Love, Loss and Learning to Lose Expectations

Love and Loss

Anticipation, not expectation

“Serenity comes when you trade expectations for acceptance.” – Buddha

We are in the midst of the holiday season, or what I am beginning to now name the “expectation season.”

I often wonder why the holiday season dredges up so much pain. Do we often mask that pain with planning the “perfect Christmas,” or whatever festive day is celebrated?

Going into Thanksgiving week, my first twinge of pain began with acknowledging the losses I have experienced. Thoughts of, “It’s not going to the same without __________ (insert name here).” It sure seems that losses are felt are so profoundly this time of year.

We have expectations, and I wonder why that is. I remember as a child, almost fearing the winter holidays because I was afraid someone would die, and Christmas wouldn’t be the same. Unfortunately, that happened back then, and it happens still. Someone is gone, and the holidays won’t be the same.

I tend to think of the big “Ds” that often define the expectations of this season. Whether our loss is from death, disease, disaster, distance, divorce, deployment, disability, debt – whatever – it is more profound this time of year than any other.

Entering the week of Thanksgiving, I was struck by how many faces wouldn’t be around the table, and it was painful. Instead of feeling gratitude for the new faces that would be around the table, my go-to was thinking of the losses of who would not be there. It was in that moment that I realized I needed to reframe my thoughts – one from grief of loss, to one of joy in the moment.

I am being gentle with myself, because the losses are great. However, it isn’t a place I want to feel stuck. I am doing my best, with support, to reframe the experience of grief. It is okay to feel sadness and joy at the same time.

As a society, we are steeped in tradition. We listen to the same holiday music, we eat the same foods, we bring out the same decorations and we place them in the same places – where they always go;  we gather with – mostly – the same people. I wonder, do we set ourselves up for failure in doing so? If we keep doing the same thing, and expect different results, are we not creating the set-up for failure? If we don’t add a little newness to the traditions, aren’t we going to feel the losses a bit deeper?

As humans, change hurts. It doesn’t matter if it is a “good” or needed change, or if it is a “bad” or difficult change. We seem to like the comfort of no change. Maybe it makes us feel safer? Maybe if we can control this or that aspect, we will feel better? I don’t know – I’m just rambling here. It just feels that we almost set ourselves up for failure each time we have expectations instead of having anticipations.

As I was searching for quotes on expectations, I found many. This one really resonated with me:

“Peace begins when expectations end.” – Buddha

Is it possible to have peace this time of year if we remove our expectations? What are we expecting? How can we change our expectations to anticipations? Will these expectations bring the peace and happiness we seek? Or will we feel hollow and empty because this season doesn’t “look and feel”  like it once did, or how we perceive it should?

What if, instead, we anticipate that things look and feel different, and that’s okay. That mindset feels like it could take some of the pressure – and disappointment – out of the holidays.

Love and Loss

Due to the numerous losses I have sustained over the past several years, I am trying to move forward with anticipation instead of expectation. I anticipate that I will profoundly miss my granddaughter, Sarah, among with many, many others, so I don’t expect that I will be able to gloss over this season without experiencing that grief. However, my expectation won’t be that I should gloss over the losses. My anticipation will be that, in spite of the losses and how the landscape has changed, I will find moments of peace and gratitude.

While I may not be successful, my goal this year – be it the holidays or any other time – is to try to remove expectation and instead replace it with anticipation. And if I remember correctly, before I added the fear of loss into my holiday expectations as a child, I had a joy of anticipation. It wasn’t even tangible – it was a feeling deep within. A feeling that – to this day – still leads me outside close to midnight on Christmas Eve, looking into the night sky and being filled with wonder, excitement and great anticipation of what will be – with not a hint of dread entering that sacred space.

Wishing you the peace and joy of anticipation this season and always.

Much love,

Love and Loss

8 Replies to “Love, Loss and Learning to Lose Expectations”

  1. Hi Lynne. I don’t know how you come up with the words to describe your thoughts, but they are beautiful and meaningful. Thank you for posting this timely and truthful article. I will be rereading this over the coming holidays and beyond. Thanks again and have a wonderful holiday season filled with joy and anticipation.

    1. Thank you so much, Bob. This subject has been on my mind and heart recently. It seems to be resonating with many. Wishing you the same this season!

  2. I can really relate to your thoughts here! Well written! Your reference to the “expectation season” is so true and TV doesn’t help any, in fact it only adds to it. I like the concept of changing the routine. The loss in your heart will always be there but a change can temporarily trick your brain and help alleviate the intense pain.
    I hope you find peace in your own way this holiday season and in the new year.

  3. “… My anticipation will be that, in spite of the losses and how the landscape has changed, I will find moments of peace and gratitude…”

    Lynne — My heart was warmed as your words crystalized the path that we must all take when faced with numbing despair. You’ve shown that we will not heal if the promise of tomorrow is suffocated by yesterday’s sadness. And while conceding that our view of new horizons will be influenced by past events, you signal hope that the beacon that beckons us to a fulfilling future lies in our optimism.

    Thank you for the wonderful read and the inspiring message.

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