Acceptance is often seen as the final stage of the grief process, but anyone that has experienced grief knows that the stages can happen at any time or sometimes not at all. Each grief experience is different and there is no tried and true roadmap for it, but the idea of acceptance is one that most people agree is part of the process.
When someone has trouble accepting a loss, it is often a cover for another thought tied to grief.
The loss happened and it’s a fact that it happened. You wouldn’t even be grieving if it didn’t happen. So why can acceptance be so elusive?
It helps to ask yourself the question, “what am I making it mean if I accept this loss?”
Does it mean that I condone what happened?
Does it mean that I’ve lost my faith?
Does it mean that I will never see my loved one again?
Does it mean that the world is not the safe place that I thought it was?
Does it mean that life is fragile and I’m not comfortable with that?
Does it mean that I’m letting someone down?
Does it mean that the grief process is over and that I’m supposed to forget about my loss now?
Or your answer could be something entirely different.
Whatever comes up for you, ask yourself if that thought or answer is really true.
For instance, is it true that accepting your loss means that you condone what happened? Yes or no.
If you answer yes, then I challenge you to think of other things in your life that you’ve accepted, but may not condone. Examples could be accepting global warming, war, negative politics, your husband’s snoring, taxes, telemarketers or any other thing you can identify that you have accepted, but don’t approve of in your life.
If you can find even one example, then you know that accepting something doesn’t necessarily mean condoning it. That is the truth for you. Just knowing that can loosen you up towards acceptance.
Another exercise to try is something called the Five Whys.
For example, if your answer was “acceptance means that I’ve lost my faith”, you would ask yourself why that is so until you get to the root of your answer. It helps to do write this down instead of doing it all in your head.
Acceptance means that I’ve lost my faith.
Because if I accept my loss then I may lose faith in God for letting it happen.
Because God shouldn’t have let this happen.
Because I’m a good Christian and only good things should happen for me.
I guess that it isn’t true. There are many examples in the Bible of people that were good and bad things happened to them.
We don’t really know why things happen. Bad things happen to all of us and sometimes that can make our faith even stronger. Acceptance may actually strengthen my faith.
If you are having trouble with acceptance, then try out asking yourself what you are making acceptance mean and then put those thoughts to the truth test or the five whys. You may uncover what is really going on so you can move towards healing.