If I’ve seemed a little distant and unengaged the last few weeks, there’s a reason why. And today, we are finally ready to share with you what has transpired in our lives the last few weeks.
Have you ever found yourself in an unexpected dark place? In a season of sudden disappointment? Like everything was going really well and then BAM!
Out of nowhere.
Like the scene from a bad car accident.
Blindsided…not knowing where it came from.
Almost three weeks ago, my husband went into work only to find out that that day, would be his last there. After nearly two and a half years invested and while things were on a major upswing, he was let go.
No warnings. No interpersonal conflict. No negative thing to say about him. Just that they were restructuring and he was no longer part of their future plans.
Devastated. Heart broken. Shocked. Angry. Sad. Lonely. Confused. The list goes on. If it was an emotion, we’ve felt it the last three weeks.
Now I know that there are hundreds of thousands of people who have been let go from jobs before. And some of you might read this and think “What’s the big deal? That’s life. Move on.” But this is where it gets a bit tricky. You see, what many of you probably don’t know is that my husband is a pastor at a church. In fact, I used to be a pastor as well, for almost 10 years. We moved our entire family here two and a half years ago so my husband could start his dream job. This became our church family. This was supposed to be it…the place where we settle down and set roots. My kids were supposed to grow up here. We did our research. This was a good place and we were a good fit…until we weren’t.
Working in a church, otherwise known as “being in ministry” is not just a nine-to-five kind of job. This is your whole life. This is your family’s life. This is everything. And so when you find out that you are no longer needed, it hurts and hurts deep.
Sadly, for us, this isn’t the first time this has happened. Almost three years to the date, the same thing happened to myself at our previous church. Again, it was a total surprise. It wasn’t performance or character based. It was simply “we don’t have the funds for your position any longer.” I was devastated, as I would soon discover how much of my identity I had placed in my career for so many years. Even though they said it wasn’t personal, boy, did it ever feel like it. I even had to go to counselling to help me process it all because it hurt so much.
So to find ourselves in an eerily similar situation three years later, I’ll admit…it’s hard to not question just about everything, starting with yourself. The feeling of failure is one of the top contenders that you need to wrestle with and ultimately make peace with or else it will eat you alive.
So what do you do when you face unforeseen disappointment? How do you cope when life throws you a curve ball? What are the lessons that one can learn in the first hours and days after hardship strikes to make it more bearable? Here are ten ways that my husband and I have learned to help deal with our past and present disappointment. I share this with you to encourage you, but truthfully, to also encourage my husband and I as this is a very fresh situation that we are walking through.
Ten Ways to Cope with Disappointment:
1. Pray // Meditate // Journal
Our number one way to handle unexpected disappointment is to pray to God. Obviously, for us as pastors, this is a no-brainor. But let me tell you, when you are hurt and confused and angry, praying is sometimes the last thing you want to do. You wonder if God has somehow forgotten you when really, what we’ve come to learn over the last few years is that He’s really just repositioning you for something else.
Maybe you don’t pray and/or believe in prayer. Then I would encourage you to meditate. To close yourself off from all the noise around you and get alone with your thoughts. Carve out time for some introspection.
And journalling is a good idea whether you pray or don’t. To get all your thoughts and feelings out of your head and onto paper. Maybe you need to write a letter to the people responsible for your current situation and NEVER send it. Oh wouldn’t you LOVE to see the stack of unsent letters I have! Often times just getting it OUT of you, but in a safe place where no one will ever find it, is therapeutic.
2. Express Yourself: Talk // Cry // Scream
Going hand in hand with praying and journalling, it’s important that you express yourself, in the appropriate way, to the appropriate people. Find YOUR people and let it out. I’ll be honest, I’ve had some very choice words over the last week. I’m not proud of that…I’m just being honest. I don’t normally talk like that, but in a situation like this, ALL the emotions come to the surface. It’s important to have those safe people around you that know who you really are, apart from the hurt, and allow you time to grieve. To cry. To scream. To use profanities. To just let it all out.
3. Avoid Destructive Behavior
More likely than not, you will have the urge to be reckless. Whether it’s with money, food, or other forms of expression, there will be a temptation to “let yourself go.” Don’t do it. Make sure to have people in place in your life that will help keep you on track. You don’t want to make an irrational decision based on your emotions. You don’t want to look back on this season and have regrets, based on your behavior.
4. Get Perspective
In a time like this, where nothing seems to make sense, it’s critical that you get some perspective. This will likely come from talking to someone who has nothing to do with the situation but has perhaps walked through something similar or maybe understands that person who “did this” to you better than you do. Especially when there are many unanswered questions, it can be a game changer for you and how you walk through this time of disappointment.
