The kids had their last day of high school and did not even know it. There were no goodbyes or promises to keep in touch. In an instant, prom was canceled, vacations were canceled and graduation plans were up in the air. There was so much disappointment among students and their families.
In the face of life's inevitable disappointments, there are two options: grieve what you lost or be grateful for the blessings in your life. Sometimes crying is part of the grieving process and may help you feel better. So if you need to be mournful, irate or any other stage of grief for the things you consider lost – do so. Then get up, take a shower and figure out what to do next. Next, identify the steps to achieve this new goal or desire and take action.
Focus on practicing gratitude. Volunteer to help others. There will always be someone who seems more fortunate than you, but there are many others facing much more dire circumstances. It's easy to believe we are the only ones suffering, but disappointment is not a unique experience. It is said that adversity builds character, so be sure it's building character traits that are beneficial – perseverance, creativity in problem-solving, compassion for others.
Sometimes success is simply taking care of the bare minimum when you are struggling. Sometimes it involves seeking help from others. Draw close to the Lord. He gives you family and friends to help meet your needs and wants.
By what standards are you measuring your disappointment? Are you mourning the loss of a “perfect situation”? Are your expectations for happiness reasonable? Maybe you need to adjust your criteria for this season of life. Who are you trying to please? What is their perspective on handling disappointment? Understand that you do not control everything. Some circumstances occur beyond human control, so all we can do is control our reaction.
Be the person that people are proud to be related to or friends with during hardship as well as in prosperity. Social media, Zoom, Google Meet, etc., offer us an opportunity to stay virtually connected in a way that was unimaginable when many of us were in high school or college.
Taking a socially distanced walk, I ran into a neighbor who told me about a class at Yale University. Yale offered “The Science of Well-Being” by professor Laurie Santos to the public for free because it was so wildly popular with students. Santos teaches the importance of savoring life: “What is savoring? Well, it's just the simple act of stepping out of your experience, to review it and really appreciate it while it's happening.” Santos claims three benefits to it: thwarting negative adaptation, thwarting mind wandering, and increasing gratitude to promote well-being.
What can we savor during a global pandemic and shelter-in-place situation? My answer is time with my family. These moments before my oldest daughter goes to college are drawing to a close quicker than I had imagined possible when my children were small. Even though my children are dealing with their own disappointments, I am thankful for the time we get to spend together and I cherish it in my heart.
What can you savor in the midst of disappointment? Appreciate our blessings and help others do the same. We teach our children how to walk and talk, how to play nicely with other people, and how to think about the world. We should also teach them how to cope with disappointment. Make your example be what you want them to learn. Give them the tools they need to mature into healthy adults. They will learn more by your actions in dealing with disappointment than by your words.
Stacey Miles is a Fort Wayne resident.