I have a very close friend right now who is what I call ‘left of coping’.  It seems to me, that in terms of emotional injuries our current narratives are polar – they’re north or south, black and white, left or right. I don’t feel like we have the language to honour the true depth and breadth of our emotions. We don’t have words to describe the grey.

How are you today?

The answer tends to be – either I am coping or… I am not coping. I’m OK or I’m NOT OK

It seems every description of ‘other than coping’ describes a situation or feeling that we should be working away from, instead of feelings we should be respecting and honouring and spending some comfortable time with.

I’m struggling, I’m drowning, I am NOT OK, I am anxious, I am a wreck, I am heart broken, I despair.

To me, it seems the entire narrative left of ‘Coping’ is using entirely negative words. These words are NOT welcoming of the experience of grief and sadness, but words that gently and quite often not so gently force us OUT and away from our genuine pain and sadness. I think quite often the language we use for ‘not coping’ actually make us feel that our feelings are not welcome, or something that can’t be easily shared, that they may drive away our loved ones. Often if we honestly answer ‘How are you today’ with the current phrases for ‘not coping’ we fear that we may shut down that friendship or connection or people would be so worried about us – so we say ‘I’m OK’

My friend has bravely admitted she’s on the way to quite a bit left of ‘coping’ and is quite wisely taking some scheduled time to experience her grief and loss and make plans to build herself around it.

We spent some beautiful time together discussing just this. We are coping, we are OK, or we are not. We are both, articulate, clever women, both having been through very different and heartbreaking experiences with our children and still – we are either OK, or NOT OK. There’s nothing in between that doesn’t ring the alarm bells.

I think some of this comes because we haven’t built safe spaces around our sadness and our grief. A safe place to experience the sadness and perhaps our friends and family don’t know how to sit with us in those safe spaces without feeling at a loss of how to help.

Happiness seems to be so highly prized that by we avoid our unhappiness, or at very least we hide it away. The thing to remember is that ALL feelings are fleeting and in my experience all feelings are helpful. If you’re unhappy, then it’s often an opportunity. Sadness and grief slow us down, they force us to take breaks, they are emotions that help me assess my relationships, sadness helps me feel intensely grateful at times and it helps me build meaning around my life. Irony aside, it makes me sad that our sadness gets such a bad wrap.

I want MORE words for ‘left of coping’. Help me, join me, in changing the narrative. Help me rename our recovery as genuine and legitimate feelings and experiences that can be comfortably sat with, not feelings that need to be hidden from our friends and family for fear of negatively impacting them.

Because let me tell you, that hiding, that pretending we are OK because we’re ‘left of coping’ that makes me feel alone and disconnected, like I am acting at life.

Here are some of my thoughts.

How are you today?
I am having a long soak in my feelings.

How are you today?
I am honouring my sadness today, thank you for asking.

How are you today?
I am having some worrying conversations with the future, she says the weather is stormy, I tend to agree.

How are you today?
Have you ever noticed that gratitude and grief are so very similar? I am having both today.

Next time someone asks you How you are going and you’re a little left of coping, try to be little more honest with your feelings, try to honour the real day you’ve had. I think if we all start trying to work towards a richer narrative for left of coping, we can begin to honour our trickier days. When we honour those feelings instead of hiding them, I genuinely believe we can feel less alone, more capable and less like we have to force our way OUT of left of coping.

The time for Courage… is now.

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