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Maybe you didn’t get the promotion.  Maybe a thief broke into your house and made off with every precious thing you owned.

Or maybe the person you fell in love with and wanted to marry didn’t return your feelings.

It happens to all of us.  If you’re ambitious about life, you’ve suffered disappointments along with success.

In fact, it seems like the more you find success, the more it stings when things don’t go your way.  You wonder, how in the world could this happen to me?

I hadn’t planned to write this post.  I was all set to talk about choosing between two passions and how to negotiate your career love triangles.

Then my husband and I received some devastating news.

Penelope Trunks says there is danger in not talking about the real disappointments in our lives.  So I’m going to talk about it.

Because I know my readers, who are successful and ambitious, will face disappointments of their own.  And sometimes, the best time to write about how to find your way out is when you’re in the middle of it.

Our story

Our daughter is a miracle.

Every mother who looks at her newborn child says that of course, but in our case it’s true.  Our daughter is the equivalent of a winning lottery ticket.

It took us a long time to get pregnant.  For 18 straight months I cried on the edge of the bed when I realized all the pregnancy symptoms I’d been experiencing were just in my head.  I blamed myself for waiting until I completed my Ph.D.  I came to resent the seeming multitude of pregnant women in our neighborhood.

Jealousy and despair do funny things to people.

But as soon as we got that positive test, we put all that behind us and enjoyed our good fortune.  We immediately shared the news with family and friends.  We naively picked out baby names and furniture, delighting at the nausea and then the swift kicks to my ribs.

Everything was fine.  Better than that, our daughter was born without a hitch and became the joy of our lives.  We loved being parents a thousand times more than we ever dreamed we would.  We loved it so much, we couldn’t wait to add another (or two) to our family.

Then, we waited.  And waited.

Just last week, we learned that our latest (and last) round of fertility treatment had failed.

After three long years of treatment and two miscarriages, we’ve finally decided to let go of the dream.

So here’s everything I’ve learned, from my own experiences and others, about overcoming the emotional toll of defeat, and more importantly, how to keep on living well in spite of it.

1. Take time for reflection

Once the sting of a traumatic event begins to lessen, it’s a great time to take stock of your motivations.  After our second loss, when I wasn’t sure if I could continue with the intensity and madness that comes with fertility treatment, we asked ourselves why we wanted another child.

Was it because we worried our daughter would be damaged in some way without a sibling?  Were we trying to please our families?  Or was it simply that we thought another child would fill our lives with more joy?

The answer is important but it wasn’t obvious.  We spent a lot of time talking and imagining how our lives would change whether we had another child or didn’t.

How this applies to you: Sometimes our disappointment is driven by a fear of change that isn’t real.  We wrap our self-worth around awards and promotions that aren’t meaningful (or if they are, it makes that self reflection even more valuable).  Whether it’s therapy or just discussing things with a friend, get clear on why you wanted what you did.  You might find that your disappointment is an opportunity to change course towards a more positive direction.

2. Don’t give up too soon

Once you know why you’re fighting for a dream, it’s a lot easier to keep going.    I don’t care to admit how many times I confided to friends, “this is our last try,”  and then changed my mind after finding it impossible to put our daughter’s crib up on Craigslist.

Brooke Shields attempted in vitro fertilization seven times before she finally had her baby Rowan.  John Grisham’s story A Time to Kill was rejected 28 times before it found a publisher.

How this applies to you: There’s no magic number of times you try something before it either works or you concede to quit with honor.  There are no guarantees your persistence will pay.  You just have to be able to look at yourself in the mirror and believe, “I gave it everything I had.”

3.  Find a way to laugh

Most people won’t do this.  They’ll blow it off as silly, but it’s really powerful.  Laughter releases “feel good” chemicals such as serotonin into the body, relieving tension and providing a momentary escape from the emotions that plague you.

It’s also a heck of a lot more fun than crying.

When I am feeling really depressed by my inability to conceive, I watch these hilariously poignant videos called “Birds and Bees Can’t Always Make Babies.”  (Warning: there are a ton of inside jokes in those videos. It’s not my fault if you don’t find them funny too, but hey, good for you.  That means you’re not infertile.)

How this applies to you: I’m convinced you can find a funny video on almost any topic on You Tube.  If that doesn’t work, nothing cures the job blues better than your favorite comedy, a bowl of ice cream, and a great big belly laugh.  Just do it.

4. Don’t dwell in your disasters

Infertility treatment can be all consuming.  You can’t use exercise or travel as a distraction.  You look like a junkie from all the blood draws, injections, and acupuncture sticks.  And then you have to make up excuses as to why you  have a doctor’s appointment every other day for weeks.  For a whole year, many of my co-workers thought I was battling cancer.

After all that, I have to tell you, a negative result (or worse, a loss) was devastating.  And each successive failure was worse than the last.

Some days, it is hard to get up in the morning and care about much of anything outside my uterus.

Then I remind myself that I won the lottery once.  Who am I to complain I can’t win a second time?

How this applies to you: During times like these, gratitude only comes with practice.   Focus on what’s going right in your life; make a list of all the “lucky breaks” you’re probably taking for granted.  Then allow yourself to enjoy them.  You don’t have to pay homage to what could have been by being miserable.  Pay your respects by acknowledging that what you have is enough.

5. Grieve

A dream has died.

One of the big myths about grief is that it’s something you just “get over.”   In fact, though you never stop grieving, you do learn to live with it.  The problem is, you can’t get there logically.  You have to follow the soggy breadcrumbs of your emotions and hope they take you home.

