bitter pill to swallow

An unpleasant fact, disappointment, or humiliation that is difficult to endure. For example, Failing the bar exam was a bitter pill to swallow, but he plans to try again next year. [Late 1500s]

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.