One of the most irksome aspects of the recent quarantine was: the stay-at-home order, taking place during late spring as it did, ruined many special occasions and rites of passage normally occurring during that season, such as:
Easter and all accompanying celebrations.
End of the school year activities, such as class trips, proms, not to mention graduation—the once-in-a-lifetime moment graduates and their families treasure.
Include college graduations here, too, as well as graduation for advanced degrees.
Also include: graduations from Pre-K, K5, and in some school systems, 5th grade, which will signal the child’s transition to middle school.
Weddings, and all the preceding bridal showers, parties, photo taking.
Who knows how many trips—birthday, anniversary—and cruises were cancelled?
This challenging time—as bravely as we banded together to cope with it—upset and upended not only our daily lives and work schedules, but also many lifelong dreams and unraveled many long awaited expectations.
It matters not how large or small the occasion, the age of the person experiencing the disappointment, unfulfilled expectations can leave a hole that is difficult to heal or to fill.
The word expect simply means to “look” [-spect] “out” [ex]
Not “retrospect”—look back; or “introspect”—look in; or even “circumspect”—look around.
You are looking out, forward, into the future and the vision you see is bright and joyful, some goal you are hoping for and working to attain, some privilege you can have when you reach a certain milestone, some level of skill you hope to acquire after you practice enough.
Once you start expecting, you envision how you will reach that moment, what it will feel like when you arrive there, what other people will say, the memories you will have to look back on.
The vision becomes precious, something you create, and add to, and smile over, and dream about. And while you’re still imagining, the dream is perfect, every detail exactly as you hope it will be.
And in your heart and mind, it becomes so real that it quite simply becomes “real” to you, as real as if it had already happened.
And when it doesn’t happen, you have lost something you begin to grieve for. It doesn’t matter that it never happened. It had happened in your heart and the feelings came with it. And the memory of the event that never occurred is bitter.
So: be patient and forgiving of yourself when your disappointment is so great that your heart aches.
Be patient and forgiving of your child, who missed out on an opportunity, a dream-to-be he cherished.
Don’t call yourself or him or her “silly” or try to downplay the genuine feelings of grief.
Here’s my example.
Many years ago, my oldest son, who is a firefighter, was flagged down on the street. A woman had found a puppy at a bus stop. The puppy was only days old, eyes still closed. My son took him back to the fire station, and tried to care for him, but when he couldn’t, he called me.
I picked up the puppy and took her to the vet. They gave me instructions, and I purchased milk to feed her with a dropper.
I put her in a kennel with a heating pad and tended to her around the clock. When I would hold her, she would scoot up to my shoulder and nuzzle into my neck.
She was a black Lab and I named her Sophie.
For nine days I tended her, loved her, and began to imagine what she would be like when she grew. I could picture us playing ball and going for walks and her lying on the living room floor in the evenings.
I lived out her whole life in my mind over the nine days I had her.
And on the ninth day, she died.
I mourned for that dog as if I had had her for years.
And the reason was—I had lived out her life in my mind.
Losing her, by the way, is what sent me in search of another dog and that is how I ended up with my black-and-tan chihuahua, Foster, who will be 15 on October 10.
There, my friend, is one of the main ways to find comfort when your expectations are fractured.
Because you lose something or lose out on an opportunity, something else is going to come your way which you would not have had otherwise.
Believing that and waiting for it are stern tasks, which require tenacity and faith.
Here are two verses to consider:
Psalms 62:5 My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him.
Proverbs 23:18 For surely there is an end; and thine expectation shall not be cut off.