When Life Hands You Lemons: What To Do With Disappointment

We’ve all heard the saying, When life hands you lemons, make lemonade. But, what does that mean, and what do we do with disappointment to prevent it from become all-consuming?

Disappointment is an emotional response, primarily caused by our hopes not being fulfilled or expectations not being met.  It usually starts with a sadness but can lead to a sense of failure and trigger emotions such as anger.

Although there are many things in life that cause us disappointment, it usually falls into the category of being disappointed with circumstances, other people, or with ourselves. If left unchecked, these sour feelings of disappointment can turn into bitterness. These disappointments, or ‘lemons’ can sour our lives.

So what can we do with disappointment?

  1. Identify and Acknowledge

One of the best things we can do is to identify and acknowledge where the disappointment comes from: identify the gap between what we had hoped or expected and the reality we are living.

What am I thinking about?

What happened (or didn’t happen)?

What did I want to see happen?

Once we understand what is causing our disappointment we can then acknowledge it in its fullness and sit with the emotion. We can grieve the difference between what we wanted and what has happened. By truly recognising its existence we take the first step towards moving forward, and towards making lemonade.

  1. Take responsibility

Having acknowledged the existence of disappointment we can then reflect further on the situation. Stop for a moment to reflect:

How did I get to this point?

What was within my control?

Is there anything I could have done differently?

What has been my contribution to this?

Can I take responsibility for some of it?

Was my hope or expectation realistic?

We can take steps to ‘make things right’. We can apologise for unrealistic expectations or we can learn from things that went wrong and handle it differently next time.

If we hold unreasonably high expectations of others and of ourselves, we do not give anyone freedom to be human. People fail. Things sometimes don’t work out the way we want them to and we have a choice to be bitter or to accept the present reality.  Take a deep breath and keep going … today is another day. There is always hope. Be kind to yourself and others.

  1. Accept reality and let go of hurt

We may not like the reality of our situation, but we can learn to accept it and work within its parameters. Someone once encouraged me to look for the positives in the change. Maybe now there’s more time to be with the kids, or a chance to learn a new skill?

We can let go of the hurt of disappointment once we’ve fully explored it and accepted the present reality. While it is an inevitable part of life, it need not consume us. We can grow from the experience.

When we find ourselves in situations where we struggle to process or move forward, there are counsellors who can help walk us through. This may particularly be the case when we are in circumstances which we had no control over. Don’t be afraid to seek help if something is proving too hard to move from. You don’t have to go it alone.

Though we can’t change the past, we can control the way we handle it and learn from it. By choosing not to let the disappointment get the better of us, we turn the lemons into lemonade (or make lemon meringue pie, if you prefer).

Remember to be kind to yourself, and to others in the process.


Ange Niejelke
MOPS Writer


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