Recently I had a nightmare. I was taking my kids to school and I was (as usual) a bit late.  We were rushing and I was pulling them along beside me. When I looked down I realized one hand was empty. I was frantic.  I couldn’t find my child.  How could a child go missing without me even realizing it?

When I awoke, all was right with the world.  My husband was curled into a ball, a cat tucked behind his knees.  Down the hall and past the nightlight, I knew there was a girl in her Princess bed, right where she ought to be.

How this applies to you:  Setting and reaching for ambitious goals are important.  It’s what keeps life interesting.  But there’s no point in ruining the life you already have in pursuit of the one you can’t.  Don’t let your dead dream become a ghost that hovers over your life.

I love what this blogger had to say after receiving a diagnosis of autism at the age of 50

I’m grieving what was never there to begin with. I’m grieving an idea of myself and of my place in the world. I am not grieving what is or what was. I am grieving what doesn’t exist and what has never existed, except in my own thoughts.  [But] there will be new dreams, different dreams, dreams that are based on what is real.

You can’t always be lucky.  And when your heart is broken, you can’t always be happy.

But you can be brave.  You can embrace hope like an old friend … the one who lied, the one you forgave.

Keep dreaming.

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101 Responses to How to Overcome Your Greatest Disappointments

  1. Jen,

    Thank you for sharing such an incredibly personal story and tying it back to how it relates to us, no matter our circumstances. I am sorry for your family’s loss and yet when I read your post I realize that your experiences brought you here, to set up this website and write this moving post that has had such a positive impact on me as I relate it to my life and my dreams. The five points you raise are crucial to any loss and you speak about them with humor, insight, intelligence and dignity, despite the pain. Thank you so much.

      • On
      • March 15, 2011 at 10:38 am
      • Sarah Kathleen
      • Said...

      Your post just struck me … here I am, in my office, near tears! Your writing is so honest and authentic and above all else, REAL. Life isn’t dandelions and honey and roses all the time – this is what life is about. I’m so sorry to hear and SO so impressed by your willingness to embrace the circumstances, share, and work through it. Beautiful.

      • Thanks, Sarah. It’s actually refreshing to be at the point I can talk about this with some distance while still communicating the pain in a way that hopefully benefits others. I like to think this is one of the side benefits of being an optimist. :)

    • Thanks, Denise. I really find humor to be the secret weapon of dealing with loss. I worried people would misunderstand it in the context of this post, but I”m relieved to see that isn’t the case. And I’m grateful to have such a supportive community to share this part of my life with. It’s actually really free-ing to come out of the fertility closet.

    • On
    • March 15, 2011 at 10:42 am
    • barbara
    • Said...

    Jen, Even though I cannot relate to your infertility issues, I do feel your hurt and disappointment. I’m so sorry you’ve had to go through so much, and so has your husband.

    I believe in surrender. Sometimes we simply have no control, and perhaps shouldn’t. Sometimes the Universe has bigger dreams for you than you have for yourself, and when you surrender you clear the path for great things to happen as they are meant to.

    It may be too soon for you to hear that or feel that but, sometime in the future you will be writing about how this experience opened another door that led to opportunity you hadn’t imagined.

    The big tests only come to those strong enough to handle them. We both know you are and will.

    sending lots of love to you and your family. b

    • I’m not actually a believer in “meant to be.” I wish I could sometimes, but I do agree in the necessity of surrender. We simply don’t get everything we want, and those of us who’ve been lucky enough to get most of what we’ve wanted and aimed for find that surprising. LOL So really, I think this is a good lesson in learning to love and be grateful for what you have. I’ll never stop reaching high, but I think there’s value in fact in not always making it.

      Thanks for the love–always appreciated!

  2. Hello and glad I read this post from you – so wonderful to write from the heart. We then stay authentic to ourselves and we’re able to share some light and insight at the same time!

    I can relate to everything you write except the infertility part at this time. So exciting and wonderful to have 1 beautiful princess in your life and I do want you to know that sometimes when we give up and surrender to our Source, then maybe you discover that you may be pregnant again….You never know and I don’t believe in the word “impossible”. In fact, I have taken that word and put it in the verbal wastebasket.

    Let me share my mantra with you that my friend Kris shared with me – Surrender, Allow, Wonder…..

    In love and light,

    • Hi, Nancy. Welcome to Everyday Bright! It’s true that we don’t know what the future holds. I’ll be delighted to be surprised, but you do have to let the hope go. You can’t, as I say in the post, carry it around like a ghost. I would ecstatic to have another child, but I also know I can live a happy, fulfilling life with the family I have now.

      Love the mantra. Wonder is a big part of life. Thanks and hope to see you again!

  3. Hi Jen,
    I hope Penelope T. is right and that writing about your pain & disappointment at not having another child helps you.
    YOu told a powerful, personal story and attached it to valuable lessons. I didn’t have the same disappointment but had others so I can relate to disappointment and the suggested lessons. Thank you.
    Take care of yourself and thanks for letting me see more of you. Cherry

    • Cherry,
      I can’t say yet if Penelope is right, but it did feel good to step out of the shadow of this 3 year long event. Honestly, it takes energy to keep such things secret and as this post shows, there’s not much to be afraid of anyway. What does help is to have the caring and support of such wonderful readers, like you, and to fill myself with that sense of belonging. I know many wonder if the friendships we forge online are real, but I think they are. They’re real to me anyway, and I suppose that’s all that matters!

