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Memorials are over – people have gone home – life goes on.
Or has it?
Life might have resumed for others who have gone home to their families and familiar routines. But your life has been drastically changed. Life doesn’t just “go on” for you.
No matter what tragedy or loss you have encountered, it has drastically disrupted your life. Before you can establish a new normal, you need to first let go of what was.
To let go, you need to stop struggling. There is a natural resistance to accepting the ending of something valuable and important. When you continue to resist, however, you risk getting stuck in sorrow, sadness and depression; and maybe anger and resentment.
Acceptance is where you stop fighting the reality that exists: my spouse has died, my child is dead, my teen is into drugs, my marriage has ended, and I may be out of work.
It is where you stop denying and resisting and start working with it. It may be painful. You might have lots of unanswered questions, uncertainty, hesitation and doubts. But if you run away from them, you won’t be able to work through them and create a new life that has meaning and significance.
Acceptance is not the end. It is the beginning.
It is where you take the ashes of your loss and start over. Letting go does not diminish what you had, and acceptance doesn’t mean you are giving up or resigning yourself to no happiness in the future. It just frees you to consider options.
While grieving the death of my husband, I wrote in my journal, “Acceptance this morning is not a promise of a new beginning. It is a bitter pill added to the string of losses I have been asked to accept: my husband, my home, my source of income, etc.”
But as I worked on the concept of acceptance, I was able to pick up the pieces of my life and construct a new beginning that had meaning, purpose and contentment.
Working through unpleasantness is never easy. You may want to withdraw and isolate yourself, so others won’t see your brokenness, fears and vulnerabilities. As you work through the tangles of thoughts and emotions, and decisions you need to make, you will discover you are stronger than you think, more flexible and resilient, and deep down have a desire to live again.
Reasons for not accepting
We don’t want to accept because we don’t want to feel the pain, loneliness, uncertainty, fear and anxiety caused by this loss.
Through acceptance, I can come to terms with my situation. I don’t blame anyone or myself. It isn’t saying that someone got all the breaks and I didn’t.
Acceptance simply acknowledges that life isn’t perfect, I’m not perfect and neither is anybody else.
Each of us will experience losses and unwanted changes that will require acceptance, letting go and starting again.
Life is a process – a dance.
It is never static, never the same. It is constantly evolving and changing. It is movement – we are going somewhere. It requires flexibility and the ability to move through and beyond our losses. Rebuilding begins with acceptance, letting go, reframing what happened and making new choices.
Acceptance does not mean:
- I have no worth. Instead, it enables me to discover it.
- I am powerless. Instead, it helps me use my power more constructively.
- I stay in this spot forever. Instead, it allows me to look for better options.
- I have no rights. Instead, it allows me to use my rights in a productive way
- I am a victim to whatever happens. Instead, it frees me to take charge.
Integrating our losses takes time. It may seem as though we are making no progress, but positive change is happening. We may be required to make that choice of acceptance more than once as we step out in faith.
Where are you right now in your grief process?
Here are some questions to consider:
- Are you feeling stuck or are you ready to move forward?
- What part of your loss are you struggling with? Remember, your loved one is always with you in your memories.
- What doubts, uncertainties, anxieties, or fears are keeping you from moving forward.
- What decision is required of you right now? Make a list of potential problems you may be facing and prioritize. Take the number one priority and begin working with it.
- What specifically do you want to remember and take with you? Perhaps it is a special way of doing things that was shared with your loved one. You might want to return to favorite places or make that trip that wasn’t completed before. For me, it was responding more to the humorous side of life as my husband did.
Learning to Live Again in a New World
We need validation for the turmoil of thoughts and emotions we experience. But we also need the tools necessary to create a new beginning that is both satisfying and meaningful. My new book, Learning to Live Again in a New World, offers those tools to help work through the problems you might be facing.
It is a guide to help you through the ups and downs of grieving a significant loss. And it includes a study guide at the end for use with groups.