The Loss of a Dream

Often we dream and sometimes we dream of the future.

When we dream of the future we tend to have some kind of plan or timeline in mind. For example, maybe we want to be married by a certain age, have children by another, and envision enjoying our grandchildren later on. Perhaps we want to spend our well deserved retirement travelling the world or tending the garden, whatever fantasy of retirement we may have.

Of course we try to achieve this, and yet “progress” can be blocked at any stage. Infertility; the death of a child or loved one; illness; divorce: all of these and more can stop the fantasy from becoming reality.

All of the above are present in my experience as a therapist, and yet the loss of the fantasy of retirement can be one of the most unexpected loses.

For some of us it is the ultimate goal: the reason we have worked so hard throughout our lives. To some extent we may have put aside our day to day enjoyment to focus on preparing a future idyll. Retirement is the pay off; it is for what we have strived for so long to achieve.

And yet at this time of life very little is certain. Our own health may be deteriorating, and so may the health of our loved ones. Suddenly the dream may seem to fall apart.

Perhaps there is a diagnosis: early onset dementia; cancer; diabetes; organ failure; loss of sight or hearing, and with that it may feel as if out retirement dream has been stolen. 

Working with a professional counsellor we can explore the sense of grief which comes from the loss of that dream. Often the feeling can be confusing, hidden as it may be within our feelings about the diagnosis itself. Perhaps we feel irritation and anger at our diagnosis. Maybe it’s our partners diagnosis and we feel anger at them, followed by a sense of guilt; they didn’t intend to become ill after all.

In therapy we can own these feelings, exploring them without fear of judgment or criticism. It may be true that the reality of our situation cannot be changed, and yet maybe our emotions and our reactions to that reality can be understood in a more helpful way.

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