    • On
    • March 15, 2011 at 12:30 pm
    • KCLAnderson (Karen)
    • Said...

    Thank you Jennifer! There is nothing more generous than sharing in your inimitable style, and for using your own pain to so mindfully reach out to your readers. This is a keeper!

    • Oh, I love the word “inimitable.” Thanks for sharing this journey with me. It means the world to me. Truly.

  4. Thank you for sharing Jen. As you told your nightmare, I felt tears welling up inside, as you were feeling that panic of “where is my child?”
    You did such an eloquent job of sharing how you are getting thru this, and how those steps can apply to others.
    I only have an inkling of what you felt, we tried for over 6 years to have #2, and eventually had 3 babies, each 2 years apart. God has a sense of humor, that is for sure!

    • My goodness, really? 6 years and then 3 babies? What a wonderful miracle. You never know. Thanks for understanding that panic and deep sense of loss. We can help each other heal through compassion and understanding. I’m grateful.

  5. We’re all made to bear weight, we just never know how much. Some of us collapse under very little and others shoulder huge loads. Disappointment is the heaviest burden, in my view, because it’s attached to our spirit. It crushes our expectations. But it also calibrates them.

    You write about the questions you asked yourself about why another child, what it would mean to your family–calibration. You continue to ask introspective questions seeking perspective–more calibration.

    Disappointment sobers us, teaches us, and prepares us for the days ahead. It helps us put things in order, makes future choices easier and perhaps clearer. It helps us clean our closet and prepare to let in more light.

    May that light shine brightly on you. ~Dawn

    • Dawn,
      You are always so eloquent! Thanks so much for your vision of what this all means. I’ve read and re-read your comment many times. Thank you.

    • On
    • March 15, 2011 at 2:01 pm
    • Ali Manning
    • Said...

    I am sorry to hear about your news – my heart aches for you all. And thank you for so bravely sharing it with the world – it takes such courage to do that. Your post came into my inbox at just the right time. I just had my heart broken for the first time today at age 40 (crazy, I know) and boy, does it hurt! Your words were a great comfort and help. Thank you!

    • Oh, Ali! Your first heartbreak is the worst. I’m so sorry YOU are experiencing it. Hugs many times over and know you are not alone. Come join us in this wonderful community and you’ll always have that support system when you need it. I’m glad this post found a way to life someone up. The share was worth it for that alone.

    • On
    • March 15, 2011 at 2:18 pm
    • Elisa
    • Said...

    My close friends recently went through their final insurance subsidized fertility treatment round, and it did not take. My friend was 39 years old, and had waited to see about children. The saddest part was the fact that she felt like she couldn’t talk to anyone about it. She thought people without children could care less about shot-talk and people with children looked down on her for not being able to ‘be a woman’.

    It was heartbreaking, because she and her husband would have been amazing parents.

    I’m sorry for your loss. The loss of the dream and all the little losses you sustained along the way.

    • Elisa,
      Yes, it’s so sad that women feel they can’t share, even with each other, the heartbreak of infertility. While there are those who judge us for these kinds of decisions, in general we imagine a far worse reaction than we receive. I’m glad I finally opened up about it. The solitude is a loss in and of itself. (Please send the link to your friend, if you think it would help her. I’d like to think of it as a virtual hug among soul sisters.)

    • On
    • March 15, 2011 at 4:20 pm
    • Farnoosh
    • Said...

    Brilliant. Incredible. Brave and Bold. That’s you Jen all the way to your core, my darling. I am very sad to hear that your dream did not materialize. I am delighted that you consider your only child your miracle and that you have her to fill your heart with joy. I also believe that sometimes, couples who go through this ordeal of fertility actually get pregnant after the fact – and you and I both believe in miracles so perhaps I am saying that maybe, you can just leave the door open without hoping or expecting, and that perhaps there are more amazing things in store for you – although I know you count nothing more amazing above motherhood …. but hey, you are amazing to me and to your readers….I am with you and here for you if you ever need anything. But you are bold and brave and strong and I draw inspiration from you. Thank you for writing this post.

    • You know, I was thinking of your post about whether to have children, and how I told you I felt the need to continue my passionate life in order to be the kind of role model I want for my daughter. I think that applies here. Some day I will tell her how she inspired me to want more children, but healed me to love a life without more. I agree–there is much more in store for me in life, and I intend to enjoy it. Thank you for being part of my life!

  6. Jen, thanks for sharing such a heartfelt and personal story.

    Your little girl is a lucky girl to have a mother like you.

    It is so important to overcome our greatest disappointments – and your article is a wake-up call for me to review my own life “disappointments”. Thank you:-)

    • Thank you, Arvind. I know you have suffered your own disappointments, and I think with tremendous grace. We are all lucky to have one another!

    • On
    • March 15, 2011 at 4:23 pm
    • Stacey
    • Said...

    Thanks so much for sharing your story, Jen! I really appreciate that you were able to weave the story of your own disappointment with wonderful “take-away lessons” for us all.

    I’m so sorry for the loss of your hoped-for-pregnancy and the end of your dream to have another child. I also have a “lottery” kid, but chose not to pursue another.

    Yes, everyone will have disappointments and possibly even regrets (heck, even my friends and patients who have “all the kids they want” have regrets about the loss of the primacy of their relationship with their first kid, loss of more personal time, etc!), but I’m so glad you focus your writing on the gifts that are available to everyone who chooses to hope, find humor, and appreciate what they do have.

    Thanks again for a lovely post.

