Acceptance: The Holy Grail of the Grief Process

It’s now approaching 13 months since we lost Melinda.  We’ve done all the “firsts” that everyone said would be the worst, and we’re now into year 2.  It’s no better, no easier, no less painful, and certainly no less confusing.  In fact, I continue to cry more each day since May 18th than the day before and I find myself closing off again in the hopes of stopping myself from spiraling into an emotional hell.   During all this, I am told that I’m learning to accept and that I will continue to do so, but I still have no idea what that means.   I’ve written about it before, and I still say that I have no idea what it is that I’m supposed to accept that is going to help bring me peace and help me find myself again.  Of course I have accepted some facts because they have been forced upon me and there is no other option, but none of these have lessened the pain or brought any form of lasting peace.

She’s not coming back.   I’ve accepted that Melinda will not be coming through the door.  I’ve stopped reacting to the slamming of the garage door and hoping it’s Melinda with her high pitched, sing-song “heeellooooo” to announce her arrival.  I know she’s not going to call me on my cell or send me a picture of some silly thing she just found in a store window.  I accept that she is no longer part of this earthly world, but none of this makes the pain easier to live with each day.

Our lives can include her only in a limited way.  I have accepted that Melinda will not be here physical as her sister graduates from university next week.  There will be no family pictures with the four of us.  There will be no picture of Melinda holding up her big sister in full cap and gown.  I’ve accepted that she won’t be participating in our futures the way we all want her to be.   I’ve accepted that I will never hold Melinda’s children and never watch her be the amazing mother I know it was in her nature to be.  She will always be with us and in our hearts, but that does not ease the pain or slow the tears.

Not everyone is capable of honoring her as I think she should be.  This was particularly hard for me, but I’ve finally come to understand that some of those Melinda loved are incapable of honoring her memory and spirit as I feel it should be.  They are too broken themselves and were broken even before Melinda entered their lives, so they don’t have the capacity to live as she did and learn the lessons she shared.  This has caused me a great deal of additional pain as I believe Melinda deserves so much better from them, but I have accepted that she is being remembered dearly by others she touched and who love her and can appreciate the impact she had on them.   I also accept that our family will always honor her memory, and that as long as that happens, she will forever be with us.  No one could ever love her or know her as we do.

I have no control over what life is.  This wasn’t a difficult lesson on one hand since I never thought I could control the “big picture,” but on the other, I still find myself wondering how this could happen to Melinda, to us.   I know there is no answer I could ever potentially get that would make anything “better.”  It wouldn’t bring Melinda back, bottom line.  We’ve always faced each situation/crisis/ fear as a family.  We raised our children to know they could always come to us with any problem.  They knew we wouldn’t necessarily be happy with what they brought us, but they always knew that we would and could work through anything together.  This time, it’s a little harder since this is a bigger crisis than any we could have imagined, and we have to do this without Melinda here to help us.

My/our life is not going to be what we wanted.  I’ve accepted this because I have no other choice, because no matter how much I want things to be different, they aren’t.   I know that there will always be pain behind the smile, and that tears are never far away at any moment.  I’m okay with that part.  Those things just reinforce how much I love Melinda and the incredible joy she brought into our lives.  What is the hardest of not having what I thought we would is the impact it has on my oldest daughter.  She’s lost her sister, her soul mate, her best friend, and she’s lost a part of her mother as well because I’m not who I once was.  This I struggle with.   People tell me to live for my daughter, to make sure her life is the best it can be now, and I want that for her, but I can’t fake the smiles and laughter when it’s not there.  That’s a disservice to her and to me.  So I do the best I can to accept that we’re all different, and not always in the best of ways.

I’ve accepted all of this, so what more is there to accept?  I see a psychologist regularly, and have for months, and she too tells me I still haven’t fully accepted what has happened.  I don’t know what that means.  When I ask her, she says that my head has accepted the facts, but that my heart hasn’t done that yet.  I don’t know how to make my broken heart accept more than my head has.  Maybe one day I can find that acceptance in my heart, but right now I don’t know what that even looks like.  What’s left to accept beyond Melinda being gone?   I think that’s all that matters.

