Stages of Grief- Acceptance
Acceptance. It’s something that seems impossible when in the midst of grief.
It doesn’t ignore the loss, it is certainly not about forgetting and moving on.
It is far more about accepting that the past cannot be changed and accepting the need to explore what your new present now looks like.
There may be more good days than bad, your roles and responsibilities may change and you may start to reach out to those who you distanced yourself from while in other stages of grief.
Guilt can be an ever-present companion throughout the grieving process. It is a voice that can be particularly loud in the acceptance stage and is often a burden we put on ourselves rather than something other people cause us to feel.
When we lose someone we try to understand the process and ask ourselves lots of questions like “what if” and “if only” but all this serves to do is to help us feel that we are somehow to blame for the death.
In doing so we ignore all the other factors that contributed to the tragedy and take on the guilt of this ourselves.
This guilt is often compounded when we realise that we have enjoyed ourselves on a night out and not thought about our loved one for a few hours. When we smile or laugh and immediately feel guilty because we “should” be feeling sad or when we realise that we are having more good days than bad.
So how do we manage our guilt?
- Guilt keeps us from moving on and acceptance is not about forgetting but about forgiveness. We need to forgive ourselves for whatever we did or did not do. Part of being human is making mistakes and recognising that we did the best that we could. Some circumstances are out of our control.
- If the guilt is related to unfinished business such as not being able to say goodbye, then find a way that works for you to resolve this. When mum died, we found a tree (and had to fly it over from Japan) that was named after my mum. This tree gave us a place we could go to feel closer to mum and to talk to her if we needed to. Some people write letters, others brew beer and name it after their loved one…find something that makes sense to you.
After 9/11, Her Majesty, The Queen gave a speech. Her quote is so poignant about grief and guilt.
“Grief is the price we pay for love. We would always choose to keep a loved one alive and with us, so rather than focusing on guilt focus on the love that you gave and received”.
Grieving for yourself
Part of my acceptance stage was grieving for the person that I was before I lost my mum.
I spent most of my grieving period wanting to “feel normal” again and to get back to doing and being who I was before.
My whole grief journey (and it took many years) was about accepting that who I was before, was gone. I needed to re-shape who I was now in light of my loss.
In all honesty this took me over 5 years, and once the pain had diminished, I was able to do a before and after comparison of who I was and who I am now.
Before grief- I was protected from the harsh realities of life due to the unconditional love of a person. I had a relationship safety net, a completely biased support system, financial support and I was never alone.
After loss and through the grieving period I discovered:
- I am stronger than I ever thought possible
- I am more empathetic
- Less judgemental,
- Someone who could make decisions on my own,
- More aware of other people’s inner struggles,
- More patient
I learnt to value the fragility of life and live for every moment…because there will never be another moment like that one.
Now, many years on, I would not want to go back to the person I was before loss, nor would I want to take the pain away because as tough as this experience was, I am able to go forward, knowing that I am the person I am today because I was loved, and grief is as much part of this journey as life and love.