    • It is wonderful to have an outlet, both as a skill and also a group of people willing to listen and respond. I appreciate, and I know my husband does as well, the heartfelt well wishes here. Thank you!

    • On
    • March 15, 2011 at 5:41 pm
    • Joni
    • Said...

    This hits so close to home. I’m so sorry for your loss. It made me cry both in sadness and in hope. Your words are beautiful and inspiring. Thank you for sharing your story. Wishing you love and light.

    • Thanks, Joni. Hugs and I hope this helps you find some peace. As always, feel free to PM me if you ever want to talk.

    • On
    • March 15, 2011 at 6:42 pm
    • Katie
    • Said...


    I’m so sorry for your loss. I hope that the wonderful way you shared your story will bring you a little bit of healing.

    • It does. It absolutely does. Thanks for being there. :)

  7. Hi Jen, I am very sad about this too, for you and your family, but happy that you’re the kind of person who will never stop dreaming no matter what devastating turns of events life throws your way. You’re definitely a winner of the lotto and in life:)I know I shouldn’t but I can’t help hoping you might win a second time. If anyone deserves to its you. Sending more hugs your way. xox A

    • Annabel,
      Haha, yes, a winner in the lotto of life. I love that. I wouldn’t mind winning a second time either, of course, but it feels good to let go of the ardent hope. There’s so much to focus on and grow with. I love life, even when it’s complicated.

    • On
    • March 15, 2011 at 9:19 pm
    • Pipi
    • Said...

    Love this post, one more thing to overcome our disappointment is to turn to your family, who will always love despite all your failure..

    this is what’s keeping us moving on.

    • Ah, Pipi, you’re right. That should definitely be included. Family and friends are crucial, as evidenced by this post. And really, I can’t emphasize enough how supportive and understanding my husband and family have been. None of these suggestions would work well without them.

  8. I feel for you, Jen. And I’m terribly sorry to hear this. But I think in sharing the process, you’re doing many readers a service. It’s not easy to give up on something you want, and it’s a highly personal matter, but letting go (and learning to withstand the emotional churn that follows) isn’t the end. It’s just another door.

    • That’s certainly the hope, Lindsey, that I can help others while also getting a breath of fresh air for myself. It feels good to let go and be open about the whole process at the same time. As Barbara said last week, you can always find someone who had it worse than you. I am choosing to walk towards the light, even with a broken heart.

    • On
    • March 16, 2011 at 12:46 am
    • Aileen
    • Said...

    Jen, how incredibly generous of you to share your intense disappointment to share with others a light and a guidance, that they may find their way into a place of inner peace and optimism. Letting go of what we deeply wish for, and letting life unfold as it does – can be incredibly challenging. You have found a way within yourself to accept and embrace what is and teach others how to do the same.

    • Thanks, Aileen. I don’t know if it’s generous, I’m sure there are some clucking that it’s TMI, but obviously it’s of benefit to some, and I’m grateful there’s a positive that can come from all this.

    • On
    • March 16, 2011 at 10:41 am
    • joanne
    • Said...

    Jen Gresham… you are an amazing woman! I so admire your desire to share every personal event for the betterment of others…no matter how painful these events must be or how hey might be received by others. It took me 6 yrs to conceive my first child and I imagined all kinds of crazy reasons why I couldn’t (mostly centred around the idea that I wasn’t worthy to be a mother) but eventually when I no longer believed it was possible I found myself (many weeks!) pregnant and well the rest is history. I can relate to the pain and grief your describe but you are right, I did find many important lessons along the way too.

    It never ceases to amaze me how many people hide from the painful experiences of reality, choosing rather to medicate themselves with substances, sex/relationships, shopping….. rather than feel anything less than happy. I tell my girls (I eventually was blessed with two!) everyday, we learn from the hard times not the trips to the ice cream shop. There have certainly been times I wished I could somehow hid from the truth like other people I know but it doesn’t seem to be a skill I possess, but I am grateful for that and am living and loving this enlightened and enlightening life.

    Much love to you & your family Jen, and thanks again. You are an inspiration! xo

    • Awww, thanks, Joanne! Our limitations seem to be sadly rooted in biology, but we can walk away from this knowing we garnered all the forces of science available to try to combat it. As two scientists, that really does offer us some comfort. Thanks for the well wishes and kind words. It means a lot.

  9. Thank you so much for sharing Jen. I know the feeling of jalousie very well when I tried for over five years (and two miscarriages) before I had my two daughters. I also know the regret and fear of having waited till about graduate school.
    Thanks again!

    • Thanks Irene. Infertility is much more common than many realize, primarily because we don’t talk about it. So I’m glad to provide a forum to get the word out, and I always love to hear other stories that had a happier ending. Two girls sounds wonderful!

      • Yes, that was what I realized. But when I spoke up about my distress, everybody shared their stories about miscarriages etc. It helped me a lot. My grandmother told me that it was common and part of nature. She was wise and sweet.
        My girls give me so much joy. One is going to college this summer, so I am down to one and forced to deal with the next stage of life. In two years my next one is going to college. She told me recently that she wants to get out of Florida. Wow, what am I to do about that? Live with it! What else can I do? Those years are soon gone. Something else is going to happen!

  10. Jen,

    I’m so sorry, so very sorry. And I’m full of admiration for you. You are so brave to share this story on your blog. And so smart to take care of yourself in this way. In the past, I have tried to bear my disappointments, and especially my devastating disappointments, in quiet. I don’t know why. Maybe I was embarrassed to be hurting so much. Anyway, my point is that I’ve learned that telling our stories and sharing our grief helps us bear it.

