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Disappointment and loss or a new start?

‘He’s wearing jeans, and Tom and I grab hold of one back pocket each in an attempt to anchor him, while Molly in turn hangs on to us, purposelessly but sweetly. My family, I think, just that. And then, I can do this. I can live this life. I can, I can. It’s a spark I want to cherish, a splutter of life in the flat battery; but just at the wrong moment I catch sight of the night sky behind David, and I can see that there’s nothing out there at all.’  Final Paragraph from ‘How to be Good’ by David Hornby.

 I wanted a different ending. I wanted Katie (the protagonist, thinking out loud above) to feel hopeful, purposeful, glass half-full, type of sentiment. Not empty, not lost, not too tired to feel. And then I realised that if she were a real person, not a character in a novel, her life would continue and her state of mind might change, that this final paragraph need not feel so final. Yet, there is something chillingly recognisable and resonant in that empty last line – a profound, existential sense of disappointment and loss that touches most people at some point or another. It’s a hard thing to face without overreacting. Tempting to try and completely deny it, overcompensate or give up. I think, however, that when loss and disappointment are properly embraced as a fundamental, inevitable part of life, there can be something akin to a ‘new start’. For myself, accepting that I will have moments like Katie’s above, reminds me that its ok to feel ‘the dark side’ – that it’s a feature of being human. However, I try to resist any broader evaluation during these darker moments, as even though the feeling is strong at the time, it need not determine my next step.

By Dr Gill Heath, Become Psychology