If you’ve never cried in the backseat of an Uber ride home, are you even alive? Or maybe that’s the irony of it all, to cry alone in the backseat with a stranger driving you home means you are there and breathing whether you want to be or not.
This morning, I heard a fantastic speaker say something that shook me- GRIEF= unmet expectations.
GRIEF is much more immense than death, a funeral, the weeks of casseroles later, and dried-up roses. Grief is the layers of unmet dreams, events, and “you should be heres” that follow. Grief is the unmet expectations of a marriage, a childhood, or a business plan that doesn’t go the way you wanted.
I don’t know why hearing it described like this had me feeling that isolation of riding home in an Uber alone all over again- a flashback or a wave of grief in the itchy seats of a Toyota Corolla driven by a Marsha who let me sob through the turns of the city.
An unmet expectation glared me in the face as I stared back at myself in the rearview mirror, riding home from another event alone. I’d plaster my face with makeup to show I was okay; I was so alive, I was still here, and yet something about the ride home would break me. The pressures of the evening and uncomfortable air that wrapped around me could finally be exhaled, and I would let it flow down my face.
This wasn’t how life was supposed to go.
I think it’s true from the moment I heard my husband had cancer, so many unmet expectations of what my life was going to be. The grief came in so many forms and ways and many lonely rides home.
The holidays are sure to stir up these shoulda woulda coulda feelings all over again. As much as I’ve owned the grief over the years, it was always in the darkness of a car ride home that wouldn’t let me hide. Whether I was behind the wheel with a sleeping two-year-old in the backseat or my wine-induced cries were only heard with a four-star rating for “great listening” to my new counselor- sometimes you have to feel it.
And boy, do I feel it today.
When cancer took our world, I carried on because I had to. A little miracle girl was staring at me with her daddy’s eyes. A daddy she’ll never get to know, and it’s my job to build her memories of a father and a family who loves her.
An unmet expectation- to have a partner in parenting with, in laughing at the way your child mispronounces words, or frantically search the park for “taggie” because you both know it’s an essential worker role in your family.
Doing these things alone has a very “if a tree falls in the woods and no one hears it did it even make a sound?” vibe.
If no one could hear my cries, did they even happen? Was her childhood going only to be a memory in my grieving brain cells?
Did I even make a sound?
Last night as I watched that little bob hair cut on an almost 8-year-old girl sing the words to Silent Night, I couldn’t help but think of all the tears I’ve cried. All the unmet expectations.
That’s when “bro-daddy,” as she lovingly calls him, squeezed my knee and pulled out his phone to take more pictures that I realized all of the unmet expectations are new, are still there, and are somehow still so beautiful.
I’ve never felt so lucky to have someone to share in that moment of fidgety feet on stage and hearts so big in the pews. It isn’t who I thought I’d be doing it with, and the family pictures on the wall aren’t what I expected, but they’re ours.
And all the tears I’ve cried made a sound, and all the love never truly dies.