    By telling your story, you are allowing yourself to grieve, and you are also allowing yourself to receive the outpouring of caring support that is surely coming your way from this post.

    I am sure you have your own methods and rituals, but recently, when I was confronted with a devastating disappointment, I made up my own little ritual. I wrote down all my lost dreams and fantasies, holding nothing back and making them more perfect than they ever would have been in reality. Then I read them out loud and burned the paper in the fireplace as an offering. That helped me let them go. I was still sad, of course, but it helped me move forward.

    I am sure I join with many others in sending you and your family good wishes and caring thoughts.


    • Galen,
      It’s only recently that I found the courage to share my hurts. When my mother died while I was in college, I hardly told anyone and almost never cried. In short, I didn’t really let myself grieve, either privately or publicly. It was a mistake. And what we can see here is that our communities are so much more supportive than we imagine they will be. The world is full of heart. Thanks for being a part of Everyday Bright, and part of the light. :)

  11. Jen, thank you for writing this and sharing it.

    I suffered a disappointment recently, much smaller than yours, but it seemed huge and devastating to me at the time. I would add a sixth suggestion to your list: Talk to a friend or loved one. Comforting words and an outside perspective can help immensely. I have a history of never asking for help and trying to everything by myself, but I finally realized how much I was missing that way. People can be really incredible if you let them.

    Warm wishes to you for comfort and future happiness!

    • You know, I hate to say that any one disappointment is bigger than smaller than the next. For one, there’s no real measure of comparison. For another, it doesn’t really matter–it’s how that disappointment makes you FEEL. But yes, absolutely, family and friends make all the difference. They are, in a sense, part of each of the steps I’ve listed here. My friends and family (and obviously my readers) have been a big part of my healing process. And I’m grateful.

  12. I loved this post. I have been fortunate to have not had difficulty with conception and yet your post still spoke to me. That is the sign of an amazing writer. You knocked it out of the ball park. Again.

    I am sorry for your heartache and am grieving with you.

    • Thanks, Daria. For all of those nice sentiments. :)

    • On
    • March 16, 2011 at 4:28 pm
    • Bernardo
    • Said...

    Dear Jen,

    Thank you for having the strength to write your truth and to do so in the midst of an emotional loss is quite remarkable and speaks of your leadership quality (of service).

    I am confident that your example of courage and tenacity is not only a lesson for us but for your daughter who by a real life example is learning both: to pursue a dream and to let go when it is no longer worth pursuing. As hard as it is sometimes, I have always lived with the conviction that we are never presented with any challenge that we cannot overcome and although it will feel raw for a period of time, I have the sense that you will find joy and life force in your current family, friends and followers.

    A big Hug to you and I’m happy to cross paths w/ you. & look forward to learning more from you -Bernardo

    • It’s a good point, Bernardo. I feel very strongly about modeling the kind of woman I hope my daughter will become. I know I can’t always get it right, but I love that she inspires me to try. Welcome to Everyday Bright and thanks for the kind words–here’s to more learning.

  13. Thank you. Sometimes I dwell on mistakes and the pain that these mistakes have had on me. You have helped me see things in a new light.

    • Thanks, Jose. Goodness, that’s certainly makes the difficulty of sharing this story well worth it. Best to you!

  14. I often get paralyzed by disappointment. It overwhelms me and I retreat to safer arenas rather than risk further hurt.

    I really appreciate permission to grieve. I’m always told that I’m too sensitive, and I should just get over it. So I never get a chance to grieve, and –as you say — it just hovers there over me.

    But I also really like the advice to reflect on why it mattered so much. I often overreact to a single disappointment because I feel like it’s the end of my dream… even though usually, I can just get up and try again.

    Anyway, fantastic advice, and I’ll be pointing readers of my blog to this post.

    • These are great insights, Amanda. I’m happy to have had any role in helping you discover them. I think the only other thing I could add is: we all do those things to some degree. So also work to be gentle with yourself, especially when grieving. It’s okay to overreact. It’s part of the process.

      Welcome to Everyday Bright and thanks so much for sharing this post. That’s really the nicest thing anyone can do. I’d for this post to reach (and help) as many people as possible.

  15. Pingback: Resource: How to overcome your greatest disappointments | | Monetize Yourself Monetize Yourself

    • On
    • March 16, 2011 at 6:16 pm
    • Julie
    • Said...

    Very moved by this. I’m sorry for your losses —

    • On
    • March 16, 2011 at 6:22 pm
    • abc
    • Said...

    Hey dear,

    Haven’t read your article yet, but wanted to leave a note.
    Leo linked me to the page. But, the Email pop up on the site is darn annoying. If I desire, I would find the email notifications my self.

    Hope you fix 😀

    • On
    • March 16, 2011 at 7:52 pm
    • Toni L.
    • Said...

    I can relate to the infertility issues and having to put a dream away–my husband and I tried for several years to have a baby without success. It was a very stressful time for us and I remember being resentful of co-workers, friends and family who seemed to get pregnant with ease. Finally, I ended up having to have a hysterectomy due to a recurring health condition. That put an end to our dream of a family of our own. My husband and I didn’t have much time to grieve or process this fact–3 months after my surgery, my father-in-law was diagnosed with brain cancer. My husband is an only child and we were very involved with my FIL’s care during the nine months before his death. Four months after his passing, my mother was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of lymphoma. Despite her excellent health–she always had a good diet and exercised–she died last summer from complication due to her chemo. She lived only 100 days from her diagnoses. My husband and I are still in shock from everything that has happened in only two years. I’m still in grief over my mother’s death and the fact I won’t ever have children of my own. Some days, I feel very numb and don’t look forward to the future sometimes. I keep getting up and going to work, but I’m not very engaged in my work. I have trouble caring about things. I know I should be able to process all this, but some days, it feels like so much mental effort to just put one foot in front of another.

