A couple of years ago I wrote about expectations on my personal blog, Missing Jim.

Lately, I have been trying to figure out who I am now that Jim is gone, and expectations keep running through my mind. As a caregiver, my expectations would cause me more stress than anything else. Only at that time I couldn’t quite see it as clearly as I can now. If I would have just been able to accept the disease, accept what was coming, accept Jim as he progressed…. There are always so many clear ways to see the past. So many “If I had only…”

I suppose I am considered a widow, that is the box I check on paperwork, but it seems like a foreign word that doesn’t apply to me. Am I expected to behave or feel a certain way? Am I expected to shrivel up into a black wearing only mess? Should I speak of Jim or remain silent when he enters my mind?

We all have expectations and having them can be good for us. Expectations will keep you focused, driven, moving forward and pushing yourself to do more and become more.

Expectations can also pigeonhole us all into a complacent compartment we don’t necessarily belong in let alone need to be stuck in for an indefinite length of time.

I struggle daily with who I want to be, who I was, who I currently am and how to get to where I should be. Again, “should” is a difficult word. Perhaps I might have chosen a better word, but along with expectations comes a barrage of “shoulds”. Should do more, should be stronger, smarter, better….should have gotten help sooner, should have sat longer, should have listened more….

Our whole process as humans is a constant growing process. While caregrieving and then moving on afterwards, we are forced to reckon with changes of our mindset, changes in our social standing, changes with our views of ourselves and our world around us. When we expect others to know what we need without communicating what those needs are, we are setting them up for failure and setting ourselves up for heartache, loneliness and frustration. Perhaps we don’t know what we need so it is impossible to ask for help. Maybe just saying to our closest friends who want to help, “I am so grateful for you. Just being here and offering to help makes a difference. I wish I knew how you could do more for us, but I don’t know myself.”

We must force ourselves to be aware of expectations of ourselves and others. We would fair well to remove the word “should” from our vocabulary and mindset. Much easier said than done, but while searching to grow as a person and learn our new place in our world, it is essential to focus on what is a healthy outlook with gentle expectations and a forgiving mindset.

Forgive and move on. Forgive yourself. Forgive your friends and family for not meeting those invisible expectations. Be conscious of them and let them go. For your benefit and your loved ones.

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