7 Ideas to Bounce Back From Hurt Feelings

“I’m sorry,” She says, head bowed, voice quiet.
“I know,” I respond, softer, because her demeanor’s softer now, too.

Words still hang in the air all around us. Big, ugly, loud words. Words flung from a developmentally delayed tween’s mouth, peppered with a mood swing… in the middle of Home Depot on a crowded Saturday.

I want to hide under the polished concrete floor. Or yell back at her. Or just leave her there and let her walk her own meany-pants self home. But I do none of these. Instead, I shove it down deep and choose to face it later since her sisters want to curl up and hide leave as much as I do.

Later arrives. It’s 9:30 p.m. and the kids are in bed. I can finally take time to feel again… but who wants to do that? All that work to deal with big, hurt, stressful feelings? Even as a life coach who helps women parent challenging kids like mine (can I be really honest?) I sometimes pick the pint of ice cream.

Of course we can only escape in double-fudge-chip so long. If you’re facing hurt feelings from someone you love – someone you can’t truly distance yourself from, and who will likely hurt you again at some point (we’re all only human, after all), here are some alternatives to ice cream:

  1. Do a pencil purge: In-the-moment retorts have a near-perfect track record of coming out toddler-esque. Writing our feelings and responses helps us untangle our thoughts, take a more objective view and see the two sides of the moment so we can respond instead of react.
  2. Get violent (with a pillow): Take the hurt and physically release it by movement of some kind. As a bonus, when you move in ways that cross your body’s midline repeatedly (swimming, running, yoga, boxing) you invite both sides of your brain into the moment, helping you process and move through the hurt feelings.
  3. Dump the garbage: Keep a jar handy to collect slips of paper on which you jot down feelings as they arise. At the end of the day, dump the contents out on your family room floor, note the words, and trust each one to God’s care. Then dump them all in the trash (or burn them in the fireplace) to physically represent letting them go.
  4. Smile: This simple act will lift your own mood, and research shows our own happiness helps increases the happiness of everyone around us.* It’s a win-win.
  5. Ask forgiveness: Consider a recent way you may have hurt the other person’s feelings and ask their forgiveness. It clears the air, keeps us humble, and sets the tone for mutual empathy.
  6. Take a stand: consider how that hurtful moment might have been less hurtfully and let the other person know how you’d prefer they handle a similar situation in the future.
  7. Go for a “release walk”: Go outside, pick up a handful of stones and carry them for a block or so. This represents how much holding on to hurt weighs on us. When you’re ready, begin to drop the stones, one at a time, letting go of each hurt feeling as you do.

All of these ideas spring from a single principle: practicing forgiveness. At it’s core, healing from hurt depends on our ability to release ourselves from pain through forgiving others. As one of our most famous voices for reconciliation once said,

“Forgiveness is not an occasional act; it is a permanent attitude.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

In the moments where a friend’s word stings, a husband’s comment bruises, or a teen’s anger strikes out, may God use these tools to help you vent, cope and ultimately thrive and heal.

How do you handle hurt feelings now? How would you like to grow in this area?


The Dynamic Spread of Happiness in a Large Social Network, Brittish Medical Journal, 2008

Image credit: zimmytws / 123RF Stock Photo

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