I'm So Disappointed!
I broke one of my own rules.
The whole thing started on a Friday afternoon when a high-priority meeting had been called for the staff of the organization where I worked. Attendance was mandatory, a hint that big news was coming.
Once we were all seated, the CEO stepped to the microphone and quickly ripped off the bandage; he announced that we would be relocating our office to Florida. We would have as long as a year to make the move, but only two months to make the decision. (That’s more time than many get in similar situations, so I’m not suggesting this was an unfair timeframe.)
Up to that moment, I’d been enjoying a normal day and looking forward to the weekend. But in the span of five minutes, I was facing a huge decision and the possibility of a major life transition.
During what turned out to be a two-year season (I chose not to make the move), I encountered staggering disappointment and feelings of uncertainty second only to those I had known in the days of my wife’s dying. The familiar sensation of despair stalked me day and night for weeks.
The way I handled that disappointment, and the way it handled me, is what led me to the rule breaking I mentioned. You see, through my writing and speaking, I had sometimes described the contrast of grief and disappointment like this:
Grief is the sadness we feel when we lose someone we love.
Disappointment is the sadness we feel when we don’t receive something we hoped for.
These are incomplete descriptions, for sure; they are simply the basis of how I understand grief and disappointment. But . . . I had let this tidy bundle of wordplay lull me into breaking my own rule against comparing my sadness to that of others. Before my harsh bout with disappointment—which proved to be a valley of shadows in its own right—I had essentially seen the community of the brokenhearted as having senior partners (the grievers) and junior partners (the disappointed). I had reasoned that if your sadness hadn’t taken you to the cemetery, you just weren’t as bad off as I was.
So, to the disappointed ones, to those who are bleeding internally because of some devastating blow to your hopes, I am sorry that I ever belittled your pain. I am sorry that I looked past you. After all, if anyone should understand the need to be heard, to be seen, to have pain acknowledged, it is we who have traveled a similar road.
I see that now. I see you now.
I see that disappointment is sometimes even more troubling than grief, because there is no visitation for departed hopes, no memorial service for dead dreams. There’s no formal way to let the world know that a terrible thing has happened to you and you’re not okay.
If that is you—stunned by a broken engagement, shaken by a diagnosis of infertility, confused at being passed over for the job, betrayed by a friend, threatened by false accusations, . . . (Oh, the many horrible ways we can get hurt in life)—I extend my sympathy to you and sincerely hope that someone will care enough to see you and to acknowledge that your pain is real.
Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.
© 2022 by Tim Grissom. All rights reserved.