    • I understand, I really do. I didn’t talk about it in this post, but like you, I have suffered other traumas like the loss of both of my parents, and sometimes it can feel overwhelming. So it’s through that lens of experience, not just this one incident, that I wrote this post. And part of that process really is reconnecting with what matters to YOU. It’s so easy, when everything is going the way we see it in the movies, to just accept the priorities of society instead of investing the time to determine our own. And that’s what makes it feel so overwhelming, because you’re not just dealing with the grief, but re-examining, sometimes not even consciously, your entire life direction and values. My advice is to let yourself go down that path. It’s okay if your values change after a traumatic event. It’s okay to change your life and your career. What we know from these events is that life is short. Dealing with grief is learning how to live, I mean really live, with what we have.

      Feel free to PM me if you’d like to talk more. Hugs!!!

  16. Jen,
    “But you can be brave. You can embrace hope like an old friend … the one who lied, the one you forgave.”

    Those are powerful words.

    Reading your post has crystalized something for me – something very important about what makes me tick.

    I have not suffered the heartache of infertility. In fact, I don’t feel that I have suffered much heartache at all, although others might disagree knowing that – among other “life events” – I’ve been through a divorce.

    However, I have always been extremely attuned to what I never quite realized is other people’s deeply felt hope, and it’s nemesis – disappointment. I am often brought to tears by the strangest things. Watching young singers or dancers compete, for instance. Corny, I know, but the tears well up as I watch American Idol, for instance. I always felt a little stupid about this, but I realize now that what triggers my deep emotional reaction is witnessing the battle between hope and disappointment play out in someone’s heart. And – more to the point, as you so eloquently put it – considering the danger that the person might put hope aside, give it up for fear of suffering more disappointment.

    What a terrible way to live – without hope. I can hardly think of a worse tragedy.

    I know I will have much more to ponder and share, but thank you very much for sharing your story and for helping me discover that about myself. What a gift, late on a rainy Wednesday night.

    • Great insight, Jamie. I think you’re describing yourself as an empath (or someone who has a high degree of empathy). I’m the same way. Do you remember that commercial, I think maybe it was IKEA, where this desk lamp was out on the street curb as garbage, and they did this close-up with sad music, then with big bold letters said, “It’s just a lamp!” (Ok, surely I don’t remember all the details, but….) That dang commercial made me cry every time. And I still feel sorry for the lamp.

      Here’s the thing. I think being an empath allows you to tap into your own joy (and disappointment) more deeply too. Whether you consider that a blessing or a curse is a personal matter, but I prefer the highs and lows to the median (within reason). Given your interest in marketing, I don’t find this to be surprising for you either.

      Glad you liked the post!

    • On
    • March 17, 2011 at 12:08 am
    • rajesh
    • Said...


    So sorry to hear about the news, I feel for you!…your courage is amazing!

    • Thank you, Rajesh. That means a lot coming from you.

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  18. Jen,
    I had no idea you were going through all of this. My older (adopted) sister went through 2 years of fertility treatments after their baby was born at 21 weeks and didn’t make it 3 years ago. They did finally deliver but only to find out they can’t have another either.

    My daughter was a surprise 4 years ago. And I can’t have another due to multiple surgeries from cervical cancer. I’ve often said I was blessed with the one I have and I “can’t handle/don’t want/insert excuse” another. But that’s not totally true. It’s mostly me buffering my pain to the world. I appreciate your courage to let this out into the world and I pray it brings you some relief in whatever way it can.

    • Erica,
      Yes, it’s just so much more common than we realize, but so many women are afraid to speak up (myself included until I wrote this post). I had to stop myself from putting statistics in the piece, but I’m so much more attuned to fertility issues now. When people blithely ask, “So when are you having another baby?” they just have no idea what an emotional mine they may be stepping on.

      I sincerely hope this post helps you deal with any underlying emotions. It’s so hard. It took me many, many years to process my mother’s death, so it’s probably not surprising you’re still grappling with cancer/fertility issues. Be well, my friend, and know you aren’t alone. Hugs!

    • On
    • March 19, 2011 at 12:32 pm
    • Silv10
    • Said...

    Hi Jen,

    What a powerful article. I am sorry it did not work out after so much trying. We have shared some of this TTC way together and I have always kept hoping you would have another lottery child. No more treatments now.
    Perhaps that can be a peaceful thought in itself. No more need to worry about the state of your uturus (as you mentioned, it made me smile, as I know that feeling well enough myself).

    Love from your old buddy Silv

    • Silv,
      Yes, it will be a relief to stop thinking about my uterus and what may or may not be in it. I am ready to think about bike rides and family vacations and teaching my daughter Spanish.

      Thank you for sticking with me the whole way. Your support has been amazing and I’m so grateful. Big hugs!

    • On
    • March 22, 2011 at 3:07 pm
    • rachel
    • Said...