If anyone knows how I can find my way to acceptance, I hope you’ll share.

25 thoughts on “Acceptance: The Holy Grail of the Grief Process

  1. Mira, I don’t have the answer you’re seeking. I don’t know how you might find your way to acceptance – I don’t think there is a single way. Rather, it is varied, complex and very often elusive. What I do know is that your writing is powerful – so keep doing it!

  2. I want to thank you! I have been 5 months without my Richie and this has summed up what I have been feeling and can’t out into words. I have always asked myself these same questions, felt the same thoughts. No one here has understood how I am now mourning a future I won’t have with my son. Thank you again and God Bless you!

    • You’re welcome, and thank you. Whenever I read a comment from another grieving parent, my heart breaks a little more because I know they know my pain, and I know theirs, but I also heal a little because I know there is true understanding between us. Somehow there is a strange comfort in that. I wish you peaceful days and moments to breathe deeply.

  3. Thanks to Deanna (Willow Post) I learned about the readjustment model of parental bereavement (formulated by Henya Kagan Klein). In Gili’s Book (about her daughter), Kagan Klein writes “I never ‘accepted’ her death. I have not observed any ‘acceptance’ in other parents either. We never really ‘accept’ the fact that our beloved children have died. We acknowledge the death of our children and our new reality. In the best case there is a readjustment, or an adaptation. This is not a semantic difference. It is a difference in dynamics. ‘Acceptance’ implies acquiescence and passivity. ‘Readjustment’ connotes integration and growth, activity, and change. ”
    I recommend the book highly (it’s out of print, but available used.)

    • What a wonderful explanation. I too believe there is no “acceptance,” in the way most people use the word. Acknowledgement is different and adaptation is forced upon us whether we want it or not. Thank you. I will see if I can find the book. Take care.

    • Grahamforeverinmyheart, you have a remarkable way with finding and sharing just the right things.

      Truly, the very idea of ‘acceptance’ is offensive and absurd. But what you say – ‘readjustment’ – yes, has something to it.

      I do not like anyone telling any of you to accept what cannot – should not – *never* will be ‘acceptable.’ It simply isn’t.

      And yet, somehow – to find a way to live. Even the smallest sliver of a way to live.

      That is the desperate search.

      Your children and your words matter and always will.

      Cathy in Missouri

      • Thanks, Cathy. I appreciate your kind words.
        I really do like to share things that might be helpful. That’s why I made my website public (it was originally just a place where I bookmarked things for myself). I wish it could make things easier for everyone, but, ultimately all of us will still struggle with figuring out how to live without our children every day for the rest of our lives. As you say, it is the desperate search.

  4. It is not so much ‘acceptance’, I can never accept what has happened and how vastly different my life is now. More like resignation as to this is how it will be and I better learn to live with it. Readjustment comes close, we adjust to this new reality every day. I acknowledge many of the things you enumerate in this post, I wrote about some of them the other day. In fact just last night, I sat out on my deck as the evening descended and said aloud, “He’s never coming back.” That is a fact, whether we accept it or not. I am still not sure where we go from there.

    • I agree that resignation may be the best we can hope for. It’s such an ugly word to me as I’ve never seen myself as one to just resign myself to something. I was a doer, a changer, and now I can’t be that in the same way. I’m imprisoned in a life I never imagined possible, and I have no idea what to do with it. I know there are thousands who feel the same so this isn’t a matter of self pity for any of us. It’s trying to understand, like you say, “where we go from there,” when we can’t see the path before us. Wishing you peace.

  5. Reblogged this on The Infinite Fountain and commented:
    Thoughts from another voyager on this lonely road. Whether or not we can ever truly accept what has happened, it has happened, and we’re stuck with it for the rest of our lives. Thank you Mira for a thoughtful and insightful post that resonates with anyone who has lost a child, no matter how long ago.

