More threads by David Baxter PhD

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
Dealing with disappointment
December 7, 2007
By Edward T. Creagan, M.D.
Mayo Clinic

My colleagues and I continue to be humbled, touched, and energized by the heroes participating in our online community. These stories empower each of us to move forward, sometimes under difficult conditions.

In 1966, a relatively obscure nightclub singer from Hoboken, N.J., won a Grammy award for a song, "It Was a Very Good Year." His name: Frank Sinatra.

One sentence resonated with a powerful story shared with me by a patient and here is how the lyrics went, " ... but now the days grow short, I am in the autumn of the year."

The drift of the song is that winter follows autumn and winter is a time of darkness, sadness, and little life; however, following winter, spring and summer surely come.

Now, what does this mean to us? What is the connection? Well, here is the story.

Last spring, a wonderful couple, a "power couple," was vacationing in Arizona. They were in their early fifties; they had grabbed the brass ring of life with gusto and had all the trappings of success. After a round of golf, the woman noticed vague back discomfort. It certainly did not seem like anything worrisome. However, the pain progressed. They sought guidance and the practitioner advised a CAT scan of the back.

Much to the horror of the physician, patient and her spouse, the spine was riddled with advanced cancer. Subsequent studies clearly showed that a cancer arose from the kidney, quietly, and had spread throughout the abdominal area. Surgery was not feasible nor was radiation an option. Following multiple attempts at chemotherapy and other types of treatments, the patient died four months later.

I became close to this couple and felt a certain "connectedness." Following the death of his beloved spouse, the husband shared with me the eulogy.

The message was simple: As he looked into the eyes of the mourners sitting in the church, he knew that everyone had suffered a major loss, yet somehow they moved forward, sometimes backwards, but almost always in a forward direction of healing. He went on to say that he was energized by the strength and the support of the fellow mourners. Then, he emphasized one single point: Without a sense of community, connectedness, faith, family, and friends, it is virtually impossible to heal and move forward. So, we continue to hear the same recurrent themes.

What tactics have we used to deal with life's disappointments and unfairness and how do we move forward in face of adversity?


Most of my disappointments because people attitudes. As I grow, how my mind dealing with them are changing through time, but they all have one similar voice: I'm better than them, so I shouldn't stop nor retreat.

As for other disappointments, there are several ways I found.I sort these based on effectiveness on myself. There are some that seems just for relieving stress but stress did take part in making disappointing event felt worse:

  1. Realize the fact world will keep spinning relentless and remorseless. Other philosophic or religious believes also help, especially to accept the unfairness.
  2. Discovering someone that having similar problem but had move forward from it.
  3. Have warm-hearted people to share and spend time around but not just blabber with advices.
  4. Discovering someone having problem worst than you.
  5. Retreat for 1-2 weeks from everything that makes you remember the failure also things that able to add stress (such as work or yelling wife).
  6. Reading inspirational real-life stories (not similar with point one, less effective because there still be questions 'are these stories real?' conscious/unconsciously).
  7. Doing artworks, spit all the disappointments to it. Might unable to get rid the disappointment, but able to make me keep doing my tasks or at least I do something creative. :p

I think there are some more, but I might forgot.. :/


Good points, Rosedragon!

The theme of the story of the couple in their fifties is one that recurs all too often as people move into middle age.

The one factor not planned for with most people, particularly those who plan for so-called "early retirement" is loss of health. As we age, we see ourselves growing old with our beloved family and friends, but serious health issues are rarely planned for and catch most people unprepared.

The story is sad because this couple planned their affairs to enjoy each others company into their later years but then their plans crashed.

Successful aging involves living each day as if it were your last, and to ignore the petty and insignificant annoyances...easier said than done.
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