Dealing with Loss of plans or dreams

By: Destiny Johnson – Career Counselor at Avedian Counseling Center

As humans, we tend to be drawn to achievement and progress. We set goals and seek ways to fulfill them. Accomplishments give us all a sense of pride and confidence. When we can dream and achieve, it creates positivity and hope for the future. Think of a goal that you worked hard for and finally saw it come to fruition. How did you feel? Empowered or inspired? However, what occurs when a dream or plan is lost or not realized? Disappointment or discouragement?

If achievement is the vehicle used to create purpose and self-worth then the loss of achievement can impact many individuals negatively. Feelings of sadness, disappointment, and discouragement are emotions that arise when dreams aren’t accomplished. Some dreams are lost due to unplanned circumstances outside of our control while others are a conscious decision. Some dreams are snatched or not accomplished due to injury, anxiety, new responsibilities, death of a loved one, poverty, discrimination, age, lack of preparation, illness, or low skill development.

Let’s review some scenarios :

A track athlete has trained all year long for the chance to win a medal during an important track meet. The athlete has spent hours exercising, running drills, working on breath control and form. They have adapted their lifestyle to accommodate where they want to be health-wise. Then the date of the meet arrives, they complete a routine warm-up and off they go running in the race of a lifetime. They pivot wrong and instantly the knee begins to buckle and the pain causes the athlete to fall behind and just like that the dream of the medal drifts away….. 

Or 

A little girl dreams of her wedding day. She is wearing a beautiful dress and envisions her father giving her away. Fast forward to the end of high school and her father becomes ill, and within a year he passes away. The young lady now works through her grief slowly. Now she is done with college and meets a special person and after two years of dating, she gets a proposal. She is excited and joyful. As she prepares to marry her partner, she is overwhelmed with sadness realizing her father will not be there to walk her down the aisle.

Regardless, of the scenario, the loss of a plan or a dream can be difficult to experience and even harder to accept. The losses can be incredibly hard to understand, cope, and can come in waves of disappointment. I am sure some have heard the five stages of grief. However, grief can occur and pops up without notice during milestones, anniversaries, or important events.

How can we address the loss of dreams when they occur? Questions to help you address loss:

What can be learned when plans and dreams are lost?

What can be learned about ourselves when plans or dreams aren’t accomplished?

How can you reframe your story?

What resources can you use when navigating the loss of plans and dreams?

Do you need to talk with someone about your loss of dreams?

Additionally, here are some strategies:

  1. Permit yourself to grieve. It is normal to be disappointed and sad when dreams do not match reality. Sadness is a signal that we should not ignore but understand and is a natural reaction. You are allowed to not feel or be ” okay” and to process the pain of what was lost. Identify your hurt and what it means to move forward healthily.

  2. Identify the accomplishments that have occurred to remind you of the progress that has already taken place. You have a right to review your wins and applaud yourself. Look for the good in your life.

  3. Recalibrate and get organized to figure out what the next best steps are for you. Seek out helpful resources to help with overcoming grief and actively work to avoid getting stuck.

  4. Reframe your experiences that are negative to see a new positive outcome. Reframing is critical to overcoming the grieving process and losses. 

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