Coping with Disappointment
by Gail Schuster, LICSW, ACSW
My client, Joan, was excited about joining her sister Nan to celebrate the wedding of Nan's son in Washington, D.C. Joan, who lives alone, was especially looking forward to some special "sister time" after the wedding at Nan's home nearby.
But those plans were dashed by COVID-19. The wedding, ultimately, was a tiny affair, and after speaking with her doctor, Joan cancelled her trip.
Joan felt emotionally crushed. Instead of enjoying special time with a beloved sibling, she remained at home, largely isolated from friends, colleagues and relatives by the pandemic.
In her disappointment, Joan was not alone. Around the world, the pandemic has forced millions of people to forego long-awaited reunions, vacations and other occasions. We are experiencing, if you will, a pandemic of disappointments.
When something we're anticipating doesn't go the way we'd hoped, disappointment is a normal response. Disappointment affects each person differently, but it is usually associated with feelings of loss or sadness. When we're disappointed, we may try to assign blame and grow angry with ourselves or others. Some people might have trouble sleeping. Some might withdraw from friends, loved ones and enjoyable activities. If you are finding it difficult to let go of a deeply felt disappointment, here are some strategies that can help:
- Talk about it. If your disappointment is interfering with your enjoyment of life, it may be useful for you to seek help processing what you are feeling. By discussing your feelings with a sympathetic friend or mental health professional, you may be able to better understand them and move on.
- See the big picture. Remind yourself that the source of your disappointment is just one aspect of your life. Make a list of all the reasons in your life for feeling grateful, beginnning with basic needs such as food and shelter. Step outside to enjoy the music of a songbird, or savor your first sip of coffee in the morning. Is what has happened (or not happened) a genuine tragedy? If not, try to put it in perspective.
- Don't take it personally. If your disappointment is related to the pandemic, realize that you have lots of company.
- Be creative and keep trying. In the situation described above, Joan did miss her nephew's wedding. But she and Nan now get their "sister time" regularly, through regularly scheduled cocktail hour visits on FaceTime. Another client, deeply disappointed after having to cancel a trip to meet his first grandchild, was eventually able to visit with the baby after he was vaccinated and Covid infection rates declined. He was grateful that he had waited, preserving his good health so that he could ultimately make the trip.
CJFS offers individual and group therapy for people of all ages -- in person, by phone or via video apps such as FaceTime and Zoom. Insurance is accepted. To learn more, contact Clinical Director Marcy Morgenbesser, email@example.com or 205.879.3438.