Good grief and great expectations…

Surprisingly, sometimes the biggest obstacle to an individual’s ability to manage change is the individuals own expectation(s), usually of themselves.

Previously when I mentioned grief it was in what you might call in the ‘traditional’ sense of the death or loss of somebody close to you or that meant a lot to you.  However, it important to recognise some emotional elements of our common reactions in the process of grieving are also common to changes to our ambitions, dreams, expectations and future.  Therefore, these reactions can be as important. I frequently talk about the ‘grief curve’, there are basically five stages to this, with any number of intermediate emotional stages in-between.  Shock, anger, understanding, acceptance and moving on.  Now think about traumatic event or personal change, for something that you were personally invested in – be it a potentially great job / promotion, potential new house or flat, a potential new relationship, potentially trying for a baby, the potential post COVID-19 world, your children growing into their potential whilst you slow down, a potential election result etc.  This could have presented you with a different future, an ‘ If only….’ moment.

Rationally you know it’s not the end of the world, plenty more fish in the sea and other fantastically facile/banal platitudes, however, emotionally you feel rubbish…  why?  Essentially, you’re grieving to a greater or lesser extent.  It becomes more difficult to manage when your expectations (usually your own!) increase the pressure on yourself and are greatly unrealistic/slightly unrealistic.

For instance, one of the most difficult times that I had adjusting to life in a wheelchair, a significant change in my expected future, was managing my mental image of myself winning the Dad’s race at my child’s primary school sports day.  This might be more understandable were I ever to have been any good at running or won anything in any sporting arena at any time pre-condition or post-condition and certainly pre-wheelchair.

The point I am trying to illustrate is that the expectation is less based in the rational and more in the emotional – sometimes it is more akin to a sense of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out).  What my image illustrated was the loss of the opportunity to take part.  This was a loss, which I felt emotionally.

So be kinder to yourself and you should give yourself time and space to grieve for what you might feel is a trivial issue but that if you look closer (maybe with could be having an emotional impact.

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