Dealing with Disappointment

Dealing with Disappointment November 6, 2012

Sometime in the very near future, half our country’s going to feel disappointment.  You may fall in that camp, or maybe me. Because my husband and I are on opposite sides of the political spectrum, someone in our marriage is going to be disappointed. How can we deal with our disappointment in a way that helps our kids (and ourselves) learn resilience?

Some weeks ago, 2 out of 3 kids faced major disappointments. Weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth ensued.  One got the worst part he’s ever had in the fall play, one didn’t reach her goal to make varsity on a cross-country run.

They were sad, sadness made worse because their friends succeeded where they didn’t, which made them jealous.  So then they felt guilty as well—that they couldn’t be as happy and encouraging to their friends as they should because they felt so deeply disappointed.

Watching them suffer, I felt almost as bad as both of them.  Over the past weeks there have been various responses by family members as well as my sad kids, responses that may be tempting at the end of this election cycle as well:

  1. Blame someone or something:  The director’s unfair, the shoes didn’t fit, the media is biased, the other side’s lies prevailed.
  2. Blame the victim:  If only you’d worked harder, if only you practiced more, if only you kept your room clean, you’d be the sort of kid who’d be able to achieve your dreams.
  3. Stop caring:  If I just decide I don’t care then I don’t have to hurt anymore
  4. Just quit:  If I can’t achieve my goals, I don’t even want to try anymore
  5. Work harder and try again:  show the director or your teammates how good you can be.

Any of these responses might be appropriate with various disappointing circumstances—sometimes we should blame someone else or ourselves, sometimes it’s worth it to quit or stop caring.  Most of the time, it’s worth it to work harder and try again.

But perhaps the best thing to do, at least initially, is to mourn.  To just be sad.  To say, as a friend used to in hard circumstances, “Darn.”

After 9/11, my pastor encouraged our congregation to respond to the tragedy by “grieving cleanly.”  Since then, I’ve thought about that a lot, as I tend to deal with disappointment by blaming everyone and everything.  Grieving cleanly means mourning and feeling the pain without inflicting more pain on others.

The promise when we grieve cleanly, as Jesus said, is that those who mourn will be comforted.  When we mourn with God, we remember that God, not our loss–or Obama’s or Romney’s–defines our hope and future.

So tonight or tomorrow or in the days to come, I’m going to try to grieve cleanly or walk with those who do.   How about you?

What healthy ways have you dealt with disappointment?
How have you helped your kids?

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