or loss in your life? You might like to consider coming along to help make it a safe place where we can support each other.                     

The next ‘Listening Ear’ support group will take place on Monday 22nd August at 10.00am, so please do come along if there’s anything you would like to share – you are also welcome to simply come and listen to the stories of others. 

Peter Slee has recently retired from a senior position with a charitable care provider in a chaplaincy role. Peter has also held positions of responsibility as a Baptist minister, and a retail manager, in varied contexts. Retirement, which came sooner than expected, has given him the opportunity to develop his photographic and artistic inclinations (landscape photography, lino-printing and dabbling in acrylic painting). His 3 grandchildren also bring him great joy. 

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