I want to write about acceptance, but it’s tricky. I don’t know if I have any insight to offer. Maybe you have insight to offer me.
There are some open questions about the stages of grief: how valid it is as a model, whether there are five stages or seven stages. But the stages, along with some religious thought, emphasize the culmination of grief and healing from grief as acceptance.
What is acceptance? At first glance, it seems to be agreeing with basic reality: This person is now gone. This person isn’t in my life anymore. This terrible thing did actually happen. (And of course, this can be true in situations that have nothing to do with death and still everything to do with grief.)
Or maybe acceptance can be thought of as letting go. Letting go of what used to be, or what you wanted to be, or what you thought was except it really wasn’t ever. Letting go of controlling what you cannot control.
But I think acceptance encompasses something more than this.
Acceptance is also about understanding the reality of how life has changed because of what happened. Not just, this person died, but how is my life now different because of this death? Not just, this relationship ended, but what does mean for me to be single? Not just, my body doesn’t work the way it used to, but how do I have to live my life differently now that I don’t have certain physical capacities?
Acceptance involves integrating these changes, which can sometimes feel like consequences, into your life and into your concept of who you are.
Who am I now that I can no longer walk? Who am I now that I am no longer a spouse/sibling/parent/friend to this person? Who am I now that I have survived this terrible ordeal?
Who am I?
Acceptance, I am beginning to believe, requires a generous amount of compassion for the self. Because as you sort out who you are in this new landscape, you are bound to find wounds and doubts and weaknesses and regrets. You probably won’t like everything you see.
But until you can love this new self, including any perceived drawbacks, including the tender and misshapen bits, I wonder if the process of acceptance can be completed.
I suspect it can’t.
So then. When you are grieving, know this. It might be hard to remember, even impossible in this moment, but. You are still a beautiful and worthwhile individual.
You still shine with the light of a thousand stars.