5 Reminders in Dealing with Disappointment and Loss
By Julie Robles
“It’s not fair!”
This statement always makes me think of a certain Calvin & Hobbes cartoon. Calvin asks his parents why he can’t stay up late like they do, and he gives a loud, capital letter-type wail: “IT’S NOT FAIR!” His dad calmly replies, “The world isn’t fair, Calvin.” Calvin walks away disappointed, saying to himself “I know, but why isn’t it ever unfair in my favor?”
As we face our current global health crisis, here are many things that just “aren’t fair” right now. People are out of work. Parents are trying to keep up their children’s education. High school seniors are missing some last memory-making experiences. Weddings are cancelled, and loved ones aren’t able to attend funerals. Many college graduations are postponed. Weeks and months of marathon training has become for nothing as races are cancelled. Even the ways that people usually deal with stress, such as getting together with friends or going to the gym, are no longer an option. So far, I can’t think of anyone for whom this global “unfairness” is acting in their favor.
Here are key points to dealing with the changes, losses, and unfairness that has soaked our world:
#1. Acknowledge and accept your feelings.
It’s okay to be sad, angry, frustrated, disappointed, or anxious during this uncertain time. In fact, it is more than okay – it’s necessary! You need to process your pain in order to gain perspective. Communicate with a trusted friend or family member; explain what you are feeling and why.
#2. Find favor in the midst of unfairness.
Perhaps right now you feel a loss over a cancelled event, a job layoff, or something similar – but consider what you can unexpectedly gain. Often in our busy lives we use the excuse “I just don’t have enough time” as the reason we can’t bond more with our kids, improve our physical health, or pursue a new hobby. What about the unexpected blessing of suddenly having some extra time on your hands?
Realize that how you cope with disappointing situations will shape the way you deal with the future. Accept things you can’t control, feel free to be upset by them, and then let them go. Focus on the good that is still around you, and be thankful for it. Use this opportunity to learn how to make the best out of an unfair situation. Even when life is unfair, you have the power to make it unfair in your favor.
#3. Respond to other people’s losses with grace.
Everyone is affected to some degree by the changes happening in our world. True, some people’s stress loads are lighter than others. For example, your sister may be upset that she has to re-learn algebra to help her teenager with homework, while you are a single mom and a nurse working overtime, trying to find babysitters for your five kids who are out of school, and – oh yeah, you’re out of toilet paper. Or maybe you feel a bit guilty for being so stressed because you don’t have it “as bad” as your best friend who just cancelled her wedding. Your loss is very real and very personal. So is your sister’s. So is your friend’s. So are the high school seniors who won’t get to their last prom or their graduation. So is the multi-million dollar contracted basketball player whose season is suddenly over. Show empathy and grace to those dealing with any kind of loss. This is a hard time for everyone.
#4. Be a model.
All people around you notice how you respond to crisis and disappointment. Your kids, your friends, your fiancé, your boss, etc. are all seeing the side of you that has to deal with change and are watching your emotions that come with it. If you have people in your life looking up to you right now, remember them when you face a choice of how to respond.
Also, if someone who is struggling comes to you for help, listen nonjudgmentally and let them know that they are not alone. Check in on your loved ones – OFTEN, because things are changing every day – to see how they are doing emotionally.
#5. Remember who is in control.
It is human nature to want to have control over our lives. When life is uprooted and there is little we can do to change it, it’s normal to feel anxiety and worry. Find comfort in knowing that we have a great big God who remains in control so that we don’t have to be. And not only is God in control, He already knows how this will all turn out. “You do not realize now what I am doing, but someday you will understand,” (John 13:7). We don’t know how; we don’t know when; and we don’t know why. But what we do know is that God’s got this.
“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33.
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