Dealing with Disappointment


Anticipation – the action of anticipating something; expectation or prediction.

Disappointment – the feeling of sadness or displeasure caused by the nonfulfillment of one’s hopes or expectations.

It’s safe to say that anticipation, expectation and disappointment are closely intertwined for anyone who travels a journey of grief. Simply put, disappointment is what happens when expectation meets reality.

Ministers who travel the journey of grief following the loss of their ministry frequently encounter disappointment. Your expectation is that your fellow ministers will be there for you but the reality is that you never hear from many of them. They don’t return your phone calls or reply to your emails. A few offer the obligatory “Oh man, I heard what happened at your church. We need to get together sometime.”

Yeah. Sounds great. Would love to.

That was six months ago and you haven’t heard a word since. The result is disappointment in the people you thought would be there for you through thick and thin.

Your expectation is that you’ll find a job that pays a decent salary. The reality is that the job market can be terribly cruel to an individual whose resume lists churches as former employers and mentions mission trips and VBS as job skills. (Check out this article on how to write a resume during times of transition.) That’s why many ministers work for commission only while continuing to look for a ministry-related job. The result is disappointment in the way your job search is panning out. You just never thought it would take this long.

Your expectation is that you will “shake the dust from your feet” and move forward, never looking back at those who robbed you of your ministry. The reality is that something random like a song or smell triggers a memory and suddenly you’re filled with anger or overwhelming sadness. The result is disappointment—disappointment in how people you thought you knew behaved and disappointment in yourself for where you are in your grief journey. You really thought you’d be farther down the road by now.

It’s important to deal with disappointment because if we don’t, it can easily spiral downward into discouragement, despair and depression. Here are three simple suggestions for tackling disappointment head on:

Be honest with yourself. If you’re sad, admit that you’re sad. It you’re angry, admit that you’re angry. It’s much easier to find a cure when you know what ails you.

Evaluate the situation that has brought about disappointment. Ask yourself the basic who/what/when/where/why/how questions. While times of disappointment are an unpleasant, unavoidable part of life, it may be possible to decrease their frequency or intensity by learning from each disappointing situation.

Give yourself permission and time to be disappointed. Then look forward and move ahead. When Lou Holtz and his wife lost their home in a fire last summer, the former head coach of the University of Notre Dame faced the loss in the same way he dealt with loss in athletics. “In athletics you are going to have ups and downs. Whenever we had a down, we did two things,” Holtz said. “We gave ourselves ‘X’ amount of time to feel bad for ourselves, and then we moved forward. With the fire, by Monday morning it was no more feeling bad for ourselves. We were looking forward.”

What about you? What helps you look forward? What helps you deal with disappointment? Please leave a comment and share your ideas. If something helps you, it’s bound to help others as well.


  1. Teresa

    I wish I had found this last year. I lost my second job in 3 years. I turned 60 in October, 2015. It is very discouraging looking for work knowing there are many younger, more computer savvy candidates applying for the same position as you. I did not find work, but I am finally beginning to “live” again as a retiree. Fortunately, my husband and I prepared for retirement. We certainly could have used the income and health insurance, but we can live with what we have.

    • deanna21

      Teresa, I’m glad you’ve been able to move past the discouragement and disappointment and finally feel like you are living again. May God bless you as you move on into the next chapter of your life.

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