    I am so sorry that you have gone through this. I found your blog through an infertility forum. I too have not been able to have a second child. I’ve had 4 miscarriages and one 4 yr old son who was from my second pregnancy. I didn’t know when I had him that he would be my “only”. In the past 3 years I’ve been through 3 late miscarriages, 1 year of intense IF treatment with an RE and 1 IVF that did work and I got pregnant with twins but then miscarried them at 18 wks this past November. Since then, we have decided that there will be no more because even though I can get pregnant, I have late miscarriages. This last one almost put me in a mental institution. I have been doing everything right to heal- see a therapist go on antidepressants and take a leave at work and it’s still hard. People are always telling me to try again- that at least I can get pregnant but they don’t understand what it’s like to have 3 d&cs or go through labor to deliver your one dead baby and one that was alive but the pregnancy had to be terminated to save my life because of a raging infection. I can’t choose to lose another little life again and I am not even religious. Your post came at a good time for me even though it was due to loss on your end. I am not eloquent like you or the others who have made comments so I am bookmarking this post to refer to when I am feeling stuck. I have a wonderful, miracle son and a husband who has been my rock through all of this and we have a great life. In fact, stopping IF treatment has saved us not only financially but also emotionally. “Mommy” is back for my son and I am now back as my husband’s wife. I am a very driven person so going through treatment was all consuming for my whole family. They have me back now and I am trying to look forward to our new adventures together as a close family of 3. Sorry for rambling on. I guess I needed to vent a bit! I love your blog and I wish you and your family all the happiness in the world.

    • Rachel,
      I’m so glad you found this post, and if it helps even an iota, it was worth writing it. I think it’s completely normal that you are still struggling after your ordeal in November. It’s such a fine line between not dwelling in your disaster and allowing yourself to grieve at your own pace. Believe me, I’m still struggling a lot, though it doesn’t always show in my writing, and I haven’t been through half of what you have.

      Feel free to vent here anytime. I very much want this to be a safe place for people grappling with the fears and challenges in their life. You will overcome this sadness–I know you know that. But doing it together is, at least for me, a lot easier than going it alone. Best wishes and big hugs. Thanks for your note–it’s why I write.

  19. Jen,

    This was great. I didn’t know this about you and I definitely feel closer to you because of it.

    I love when people get back to the underlying driving forces of everything we do: emotion.

    You did a wonderful job of illustrating some of the most important points for us all to remember and engage, at this stage of our evolution both as a species and in our culture.

    This seriously rocked. Great job for all of it Jen.

    • Thanks, Ryan. I especially appreciate hearing from the men in my audience on this post. Fertility was just the backdrop for the larger message here, and I’m delighted you heard it.

  20. Hey Jen, So sorry to read about this huge disappointment. I can only imagine since I don’t have kids and never tried to have any. But…well…. you *do* know that as soon as you let go of the dream you get pregnant, right? At least, that’s what I’ve heard many times :) Maybe I shouldn’t have mentioned that so as to not jinx things :) (probably someone else did in all the responses anyway; I didn’t read them all). Or maybe another big dream will be realized instead as you let go of this one.

    What you’ve dealt with certainly does apply in different ways to different kinds of disappointments. Good read–thanks. Hugs to you.

    • Ah, alas, it’s a myth that you get pregnant when you stop trying. As a scientist, I can tell you the data just doesn’t hold up. But it’s a nice dream anyway. I’m thinking my new career is going to take off like a rocket. Or I’m going to finally learn how to slow down my life a little bit. Those are good dreams too. Thanks for the kind words, Leah. Much appreciated!

      • Hmmmm well I think the “myth” I had in mind has a lot more to do with stress and the affect on the body and hormones, chemicals, enzymes etc which isn’t very far off from science at all…maybe those little ova are shooting out beams of chemicals that send the little guys rolling over backwards as they shout “No, no guys, back off! Not right now we’re on a career rocket ship and going wayyyy too fast for you! :)

        Good luck any which way it goes :)

    • On
    • March 28, 2011 at 3:28 pm
    • Ashley
    • Said...

    I am literally in tears over this article. I have been struggling with infertility, as we have been trying 2 years unsuccessfully for a second child. I’m beginning to come to the same conclusion as you and this article has made me feel better about it. Thank you so much for writing this. It really has helped me to cope. I am really sorry for your miscarriages.

    • Oh, Ashley, I’m sorry for your situation as well. It sucks. Just keep telling yourself that the only people who have to be comfortable with the decision to continue or quit are you and your husband. You really will know when you’ve reached the end of trying. If you ever need to talk, let me know. I’m wishing you peace.

  21. This spoke to me, so deeply. I have a wonderful, healthy 8 year old from a previous marriage and a few years ago my husband and I decided to start a family of our own. After a heartbreaking miscarriage, we were pregnant with a baby boy and THRILLED. Gavin was born last September – despite a normal, healthy pregnancy, Gavin was born with a very rare brain malformation and was only with us 10 difficult weeks before we chose to let him pass on and have peace. The heartbreak and trauma, as you can imagine, has been difficult. But I made a choice in January – finding myself laying in bed one morning, crying .. to not let this ruin me, ruin our family, and control our life. Yes, we experienced something awful, and Gavin will always be such a huge part of our lives. But I choose to move forward, be positive and hopeful about the future. Continue to grow my business and something I am passionate about. Thank you so much for putting into words what I have been feeling in my heart. I’m very sorry for your losses. You’ve got a dedicated new reader, look forward to getting to know you.

