How do you move on after life's worst blows?

Sandra Bullock won the highest award for a female actor at the Oscars, but she suffered a huge blow when she learned that husband, Jesse James, was cheating on her. This situation raises the question of how we, in our own blessedly more private lives, can best deal with life's worst disappointments. Here are seven things to think about to help you through a hard time.


This isn't the "get out there and go roller skating!" pick-me-up advice you might have been expecting. Our happy-go-lucky culture so emphasizes picking yourself up and brushing yourself off that the importance of mourning gets short shrift. If you pour your time and creative heart into a project that goes nowhere, it's unrealistic to think you'll be able to shrug your shoulders and go out for an ice cream cone. In fact, doing so seems scarily like divorcing yourself from your true feelings. Sit with that disappointment. Cry. Mourn what could have been. Wail to your girlfriends. Letting it out is the only way you'll be able to truly move on. Set a time limit appropriate to the disappointment, whether that be a day or a month, to help you pack up your regrets and get on with living when the time is right.

Acknowledge what's beyond your control
Many of us would love to be able to control every aspect of our lives, from the way our hair looks after a rough night to the way a boss responds to our latest report. But that's just not the way the world works. So much of life is beyond our control, and it can be liberating to remember this. What's always within our control, however, is how we react to any given situation. Acknowledge that you can't control the traffic patterns or someone else's behavior. We can give our best effort and control our response, but beyond that, it's a wild world. And maybe, with any luck, you'll come to think in time that what was out of your control actually worked out for the best in the long run.

There's a good side to disappointment

This may seem hard to believe, but consider the words of Martin Luther King, Jr: "There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love." We could spare ourselves a world of hurt if we never felt deeply about anything. But how meaningful would it be to go through life without passions? Consider the effect of disappointment as a reminder of its cause --- your great capacity to care.

Play the hand you're dealt
There are disappointments that are crushing and require a good cry, and then there are the disappointments that simply get in the way of our best expectations. A simplistic example? You want to win at poker but you get played a bum hand. Remember to acknowledge what's beyond your control (you didn't hand-pick these cards, after all), and then make the best of the situation. This advice would likely be too simplistic for something like marital devastation, but for the everyday disappointments --- and you can bet your bottom dollar they'll come --- just get in the game as best you can with the hand you were dealt. There's always another round and the chance for a full house.

What doesn't kill us...
When you are balled up on the couch in the fetal position crying your eyes out over a bitter disappointment, the idea of what doesn't kill you making you stronger may be a cold comfort. But it could be just the light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel reminder you need that you will make it through this. And when you do, you'll be equipped with even greater reserves to handle whatever life hands you next. The human spirit is amazingly resilient; yours is, too.

Put it in perspective
Will this matter in a week? A year? Five years? Our lives are naturally and necessarily focused --- at least in part --- on ourselves. If that tendency is making it hard for you to put your disappointment in perspective, enlist a friend. Simply say to her, "I need you to help me put this in perspective." After all, that's what friends are for.

Surround yourself with beauty
This may seem a little silly, but it's actually a simple but powerful way to help you connect with the larger meanings in life. After you've vented and mourned and put things in perspective, indulge your senses in beauty. Spend an afternoon at a museum studying great works of art. Lose yourself in a richly-drawn literary world. Sit on a park bench and watch the way the light comes through the trees. Remember that this, too, shall pass, and in the meantime, the beauty of what it means to be alive can help get you through.

Read more life-improving ideas on Real-Life Makeover:
The Nine Rooms of Happiness
iPhone apps to make your life healthier and happier
8 things to eat, drink, and do to boost your energy

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