5. Remember the Good Times
It’s REALLY important, especially in those first few days after any major disappointment, to remember the GOOD. Because it will be SO easy to focus on the BAD, you have to force yourself to remember the good. Because there WAS good. Even in bad situations, you can always find something good. Focus on that. Remember it. Laugh about it. Talk about it. And when the wave of sadness washes over you, push it aside and go back to the good times.
6. Surround Yourself With People Who Love You
I’ve mentioned it already a few times to be around YOUR people. Your squad. Your peeps. Get with them. Have them over. If they invite you over, GO. Even if they don’t, just GO anyways. Laugh with them, cry with them. Commiserate with them but also dream with them. They are your people, so they got you. Let them be there for you during this time of need. Don’t shut people out, although you may find that to be a natural tendency. DON’T DO IT!
7. Give Honor To Those Who Hurt You
A lot of times when we get hurt in situations, we want those who hurt us to hurt as well. I think that’s a very natural and human response from our pain. As the saying goes “Hurt people, hurt people.” Think about it for a minute. It’s true. In your hurt, don’t hurt others.
I said at the beginning of this post that when we took this job, we had done our research on this church and thought it was a good place to come. The truth is, we STILL think it’s a GOOD place. The church didn’t hurt us. Even the few individuals who made this decision…they are still great men and women, who love God and the church and are just doing what they think is best. Our job as Christians is to still uphold those men and women and still give them honor. Despite the hurt. Despite the unanswered questions. Despite the disappointment…we are still called to give honor in these types of situations.
8. Strategic Conversations
Whatever kind of disappointment you’ve had, whether it’s a relationship ending, a job loss, a bad health diagnosis…once the shock starts to wear off, start having strategic conversations with people. Whatever the situation is, you need to begin to figure out a game plan, and you need smart and wise people in your corner, helping you navigate this diversion. Be smart about who you open up to and share everything with. Seek out wise people. Talk to others who have walked this road, or one similar, before.
9. Dream About the Future
Begin to dream about the future. This one might be a hard one for some of you. I know it was for me three years ago. I can remember talking with a good friend of mine (a strategic conversation for me) and she asked me what my “plan B” was. And I looked her straight in the face and said “What plan B? I don’t have a plan B! I’ve never wanted to do anything else than pastor in a church and lead music!” I was almost insulted that she would suggest I do something ELSE! Because for 15+ years I had only ever thought about my plan A and never ever contemplated what I would do, should that not work out.
I can remember her words haunting me for weeks and months to come. I would pray at night “God, give me a new dream! I can’t dream of anything right now.” My mind was covered in so much darkness that I literally could not dream. I couldn’t think of what my future could possibly look like AT ALL. For MONTHS. YEARS! Almost two full years went by from the time that I lost my job, to the time I launched this blog.
That’s right, you read that correctly. THIS BLOG was born out of my previous disappointment and life altering heartbreak. The job loss that I never thought I’d recover from? Ya, it led me right here. And it’s all because I started dreaming, even when I couldn’t dream a thing.
10. Keep Moving
You’ve seen it in “Finding Nemo” where Marlin and Dory are looking for Nemo and they drop the mask and Dory tries to cheer up Marlin by singing “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming!”
It’s the same in real life…when life throws you a curve ball, you have to just keep swimming. Keep moving forward. Even if it’s baby steps. Even if it’s just getting out of bed and having a shower. That’s a big first step in the grieving process. Even when every fibre in your being tells you to lay in bed, you need to keep moving.
We are barely three weeks into this new season of life and I while it’s been difficult to process it all, I can already see the benefit that is coming from it. I will leave those awesome details for a follow up post to this one, because we are still in the very early stages of figuring this all out. But I will tell you, a rainbow always comes after the rain. In some way, shape or form, if we allow these situations to help us grow and learn from them, I truly believe that we can not only cope with life’s disappointments, but we can THRIVE after them.
This blog is living proof of that.
I am walking in the rainbow that came out of my disappointment three years ago. And I know that God has an even bigger rainbow for us after this storm. For those of us who believe, we KNOW and cling to the hope that God’s promises are true and good. And that while these seasons of disappointment were definitely not a part of our plans, they didn’t surprise Him at all.
I will wrap this post up with this: last weekend, our dear friends invited us to come down to their place for a “rest and reprieve” visit. They have been “safe” people for us to be around and talk freely to about any kind of situation, good or bad, that we’ve walked through in ministry.
On Sunday morning, we went to their church and my friend did this song, which I had never heard before. I don’t think there was any coincidence that she chose to do this on the Sunday we were visiting…the first Sunday after everything turned upside down for us. It took EVERYTHING in me not to collapse into the ugly cry while we sang it.
“Doesn’t matter how I feel. Doesn’t matter what I see. My hope will always be, Your promises to me.”
Love & Blessings,