10 Ways to Deal with Disappointment

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Disappointment affects us all. There are no exceptions. Perhaps you are struggling with trying to have a baby, and the immense disappointment that can come from yet another negative result; or perhaps you are experiencing the loss of a loved one. Whatever the cause of your disappointment, this post may help you.

I was spring cleaning with my bookkeeper and finally got around to organizing my big grey file cabinet – the home of many loose papers in untitled folders that I had been avoiding for years.  Endless receipts and warranties for walkmans (a relic from the 80’s), video cameras, and old TVs were tossed into my throwaway pile. But then I came across a green folder of my writings, and as I flipped through the folder, one piece caught my attention. It was called “Pregnancy Preparation and Disappointment.”

I began to read this piece out loud to my bookkeeper, who just three months prior to our meeting, lost her 53-year-old husband  to complications of Multiple Sclerosis. Even though the piece was about pregnancy preparation, its words of wisdom were applicable to loss in general, and as I read, tears streamed down her face. It was a poignant moment, as the ending had been written by my late husband, Alex, whose words touched both of us deeply.

From 2006:

One of my patients who had done her second IVF had just gotten news that it didn’t work. Her Doctor told her it was implantation issues. I wondered if anyone really knew why a pregnancy happened or didn’t happen. I realized that I needed to remind myself about life’s lessons, including disappointment, so I could help my patient. Just then, my four-year-old walked into the room and exclaimed: “I am going to win my soccer game.” I asked him: “What happens if you don’t win?” To which he replied with a flat definition of losing. So I rephrased my question: “how do you FEEL when you don’t win?”  He shrugged his shoulders and said: “nothing.”

Out of the mouths of babes. It clearly wasn’t going to ruin his day if he lost. Four-year-olds have a way of just moving on.

As Martin Luther King Jr. said so eloquently: “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” That’s a big truth to live by. Here are my ten tips for dealing with disappointment:

  1. Just as life is full of joy, happiness, contentment and love, life is also full of suffering such as pain, fear, and anxiety. In order to fully appreciate true joy, we have to experience sorrow. So live life to its fullness and embrace it all.
  2. The only certainty in life is uncertainty. When things don’t go as planned, learn from the situation. There is always an opportunity for personal growth in any situation. See what lessons you can learn, and keep that age-old saying in mind: “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”
  3. Welcome opportunities by making the most of the cards you are dealt and hold the space inside yourself, your container, for all your emotions and thoughts.
  4. Share yourself. Seek out support from friends, loved ones, therapists, healers and books.  You never know who may just have the perfect wisdom to help you through a difficult situation, or has even been in a similar situation.
  5. Write it out. Writing can be a therapeutic tool to express your feelings. Feelings are an integral part of life and writing in a journal can help you mindfully watch your thoughts and feelings, process them and not stuff them down.
  6. Cultivate patience. What seems like our biggest disappointment at the time can transform into our greatest learning experiences at another time.
  7. Adversity is a stepping stone. Not achieving a goal can act as the irritant necessary for something beautiful to emerge, like how an oyster creates a pearl from a grain of sand.
  8. “C-c-c-courage,” said the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz. Remembering this can help us when we are in doubt. Know you can muster all the courage it takes to keep moving forward.
  9. Enjoy the ride. We can often get fixated on a goal or result, but remember that it is not only the destination that is important but also the journey.
  10. ALEX’S words of wisdom:

In our culture, we are focused often on external achievement. As a result, we scarcely have the language to express disappointment, grief, shame and loss. We are taught that these are private struggles. To be able to express our true feelings to ourselves and others – this is healing. In fact, if we are not able to express ourselves it can lead to ill-health, emotional blockage and wasted time in unsupportive activities and bad relationships.