Although a lot of people describe coping as though it implies one person only, but it has been my own experience that to cope in life you need more than just the skills we acquire on our own. We need others.
An important part of going through something can be knowing that others have been through a similar thing and that there are people who can, and will, understand how we might be feeling and acting. Sometimes connecting with those people can be one of the most helpful things we can ever do. Not all coping has to be done alone, nor should it be done alone. It is also true that when we feel alone it can impede our chances of coping successfully. There is a reason we form bonds and relationships in life, its so we can share and contribute to the human experience. We are social beings after all.
Finding the right people to talk to, to offer feedback, to listen to, to encourage us is just as important as the things we do on our own to help get through challenging times and events. Trust, respect and intimacy are all important ingredients to our relationships too, so sharing these times can help be the cement and glue to our love bonds and our friendships.
After any event that has tested you physically, emotionally, mentally etc there is a period following when you look back on the event in hindsight and start probing and asking yourself “what would I have done differently?” or “What can I learn from this?” In the project world we called this formal process as ‘Lessons Learnt’ whereby the team gathers together and discusses events and makes recommendations for ways to improve in the future. This can be part of the coping process for all of us too if we look back, with a spirit of honesty and respect, and consider ways in which we might improve our coping strengths and learn for the next time. Coping is a life long commitment to always try and learn and always building the confidence we need to go forward.
I would like to make a point of saying that blame and beating up on yourself is NOT part of healthy coping. If anything, these things will only serve to harm and damage our ability to cope and help our loved ones. To cope with life we need to believe ourselves worthy and worth the pain and sacrifice that it takes to get through. Like a mother endures birth, because she knows the sacrifice is worth it and that she is creating a new life, so to we have to believe that we are worth going through all that it takes to cope and make it through; and our loved ones are worth it too.
If we can focus on learning how to cope better, and gain confidence and self respect after each challenge, we find that there is more and more in life that we can navigate and learn from. Although we will never become perfect or ever run out of things that can and will test us, it helps to know we not alone and our imperfections and our challenges are what makes us who we are, and shows us who truly loves and respects us.
I invite you to please don’t ever be ashamed of the tests that life has handed you, no matter what they are, and wear your experiences with all the pride that a victor would wear their medals.
I hope I have not appeared to trivialize or pretend that any of these things I have written about are easy to do or come naturally to everyone. I have struggled and continue to struggle as much as the next person with life and I know that I will encounter many more times which will test me again. I hope as I continue to move through life I will continue to learn and meet people who will make these challenges meaningful and rewarding.
Also, I don’t intend that these lists be a complete and exhausted list of suggestions about COPING. My one sincere hope is that in writing this I have expressed my respect and empathy for all of us as we go through life and meet the challenges that life may bring. I also want to express my eternal gratitude to all those who have helped me through my darkest days and my battle with these terrible diseases.