When A Dream Dies: Mourning The Life You Envisioned

When we speak of grief, we often connect it to losing someone we love but what happens when we lose a dream? Is that grief different?
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Our whole life we’re told to “chase your dreams” and “never give up!” We’ve been told to achieve the things we set our heart to, to lead a life we “dream” of. But what happens when things don’t go the way we envision them? What about when what you’ve always wanted is gone or seems to be fading away? Something that once filled you with passion becomes a burden. This means your dream is dying.  

We were always told to follow our dreams but what should we do when these dreams don’t lead us to the life we want? Or when the dream we’ve dreamed isn’t right for us anymore? Nobody told us how to cope with that.  

What most people don’t realize is that changes are an inevitable part of life. Maybe your relationship didn’t take the path you wanted it to and you had to let go. Maybe you were a professional athlete but an injury made you quit your sport. Or maybe starting a family rendered your dream job meaningless, making you feel like you’re missing out on something far more important. But letting go is tough, isn’t it? How can you cut something off that you once held so close to your heart? How can you let go of your lifelong dream? What is the purpose of your life then?  

A dream is a goalpost, something that shows you which direction you need to head towards. It fills you with a sense of motivation and gives you a reason to do the tasks that would otherwise seem incoherent. But while dreams may die, dreamers still need to dream. How you may ask? These 5 ways below can help you find your spark back and dig yourself out of that emotional black hole.  

1. Grieve the dream  

Disappointment brings sorrow. Losing a dream hurts. Even if we don’t speak about it often, letting go of something so close to you can leave a lasting impact. People always advise us to not ponder the “should have beens” but we must, we must allow ourselves time to hurt for these should have beens. We cannot ignore it or diminish it, suppressing stops us from healing. If it meant something to you, you have all the right in the world to grieve over it. To process the pain, you need to acknowledge the hurt. Journal your thoughts, what this time makes you feel. These journal prompts below can help you introspect.  

1. What emotions are most difficult for me to explore as I think about my lost dream?  

2. When I have intense feelings come up, where do I feel them in my body?  

3. When I allow my mind to wander, what memories or thoughts tend to pop up? How does that make me feel?  

2. Be honest with yourself  

It’s so easy to get influenced by other people’s opinions and thoughts, so much so that we convince ourselves that our opinions align with theirs. But deeper introspection can help you understand the person that you truly are. What is it that you truly want from life? What are your values and goals? Have you changed as a person now that your dream is lost? Instead of considering other people’s expectations, ask yourself what are yours? Now that things are broken down, you should consider whether they’ve been shattered for good reason. Maybe your old dream didn’t serve the person you are right now.  

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Trust yourself to choose the path that is best for you. Image | Shutterstock

3. Re-define your dream  

Circumstances and perspectives are not set in stone. When your dream doesn’t provide the value and meaning that it once did, have the courage to re-define and upgrade it. Your dream will always evolve over time as life changes. You’re not the same person you were when you dreamt this dream but it doesn’t mean that there aren’t various alternative avenues you can consider to reach the end goal. Asking brutally honest questions to yourself will force you to realize what you want from life.  

  1. “What does real success look like to me?”  
  2. “What’s my highest priority in this lifetime?”  
  3. “What is it that truly makes me happy? Or will truly make me happy?” 

4. Re-energize

Now that you’ve connected or re-connected with your core values, it’s time for you to reflect on the things that brought you joy before your dream was lost. To overcome the grieving process, we must always look towards the good in life. Remember your first loves, the music you liked to listen to, the books that filled your heart up, the family time you loved oh-so-much, the activities that rejuvenated you, it could be anything. Pursuing old interests can motivate us to search for new ones as well.  

5. Nurture growth  

Rebuild yourself, if you won’t do it, no one else will do it for you. Don’t let the loss of a dream stop you from being the person you hope to be. Take small steps but in the direction of growth. Learn a new skill, say a prayer for someone every day, read a page a day, journal your thoughts and feelings. Little by little, you can make yourself better and align your values with the goals that are still present in your mind. Focus on short-term ones for now, but the long-term ones must come with time as well. There is still life out there to grab, don’t let yourself get so disconnected from the present that you forget about your future.   

Listen to this soothing mini break by Dhruv Singh to understand the importance of patience.

Loss is an inevitable part of life, nothing in life is permanent. It pushes us to become strong and resilient for the future. While many face loss, it’s how you respond that sets you apart. Rolling with the punches is great but always have a plan on how you’ll punch back when the time is right.  

Read more: 5 Minute Tips: How To Power Through The Afternoon Slump

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