We all have them surrounding all things. We have plans for what to do on our off days. What we will enjoy on vacation. Our to-do lists to accomplish each and every day.
We may call them something different, but they are definitely expectations that can throw us off our game when they aren’t met.
And when it came to grief, I had some serious expectations.
I did not expect the waves of emotions that happened and still happen at the most unexpected times.
I’ve heard it said that there are stages of grief. But, to be honest, my grief has gone back and forth between so many emotions. Anger, sadness, joy at the memories, the drive to make a change and do something different, and occasionally not even thinking about the grief at all.
It’s not always an everyday pain.
And at the same time, it feels like it should be an everyday pain.
Sometimes it feels like I’m doing a disservice to Sydney’s memory because I don’t always dwell on the pain.
And other times, I feel like I’m living the legacy she lived by living out each moment as fully as I can.
When we carry expectations of how we think things should be, we fail to account for the unexpected.
Life is full of unexpected moments.
When we try to control the outcome we fail to leave room for how God is moving.
When we decide when we’re to stop mourning, or feeling the emotions, we are actually cutting off a very important part of ourselves.
There have been so many situations in life where I’ve had unmet expectations. Where dreams were unfulfilled and the memories become “tainted” and hard to remember. The pain of those unmet expectations has caused me to avoid remembering things that should have been happy moments. I’ve let my thoughts and opinions get in the way of enjoying the moment.
But what I’ve learned to do is walk into “big moments” without those expectations. If I stop planning and thinking about how things will go, then I can sit back and enjoy the moment. For instance, just last week we were on a rather large family vacation. It was a big deal of a vacation for our family as it included 4 generations and 10 people. And it was full of busy days. As we first started to make plans, I began to make lists in my head of the expectations I had of what would happen. How we would all interact, and all of the things we would do together. But let’s be realistic for a moment, shall we?
There was no way that I could control the behavior of 9 grown-ups when I can barely control my almost 3-year-old most of the time.
I had to remind myself that this trip was not about me. It was about giving Sarabeth and my mom moments to remember together. It was about seeing the wonder on Sarabeth’s face as she got to meet her favorite princesses and seeing her grow in bravery as she did new big things. And if I had tried to control all the moments, Sarabeth would not have gotten to meet her favorite princess. She would never have gotten to swim in the ocean if I had known the weather coming towards us. She would have missed out on the opportunity to try new foods if I had taken over with all my plans.
Sure, I had some contingency plans. A drawer full of SB approved snacks. Toys to help distract when tiredness or boredom takes over. But mostly, I tried to let go of my expectations of when she should nap or when bedtime would happen, and the things that we would do.
And letting go of those expectations of what would or “should” happen, allowed us to have a lovely trip without a whole lot of drama. Besides a few restaurant meltdowns, we all had an amazing trip. And that happened because I let go.
Let it Go: Grief
So, then, how do I let go of my expectations of how grief should occur in my life? It means I try to live each day as it comes. Rather than focusing on what I think each day should bring, I’m learning to embrace the emotions I wake up with.
There will be days of sadness and days of joy.
There will be days of sobbing and tears.
Days of laughter and fun.
And deep sadness.
I can’t control the days that come. And I can’t control how the emotions will come. I can’t control the person walking past whose smile reminds me of Sydney. Or how the comment from a stranger will choke me up.
But I can fill spaces in my house with happy reminders. I can choose to live in the moment.
Some days it’s okay to sit in the pain. And other days, it is good to get up and do something. To go to the places we went together. Recreate memories of fun things I did with Sydney now with Sarabeth. The places we went don’t have to hold sad memories. Those places are the perfect place to continue to create happy memories. The zoo is a favorite place for us now, and someday I’ll get my replica picture of Sarabeth and I sitting on the alligator statue just like I have of Sydney and her brother. There is joy in getting to share those things with Sarabeth. Sometimes pain, but to recreate the memory makes me smile more now than to feel sadness.
Eventually, as you let go of how you think you should be feeling about a situation, you will begin to think differently about the grief. It won’t ever completely leave you. But it also won’t completely take over every moment of every day. And all of those things are okay.
You are okay where you are. And it is good to embrace the moment as it comes.