All of us at different points encounter loss and disappointment in our lives, no matter how big or how small. Here are 5 ways to move forward.
Despite our cultural, spatial, religious, or physical differences, we are all united together in the human experience. We all know what it’s like to laugh and to have a good time. We all know what it is to see love in different ways and celebrate family and friends. We know what it is to have hopes and dreams, to desire opportunity, to make the most of what we’ve been given in life.
We also all know what it is to suffer loss and disappointment.
It has been said that suffering and pain are the universal languages of our existence. The biggest and brightest to the smallest and weakest of us will bleed when we are cut, we will cry when we’re upset, and we’ll feel depressed and down when we run up against the unexpected.
Loss and disappointment would be the two chief causes for our pain. And when you face either one, it can be very hard to move forward. You feel like you’re repeating the same few days over and over again, with no end in sight.
Loss I would define as when you lose something you once had. Could be a possession that was important to you, or even a person you once held close, whether to death or distance or a failed relationship. Disappointment is a related sensation – something you would hope work out a certain way but went another, the behaviour of a person or a group of people being different to what you had thought. Disappointment is the sensation of unmet expectations.
So what do you do when you’re going up against these in your life? No matter what you may have lost or been disappointed by, here are 5 ways to move forward from here.
#1: Acknowledge its a big deal to you
I think one of the hardest things in modern society is feeling like our problems matter. Often, it is ourselves who disqualify what we feel when we face a loss or a disappointment. “Well, it’s dumb of me to be upset about this because there are kids dying in Africa while I’m facing my first world problems”.
A lot of our mental health problems today stem from this reaction to loss and disappointment. We are continually repressing our feelings and minimizing things that are actually important to us, and our bodies and souls can’t take it.
If something is a big deal to you, it is a big deal.
The Kübler-Ross model of grief outlines 5 stages that people usually go through on their journey to get through them. I’m not going to talk about the last 4 stages here, but the first reaction the model describes is denial. Isn’t it so true that often the last thing we want to do when we’ve been disappointed or lose something or someone important to us is to ignore it. To hope it goes away. Often our first attempt to cope is to minimize what has just occurred.
Sure, there may be reasons why you are feeling down more than you should, and those are worth considering. But start by actually allowing yourself to be hurt by it. Drinking, sexual addictions and vices, drugs, sometimes even just “innocently ignoring it” or keeping ourselves busy – none of these will help deal with the event properly.
#2: Take the proper time to grieve
Once you’ve acknowledged and accepted what’s happened, you and I have to make sure we grieve things properly. Whether its the loss of a loved one all the way down to “I got my feelings hurt today by something important to me”, we have to get good at mourning.
The Jews had dedicated periods of mourning for different events, ranging from 7 days to 30 days. These were periods delibrately set aside to let it all out. They would do it so elaborately – dressing in sackcloth, ripping their clothes, wailing in the streets.
What we do in our modern attempt to be strong and let nothing affect us is we spent 7 to 30 days intentionally avoiding it. Keeping ourselves busy. Filling our minds and senses with anything and everything else so we don’t have to face that pain.
But until something is grieved, you can’t move on. That’s why maybe you’re still carrying things that you don’t want in your life anymore. You don’t necessarily need to take a 7 day period or a 30 day period, but take some time at least. Just let it hurt. Let it come out. Stop holding it in. You don’t have to carry it anymore.
Let it hurt.
#3: Get closure where appropriate
In some scenarios, and to assist in the process of moving on, there are actions we can take to get closure and finality. You’ve lost someone you love. Something didn’t quite work out. You can’t get past the frustration of not getting that job. As long as we keep the door open, it can be hard to let things go properly.
TD Jakes says that people regularly engage in a spiritual necrophilia. We keep having affairs with our past. And for us to be able to be properly open to our future, we need to close the door.
What does this look like for you? Maybe there are some things you need to pack away. Maybe there’s a conversation or two you need to happen. Maybe you need to write a letter or an email. Maybe it’s something that actually requires re-opening and re-engaging the conversation around. It really depends on what you’re facing.
And if someone you know has passed away, closure doesn’t mean you no longer think about them. It just means you no longer let their death rule your life, but rather, you allow the celebration of who they were in life to be your memory.
#4: Recognize its not the end of you
The biggest trap of loss and disappointment is that it leaves you wondering where on earth you go from here. If someone has died, you wonder how you can possibly live without them. If you’ve had a disappointment, you’re not entirely sure how your dreams are going to be fulfilled now, or what your new path without that is going to look like.
Something one of my pastors says a lot is that the end of an era is not the completion of your destiny. And while someone or something may have died, you didn’t.
You’re still here, my friend. Your heart still has life in it. You are still taking in breath.
And even though you may not be able to see it at the moment, somehow you’re going to be able to find how to keep going apart from whatever you don’t have in your life right now.
#5: Ask God for help
There is a view called deism which essentially surmises that if God is real, then He is completely disconnected from His creation, with no care for what they’re going through. It acknowledges an Intelligent Designer, that the perfection of the cosmos had to be set in motion somehow, but removes His role in what He created.
This is not the reality I subscribe to. In fact, it is rather the opposite. I have seen in my own life that God deeply cares for the things that are important to me and is actively involved in wanting to see me get through the hard times in my life.
I’m not what your views on God or faith are, but I would like to put forward to you that you don’t need to keep trying to do it all in your strength. You don’t need to keep it all inside. God loves you and cares for you deeply. He cares if you got your feelings hurt today. He cares if you can’t see a way forward. And He’s wanting to help you through.
In your process of recovery, why not pray to Him and invite His help in your life?
You still have a great future. Don’t let the things that you’ve lost or the disappointments you’ve encountered hold you back from it. I hope in reading some of these things you’ve found something that can help you find the freedom you need to move beyond the things you don’t understand. In the apt words of Theoden to Eowyn in the above scene – “No more despair”.
Something beautiful can be born out of our suffering. New life takes the place of the old. When a seed dies, a tree is born, and a tree produces new life for itself and for everything around it.
I pray you see new life take the place of the setbacks you’ve encountered. Perhaps it is already present in your life. Maybe there are great new things and people and experiences waiting for you to move beyond what you’ve lost or been hurt by and see the amazing things that are available for you right now. Wherever you find yourself, it doesn’t compare to where you are about go once you’ve properly addressed the loss and disappointment in your life.
What are some other ways to deal with loss or disappointment? What have you found helpful?