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How to Make Disappointment Hurt Less

Sep 16, 2019

Thoughtful young man in the living roomLast week on Sept. 11, my cousin David would have turned 49—and I realized he'd been gone nearly as long as he'd been here. It's a real gift when the first thought of someone you've lost brings not tears but smiles. Ever been there? 

Disappointment gets us all. Sometimes for years. But we shouldn't let it have the last word. If you've ever wished you could make disappointment hurt less, these tips are for you.

5 Ways to Make Disappointment Hurt Less

  1. Acknowledge the mess. Call the disappointment for what it is. Acknowledge how it feels. Whether it's personal, professional or both, just let it all out (as they say) in a safe placethe pain, frustration, rage, regret, whatever. It's all fair game. 
  2. Be willing to find out who your friends are. I learned this when David died. Some friends and co-workers were champs. Others ... holy moly. It was like Did you just say that? Disappointment is tough enough without those who make it harder. Surround yourself instead with folks who get it—the ones who know when you need a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, a laugh, or maybe just some space. 
  3. Talk to someone. There's a great line from the show Cheers where Rebecca tells Sam, "You need help. Real help. Not Frasier." Frasier is sitting right there. The point is, when you're deep in disappointment, be willing to talk to a professional. It might save your other relationships. It might save you
  4. Go help someone else. Self-forgetfulness really is one of the keys to joy. Find someone who could benefit from your smile, kind word, listening ear, or laugh. It will help recharge you both. 
  5. Reframe. I have never been one to put a positive spin on tragedyor even ordinary disappointments. But shifting your perspective (reframing) is surprisingly useful. What did you learn or gain from this event? How might you use this disappointment to make life better for yourself or someone else? 

My cousin Janis, for example, whose brother and mother both died in the hospital, now spends her days as a teacher at a children's hospital. Clearly, we would much rather have David and my Aunt Thresa here with us. But the families Janis serves so tirelessly are further proof that Life can bring good out of anything. 



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