How do you react to bad news?

I heard an unusual dose of bad news last week. You’ve seen some of it too, from Facebook friends upset about the election results to more sensational news stories that only reflect the personal disasters coming to a head at work or home. The real gut ache for me is when I feel actions are unjust, not only for me, but for others. So how do you handle bad news?

My husband always said, “You learn a lot about someone when the s–t hits the fan.”

This proves to be true. A long history of quotations from famous people prove that overcoming obstacles is part of life and character-building. You will be judged by your actions and reactions.

“It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters,” Epictetus (Greek philosopher, 55-135).

“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power,” Abraham Lincoln (American President, 1809 – 1865).

“There is no better than adversity. Every defeat, every heartbreak, every loss, contains its own seed, its own lesson on how to improve your performance the next time,” Malcolm X (American activist, 1925-1965).

“It is our choices…that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities,” J.K. Rowling (English author, born in 1965). She has many other great quotes too, like, “If you want to see the true measure of a man, watch how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.”

What did I do when I arrived home with an upset stomach and skin buzzing with anger? I cleaned. The first thing I did was hug my dogs, of course, but then I immediately filled with sink with hot bubbly dish water and scrubbed away grease. I vacuumed dog hair dust balls. The laundry machines in the basement got their work out too, while I attacked the refrigerator and threw out tubs of one-week-old food. I broke out the water pic and turned it up to full blast on my gum line.

I rode my bike to a hot yoga class and groaned and growled in my hot shower afterwards. I reached out to new and old friends, casual and professional friends, accepted every social event invitation, and filled my calendar with support and connecting times. And then I did that stupid thing women do when they stare in the mirror too long, which for me is any time at all. I started to scrub my face, squeeze blackheads like they were menacing intruders, and pluck the few stray eyebrow hairs that no one would ever notice anyway. Physical pain, self-inflicted pain, somehow briefly triumphs over searing emotional pain. But shortly afterwards I felt more idiotic than before, all red-nosed and teary-eyed.

I think I feel hungry for sensory experiences opposite of the seated receiving end of bad information. Long walks and bike rides in cold November air feels like an arid version of a cold shower, rinsing away any hot-headed anger or violently passionate thoughts. Snuggling with husband and dogs to a movie at night thaws the heart again. Hugs from best friends works a special kind of magic on the soul. And then there is cooking and eating with my husband in our cozy kitchen that heals all. At least for a moment or two I feel the security and love of home until the offending thoughts sneak into consciousness again and stir my stomach for the umpteenth time

To ultimately soothe my mind, I remind myself that I’ve been through much worse, and I owe it to myself and my family to find my best case scenario. I asked myself to find a more rewarding situation and now fate asks me to challenge that very task.

What do you do when you sting with bad news? How do you react to a nasty swallow of tough luck?

What mantras do you chant in your head? Do you rely on any sage advice or age old wisdom we should all know?

Here’s to better days to come!



24 thoughts on “How do you react to bad news?

  1. This is about the election, right? Just making sure. As I read it, I felt myself waiting for the other shoe to drop. Your bad news is the election, right? This isn’t an allegory of some sort? By the way, the paragraph that begins with “I rode my bike…” is masterful. Well done. (this is political, right??)

    1. Actually, no, not political at all for me. For others, yes. But for me… other bad news piled on top of the political bad news. It’s OK. I’m in good hands professionally, as well as in family and friends.

  2. I can relate to the nervous face scrubbing in times of stress. And, I pace around without purposeful attempts at exercise. But, what helps me is serious prayer and talking to my trusted brother!

  3. I walk the dog and talk to him. I retreat, like you, to family and husband. Good people who know the good in me, too. I NEVER clean when upset. If things are really grim I go to bed and read. All day. Hang in there, Laura.

    1. Thank you!
      Yeah, any of my college roommates would laugh really hard if they read that I cleaned. πŸ˜„
      I talk to the dogs more too now that you mention it. Like i have to explain to yhem every stupid different thing I’m doing out of our usual routine.

  4. I am truly sorry about your bad news Laura, but I have learned that when something really bad happens it more often than not turns into something wonderful. This is true. Think about this. One door closed so other doors can open. Smile and keep your chin up.

  5. Well written, Laura! I can feel all the frenetic energy being spent. Hope it helped release some of the anger. For me writing clears my head, so I hope this piece helped you. You seem calmer at the end than you did at the beginning. Here’s to a better week. Hold on to those dreams!

  6. One thing one can do is to create good news when confronted by bad. If you can’t correct an injustice which was done somewhere on the planet, somewhere else there’s a family devastated by a house having burned to the ground or a dog who needs expensive surgery. Helping the family or the dog doesn’t erase the injustice, but one’s reaction can be to make something else better.

    1. I agree whole-heartedly! This past week I have had a lot of focus on how I can possibly help others. How can I build a life story of greatness, not only for myself, but for others? πŸ™‚ That thought-process and forward-movement alone is very therapeutic.

  7. Reading this, I could feel the anger and frustration In a way. Hope you are feeling better now? πŸ™‚
    Me, when ‘bad things’ happen, i do house chores (dishes and ironing especially). And then I crash, moan, get angry and cry, haha, i know. And those are some great inspirational quotes.

    1. Thank you for reading and sharing! Why are we all so embarrassed at our “flop” I call it. We obviously need to collapse and groan and exhale after an emotional bruising. πŸ™‚
      Thanks agsin for being human with me.

  8. Well, in a way I can relate to the one time I was canned from a job. I had never been fired before, I always had an income fall back but for this one time. We moved too, so there was really no point in getting anything local, so knowing where I was going I searched for employment in the new area. So that was a plus. I tend to have sleepless, skin quivering moments as you described, but love that you tried to find wisdom in the words of others because we are always able to find something to connect to in the words of others we familiarize ourselves with, and that can be uplifting. Your situation can also be empowering if you feel the injustice you experienced needs to be addressed, for me I still struggle. I find my hindsight to be 20/20 and I should have had better retorts, although I found the adversary didn’t need my help. In the end I got what I needed without saying a word but there was so much that should’ve, could’ve and maybe needed to be said to give me closure. For now only when I deeply think about it do I really struggle, it has become of little bother to me in my current life chapter…Best wishes.

    1. Thank you for sharing this! Yes I have had other past pit falls that still flip my stomach around if I think on it too much. Thank goodness we truly can overcome the obstacle we face. We might skin our knees or take a painful face plant in the process, or much worse, but we humans hold so much power inside of us. I believe we each harbor our own pilot light. And sometimes it takes a while to relight it when someone successfully blows it out. Sometimes an idiot throws grease on it and we blow up. But eventually we can calmly rerun to a peaceful place with a steady controlled burn that warms up the good folks of whom we surround ourselves.
      Cheers and best of luck to you too.

  9. The more one grows, the freer one is of small, narrow limitations – the more the expansion of love, towards not only ones near or dear ones but grows in ever growing concentric circles encompassing, all nations, the world and ultimately the universe. Ultimately it all exists within us

  10. and….Through love thorns become roses, through love vinegar becomes sweet wine. Through love bitter things seem sweet, through love bits of copper are made gold. Only from the heart can you touch the sky. Love is fearless in the midst of the sea of fear. Rumi.

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