How To Deal With Disappointment — St. Peter's Fireside | Vancouver, B.C. 

by Julia Sterne
June 10, 2014
5 min read

Alastair and I have been in the market for a new home for almost a year. Almost. A. Whole. Entire. Year. We have never been in want, but we are now in a season of wanting; wanting a permanent home, wanting a place for Ansley and any other Sterne babies to grow up, wanting some stability and financial responsibility and to make something our own. In this past year we have made multiple offers with nothing secured. 

To put it in one word, I would describe it as a journey of disappointment

Disappointments are an everyday occurrence for many of us. Whether it is small or large, we often bump into our desires being unmet or wrongly met. Whether we don’t get the house, or lose our job, or feel unheard in conflict with a friend, or drop our ice cream cone splat face down on the hot sidewalk, sh** happens.

After a few somewhat major disappointments this year, I find that I do not know the best way to handle them. The counsellor in me says, “grieve,” the willful side of me says, “fight harder,” the mom in me says, “your turn will come,” and the secret rastafarian says, “don’t worry, be happy.”

But none of these seem to help in the moment. In the moment, I am simply feeling angry, sad and scared.  I am angry that I did not get what I wanted, sad that it will never be and scared I may never get what I want in the future. Present, past and future get covered in emotional wave of gloomy feelings.

Monday of this week was the most recent disappointment. The third strike. A swing and a miss. Hoping, dreaming and then riding the disappointment wave to cranky town. I woke up Tuesday morning still angry, sad  and scared, the negative emotion trifecta.

There is permission to be disappointed. There is space for the negative feelings. And there is recognition that there is no solution.

I tried riding it out, waiting for the emotional upheaval to pass. I tried crying (grieving). I thought of a thousand ways to fix the problem (fighting harder). I tried comfort through chocolate and music (the mom and rastafarian in me united). It all felt shallow and useless.

“Why, hello despair, did you decide to join the party?”

So, as any mature Christian adult would, I crawled back in bed, got under the covers, opened my Bible and played Bible roulette. This is a game I go to when I feel completely out of answers. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Bible roulette, this means praying and asking God in a moment of desperation if he would answer you through the flipping of pages in your Bible and pointing to his possible answer.

Caution: Bible roulette is a dangerous game and should always be done with supervision of the Holy Spirit.

The first two flips and points were not helpful, something out of Chronicles and the Index. So on the third go I landed in Deuteronomy. “I am the one true God.” Eep! Quickly I flipped and pointed for the fourth time, to Job, “You have put your case before the Lord and you will have to wait for his answer.” Blergh! Bible roulette was obviously not working.

It was at this point I realized I don’t know what the heck we are supposed to do with disappointment!

I still don’t.

I am sorry if you read this far hoping for an answer. I don’t have one. There is no simple recovery process or ten step program out of disappointment. Alastair and I are still looking for houses. We still feel pretty negative about the whole experience, blessed but stressed.

What I do know is that disappointment happens. And it is sometimes overwhelming. We can feel stuck in anger, sadness or fear. And then our minds and inner whoevers fight it or try to fix it. The fancy term for this is “defense mechanism.”

The only thing I can think to say to someone who is disappointed (including me) is, “Man, that sucks.” There is permission to be disappointed. There is space for the negative feelings. And there is recognition that there is no solution.

And it is that space, that vacuum, that I think leaves room for God to enter. I don’t know what he will say to you or how he will act. I don’tt even know if you will feel him or even feel any better. It might be a few minutes or weeks, or even a year. All I know is what I got in Bible roulette rounds three and four: He is the one, true, all-powerful, living God who hears our case – and we can do nothing but wait for his answer.

This could seem an unhelpful and even disappointing end to my post.

Well, maybe it is. Wait and see.

about the author
Julia is a Registered Clinical Counsellor at New Story Counselling, and is a member of St. Peter's Fireside. She is the wife of Alastair, the mother of Ansley and Maggie, and one of the kindest people you'll ever meet. If you're feeling up for it, you can follow her on Facebook or Pinterest.

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