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Grieving Unmet Expectations

When you think of grief, it is likely what comes

Sad flowers

to mind is bereavement and grief after someone passes away. Grieving is something much deeper and wider than only applying to the loss of a loved one. Grief is a loss — a loss of any kind.

Grief Comes in Many Forms:

Expectations, dreams, and longings can be wonderful cartographers, drawing the road maps for what we think our future will be. They can help us to feel motivated when the going gets tough, and provide hope in some dire situations. However, when they are not met, it can break our spirit and make us question our purpose, and rattle our contentment. In essence, we begin to experience a grief response. 

Allowing Ourselves to Grieve an Ambiguous Loss:

For the most part, people welcome their grief.. or attempt to allow their grief…when a loved one passes away. But what about giving ourselves the same self-compassion when we are grieving a more ambiguous loss?  The losses that say “I thought I would be married by now” or “I really expected him to be healed from the cancer by this Christmas”. What about getting the news that your child will have special needs that will drastically change your family dynamic? It’s time to start allowing yourself to grieve.  

Side Effects of Grief: Too many people are walking around feeling empty, angry, and hurt by not meeting their own expectations of themselves, others, and how they wanted their life to be. Sometimes this looks like shame and low self-esteem, other times it looks like rage at a partner for not being able to make their expectations come true. Whatever the case, it can rapidly increase the likelihood of making it through the pain if we can call it out and label it as a grief process so that we know what to expect and steps to work through it. 

Go Through the Feelings of Grief:

Allow yourself to feel disappointment, sadness, anger, or whatever comes up for you. Find space to reflect on why this dream or longing or expectation is important to you. How does this change other aspects of your life?  If you can self-reflect, maybe it would also help if you find time to reach out and talk about it with someone else? Let them know that you have an expectation that was not met (either one about them or one for yourself). Figure out if the expectation needs to be adjusted (if it is unrealistic), and work toward a shift in creating a new, more realistic expectation. Whatever you’re going through, ultimately it matters that you know you are not alone.  The experience of disappointment is real and experienced by every human around you. It is tempting to deny that you’re discontent or disappointed, but don’t let that hold you back from seeking help. 

If you have any questions or would like to schedule an appointment for therapy, please call Amy Wine Counseling Center at 832.421.8714.


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