Holding on to disappointment? Here's how to let it go

Posted June 9

I began as a big bouquet of bright helium balloons.

Only months ago, life had some exciting things in the future and I was full of anticipation. I began imagining, hoping and planning events to come. Unfortunately, it’s been one setback after another, mixed with constant sick kids and doctors visits of my own.

Every day feels like a new stretch and struggle. I do my best to keep things in perspective and realize so many others have much bigger struggles than my own. Even my own family and friends are battling bigger trials.

But the size of another’s trial does not diminish the hardships of your own.

Through it all, I’ve felt the helium escape. And now I feel like all I have left is a handful of wilted strings and saggy balloons. I am deflated.

Disappointment and discouragement can leave us deflated. How do we deal with disappointment? How do we find the ability to pop back up?

Let yourself feel it

During breakfast with a dear friend this week I was mentioning how down and low I’ve felt. I mentioned how I know things could be worse but that I still feel sad and distraught. I told her how I find myself fighting my low emotions for days before I can get a handle on them. I loved her advice for me: “let yourself feel it.”

She helped me realize that rather than fighting the low emotions, it would benefit me to let myself feel sad or sorry or angry. I needed to give myself space for a good cry or frustration fest and then pull myself back up and move forward.

Rewrite your expectations

Through the last several weeks, I have also realized it was not actually people or situations that caused me disappointment. It was my expectations I had created around those people and events. I let myself plan and imagine what life would be like and then when it didn’t happen, I felt everything crash down into a million pieces. I was left trying to put the pieces and the people holding the pieces back together.

It wasn’t actually the failure that had upset me the most, it was the realization that things as I had imagined them would not come to be.

Lowering expectations has a negative connotation. But when our expectations are too high, we set ourselves up for failure and disappointment. I’ve learned to rewrite my expectations — some of those expectations only getting penciled in. I try harder to live in the moment and expect less from the future.

Laugh it off

When life is challenging, tension is usually high.

Last night I sat on the porch with my husband, enjoying the summer evening. But mostly I was avoiding the chaos inside my home. He pulled out his phone and opened up the SnapChat app. Together we stared at the phone’s camera while he scrolled through filters that distorted our faces or turned us into puppy dogs with panting tongues. We could not help but laugh at how silly we looked.

Soon the kids joined us and we laughed so hard we cried. And with our laughter our tension lifted. And things seemed easier — especially if we were in it together.

Try again

It takes vulnerability to try again and trust again. We might not know if we have the strength to pick ourselves back up again and keep going, but we must try. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “we must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”

And then I remember something I’ve read before, “hope is like a balloon; it can’t soar to the heavens if you hold it by the strings.” It’s time to let go of my strings.

Nicole Carpenter is CEO of and creator of the Define Your Time time-management program. She is a speaker and bestselling author of "52 Weeks to Fortify Your Family." Nicole and her husband are raising four kids in Kaysville, Utah.


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