Corage: The Freedom to Be Where You Are

We need to take the time to experience the tough times of our lives. Not just get over it but dwell in it and experience it.

by Sally Eames

There is no right way to be human.

Which means there is no right way to feel or experience your emotions. There are healthier ways than others to express your emotions; for instance, slapping people who annoy you — while desperately tempting on occasion — is generally not the most healthy and effective way of bringing that emotion into the conversation. But as my mother said while I was growing up, “Feelings are neither right nor wrong; they just are.”

And if all of the above is true (it is), that means there is no one right way to process the bigger, more powerful emotions we all experience. There are some ways that are more healthy than others.

I recall reading an article some 20 years ago now full of concern about America’s quick fix attitude when it came to grief and the emergence of Prozac. People were given the anti-depressant so they wouldn’t have to experience the various emotions of loss. The author of the article pointed out that in some countries a widow has a five year, socially-imposed mourning process. So she a lot of time to grieve the loss of her husband. Imagine, wrote the author, if we had that here, rather than giving people a pill to get them “better.”

Personally, I’d like to see something else here. I think an imposed time period would be equally onerous. What if someone’s grief took seven years to ease instead of the allotted five? What if they were ready to rejoin the world and look for another partner in three? No two people are going to have the same depth of feeling or the same expression of it when it comes to ANYTHING, and to make a rule about having to extend the grief to fit a required period is as restricting as needing to “shake it off,” or “get over it” as soon as possible.

When my world fell apart, I gave myself three months of downtime to get through the worst of it. Not to have my problems solved by then, or to be “done” with the emotional storms, but three months of freedom to do as I pleased when it came to my grief and loss and rage and fear and anger and doubt and sorrow and any other feelings that came up with no other demands on my time or focus. I was lucky. I could afford to take those three months. I had the time, and money, to do it.

I knew the storm was there, and I chose to stand in it and let it rage around and through me, rather than sucking it up or ducking my head and getting through it. The result was, that though I still had emotional upwellings for a good long time after, when that three months was done, when I was ready to get back into the business of being a part of American life, I was truly ready. I felt clear and energized and whole. I knew what I wanted, and I was able to pursue it, because I’d spent three months sitting with myself and my loss, and I wasn’t sitting on a powder keg of emotions I was pretending didn’t exist.

How did I know I needed that three months? I don’t have any idea. That number just came to me. “Give yourself three months,” said a quiet voice in my head. “Don’t try to accomplish anything for three months but survival and grief and healing.” So that’s what I did.
And that’s what I’d like to see for everyone. Not a specific three month period, but the freedom and the support to take the time they need to get through the rough parts. I’d love to live in a culture where people have access to that voice inside that knows exactly what they need and for how long and can honor it.

Eleven months after my life fell apart, I attended a small gathering with people from my high school years. I was happy, my life was rich and full of things I cared about, I was excited to see everyone and hear about their happy, rich, full lives. We were covering the basics and I mentioned how my life had fallen apart not quite a year before. One of my former classmates who had been through something similar stared at me as her jaw dropped. “And you’re standing?” she asked.

Yes. I was. I was not only standing, I was running. Dancing. Laughing. Because I’d given myself the care I needed, and was able to come at my life from a place of strength.

I want that for the whole world; to be able to take care of ourselves in the ways that we need to so that we can not only live our lives, but dance them. Because this is the thing so many people who want to keep emotion out of things or think there should be a specific way to “deal,” or to keep the emotions in a closet because they get in the way and they need to get on with their lives, here’s what those people are missing: It’s all your life. Your life isn’t just the parts where you’re not unhappy, where you’re working. ALL of it, everything you experience is your life. And all of it can give you incredible riches if you let yourself experience it.

So can we begin, please, to cut ourselves some slack when it comes to getting over things and getting on with our lives? Because when we’re in the thick of an emotional experience, when we’re slogging through the hard parts, we are getting on with our lives. Even if it isn’t something you can put on a resume. And how much better off would we be if we recognized that?

Sally Eames, CPCC, ACC operates Corage Coaching. She is a Certified Professional Co-Active coach and a graduate of the Coaches Training Institute. She is also an International Coach Federation Associate Certified Coach. For the full text of this column, please visit her blog. For more information on her work as a Co-active coach, please visit her site at