The High Cost of Expectations
The high cost of expectations
There is truth in the adage “expectations are planned disappointments.” If there is one thing grief has taught me, it is the only thing you can honestly expect is the unexpected. Most of us understand this, yet we continue to get blindsided by expectations, both negative and positive. We continue to pay a high price for having expectations.
A woman wrote to me a couple of weeks ago who was upset with her family after the drowning death of her 14-year-old son. It had been nearly 2 years since his death and she had expected her family to be her main source of support. To her dismay, her older sister and younger brother barely communicate with her and her father and only surviving parent explained to her recently that he “doesn’t do grief.” In addition, her husband won’t talk about it, and her surviving daughter moved away and explained that she preferred to deal with grief on her own.
Many of us can relate to this woman’s story in some form or fashion. Those friends we were positive would be there for us, family members we expected by our side for as long as needed, somehow let us down. We have come to learn that this grief road is not for everyone. The hard truth is that some of our closest family and friends simply are unable or unwilling to provide the support we need.
Are we wrong to have expectations? I don’t think it is a question of whether it is wrong or not, it is a question about what our new reality is after we have suffered a loss. As I responded to this woman, most of us have learned that we had to seek out support from others who had experienced a similar loss as our fail-safe system of support. Once we had support from those who understood our loss, we then gladly accepted as a bonus any meaningful support we received from others who wanted to help us but may have been helpless to do so.
As grievers, if we remove most expectations from family and friends, and can articulate to them what our needs are as we begin to understand our needs … often times we can help others help us. When we don’t have expectations and people begin to say and do little things that bring comfort, we are overjoyed because we’ve set the bar so low.
On the other hand, many of us have experienced just the opposite from someone who may have been on the periphery of our friends or family network who we expected nothing from. Low and behold and often out of the blue they show up and exceed anything we could have imagined. So, we get pleasantly surprised by the efforts of these individuals because we expected nothing and got something.
Expectations can cost us a lot of anxiety and negative energy not only when it comes to people, but when it comes to dates as well. How many of us were anxious about a holiday, birthday, or anniversary date only to discover that the stress filled days leading up to it were much worse than the day itself? I guess the lesson in grief is the lesson of life, we truly do much better when we take on each day one-at-a-time.
Grieving is tough work, some of the hardest work we will ever do. Grief takes action … we can expect the world to be there for us and be disappointed, or we can seek out and find a world that will support us. We can expect every day of our lives to be miserable or simply roll with the flow and see what happens … Our grief journey is a trip into our own uncharted waters … we haven’t been there before so how could we know what to expect? My advice; fasten your seatbelt, hold on to the wheel and let’s see where this road takes us … do we really have any other choice? I expect not.
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