    • Thanks so much for this note, Candace. I’m so sorry for your loss. Gavin’s story is heart-breaking, but I love how you outlined the stages of grief with your experiences and ended with hope: for yourself, for your living family, and for Gavin’s memory. Like you, I have redoubled my efforts as a wife and mother, and now as an entrepreneur and writer. I feel so lucky that a sad experience has the ability to connect me with like-minded women. Here’s to the future.

  22. I meant to add a link to my blog post about Gavin, and my sister who is running the Boston Maraton in his memory this weekend.

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  24. Dear Jennifer,
    Laughter truly is a great gift. In 2005, I thought we celebrate love, give thanks, even flossing is celebrated on the day after USA Thanksgiving. why don’t we have a day to celebrate the great gift of laughter? Thus Global Belly Laugh Day, January 24 was born. The celebration of the great gift of laughter is playful, easy and fun. On January 24 at 1:24 p.m. (your local time) smile, throw your arms in the air and laugh out loud. Join the Belly Laugh Bounce Around the World. Your laughter is contagious. We look forward to catching your laugh.

  25. Wow. This one really hit home for me…

    I went through grueling process of in vitro a few years ago. I did it back when it was still quite expensive. Something to the tune of about $18k for some kind of 2-for-1 special. I think it either meant we got a second try or we were able to freeze some when we were ready for our next child… I cant really remember. But since neither one of us had an “insurable” condition it was all out of pocket. Quite a decision to have to make on its own with no guarantee of results.

    Being extremely squeemish the weeks of hormone needles was absolute drudgery for me. But I learned what you can really overcome when you have a goal that is bigger than you.

    Well the shots are supposed to cause extra eggs to produce so that we increase the chances of fertilization. Normal they told us was between 15-20 eggs. We had a whopping 2.

    They went with the process and 1 egg fertilized. Then you are faced with a decision I don’t think anyone should have to make – either to just forget it because the odds on 1 are not good and only pay half the price… or continue.

    We continued….

    One of the worst days of my life was sitting in that office getting the results that it did not take. But you already know that when they walk into the room. My wife (at the time) was already bawling before they even finished their sentences. Then they just say ” I will give you some time alone” and practically run out of the room. I will never forget the look on the nurse’s face. The sheer dread. Like all the blood had been sucked right out.

    You know how most horrible experiences you can look back on years later and say you are glad that it happened – or that you would go through it all again just for the experience… kind of like going through a bad break-up and looking back on all the fun you had? Well this is not the case. I truly wish to have not gone through that and I do not wish that on anyone. even though it was almost 7 years ago now, this is probably one of the first times I have actually talked about it in detail.

    Our relationship was not strong enough for something like that. We were never the same again………

    Could have used this post then.

    • James,

      Indeed, wish I could have known you then. The good news is that you and I are both okay, today, and that’s something to be both happy about and proud of. For now, hugs.


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    • On
    • December 13, 2012 at 2:09 pm
    • Sam
    • Said...

    I took a chance and read this blog about disappointment. I am not one to get caught up in feeling sorry for myself but I guess life has finally caught up with me.

    I have had a really good life but I have also had a lot of tragedy and loss, I know this is life. I had to give up on a dream of becoming a teacher because I couldn’t get passed a state exam. I am older so going back to school was such hard work and now after many many times of trying I have to say enough is enough.
    I feel humiliated and embarrassed and feel like I have let my husband down by not succeeding.
    I thank you for reminding me that it is so important to not let these things define us.
    All the best Sam.

    • Sam,
      It’s also important to not define careers one way, simply because that’s how most people do. You can be a teacher without passing the state exam. Become a tutor. Create online videos teaching what you know and share them. Teach at your local community college (which ironically doesn’t require a teaching degree). If you want to be a teacher, find a way to do it outside the system. Either way, know that you are valuable and have much to share with the world regardless of your job description. Hugs!

    • On
    • December 31, 2012 at 9:22 pm
    • Kim
    • Said...

    Jen, been a LOOONG time since Capriole, but I remember you and remember how excited you were about having that first child, and I remember how once you said some very encouraging things to me that helped me deal with not one but two sons with autism, so I wanted to take a moment and tell you thank you for that, and thank you for giving me the courage to make some decisions that worked out very well. The boys are wonderful and happy, and I keep your advice in my heart. I wish you nothing but love for the New Year.


    • How wonderful to see your note here and to know that things are working out well for you. I have such fond memories of Capriole. Much love to you and yours as well. Thanks for thinking of me. :)

    • On
    • February 26, 2013 at 6:03 pm
    • rachid
    • Said...

    If you want to Overcome Your Disappointments you shouldn’t make it seem like the end of the world – it’s not! Get over whatever has happened and move on with your life. And if you can’t do it alone, find help and talk it through with a trusted friend, a family mentor, or a therapist. Do not suffer in silence, it will only eat you up and embitter you.
    Thank you Jennifer for this great article .

    • I agree, Rachid, that the disappointments aren’t the end of the world. But that comes with perspective and perspective often comes with time. I think it’s important to let yourself feel the disappointment. It’s okay to feel very sad. Just not for too long.

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  30. Taking time to reflect can be very beneficial. I remember after I suffered from severe circumstance-related depression over the state of my friendships that I dwelt on the question, “How am I responsible for my friendship situation?” It revealed a number of important answers that I had been oblivious to. The changes I made as a result had a profound positive effect on my life.

    Thanks for the post, Jennifer.

    • Andrew, I love to hear real and positive outcomes that result from such self-reflection. It’s hard work, but very rewarding when we see that we are capable of change. Thanks and welcome to the community. :)