  6. I don’t know the answers here but I can tell you that I was lost, and I mean completely lost, for about 3 years after we lost our little girl. I was living on what I call “Auto Pilot” and have very little memory of that period. There was no one thing that helped me turn a corner and start living again. I say now that we live “even though”. I’m not sure it’s acceptance as much as just putting one foot in front of the other when you can.

    • Thank you for your caring comment Tracy. Please know I am so sorry for your loss. I can fully understand the “auto pilot” mode. I have conversations one day that I can’t recall at all the next day, like I was never there. We do what we have to each day to get to the next. Wishing you peaceful days.

  7. I’ve always found the word “acceptance” hard to deal with. It sounded like a command. But when I came to think of “no resistance,” it was a tremendous help. I “no resistance” and I breathe into my center, where all that hurt is. “No resistance” has a physical effect on me; it’s the breathing that helps. It does NOT make the pain go away; it creates space around it. It is so goddamn hard to think clearly about anything after losing a child – and it’s not like I can do this all the time. But I know that resisting what I feel since my son died (and as you know, the word “pain” doesn’t begin to cover it) only makes it worse.

    I am so sorry for your loss, for my loss, for all of us. Sometimes I feel it’s beyond language. Peace to you and your family.

    • Thank you Denise. Please accept my most heartfelt condolences on your loss. I think I’ve adopted the “no resistance” attitude without even realizing it. I know I have to just let the grief wash over me and that running from it or pushing through doesn’t work. I’m glad you’ve found something that “helps” even a little. I don’t think anything will ever actually take the pain away. Wishing you and yours peaceful days.

  8. Mira, thank you for another thoughtful, heartfelt and well written post. Jennifer, thank you for the book suggestion. I agree with Cathy that the very idea of “acceptance” is absurd. Personally, the stages of grief, which include acceptance, irritate me. I can accept that my 90 year old mother-in-law died because she lived her life and her body gave up. Typically, sadly, parents pass before their children. Acceptance of my 27 year old just dying for no apparent reason — nope, can’t wrap my head around that one. However, I do “realize” in a foggy way, that Amy is gone from this physical world and my life will never ever be the same. And I realize that when the door opens, it’s not going to be her. Oh Mira, I know what you mean.

    Whichever word you choose to use, it hurts when that “realization” sinks in more and more as the insulating shock chips away.

    What I would also like to mention is that I am finding communicating with you all has helped and comforted me more than I can ever say. I feel less lonely. I know “you know” when I read your posts.

    • Thank you Dee. I couldn’t agree more about accepting what seems to be the “natural order” of things when parents die first. They’ve lived, fulfilled at least some dreams, and helped their children fulfill theirs, but when the “order” is disturbed, there seems to be no way to accept what your heart believes never should have happened. We are, at best, forced to be resigned to grieving the rest of our lives.

      I too have found great comfort in sharing with all of you and having you share with me. No one else can truly understand the depth of sorrow that is in every bone of us now. I’m so sorry that this is how we had to meet. Wishing you all peaceful days.

  9. Mira, words really do affect us, don’t they? Especially in this hyper-sensitive state we bereaved parents live in. And the A-word (acceptance) can feel like a slap. I agree and really like everything everyone said (above). And I gently would like to add something. “Grief therapists” are fairly easy to find, but it’s really, really challenging to find a therapist who has experience counseling those who have lost a child. If a therapist says that you still haven’t fully accepted what has happened…that your head has accepted the facts, but that your heart hasn’t…yet, maybe this therapist is not the best fit for you. Even Dr. Shanun-Klein, whose Readjustment Model of Parental Bereavement I use on my site, admits to poorly counseling grieving parents before she herself experienced the nightmare. Whatever the case is, if you really feel good about the work you’re doing with your therapist, then ignore this. But if you’re uncomfortable with the words, or concepts she’s suggesting, I’d search for someone else who will let you crumble from grief in their chair, and tell you that you are normal to never accept this…
    I hope this helps.
    Peace, Deanna

    • Thank you Deanna. The woman I’m seeing is actually very helpful and more than a grief therapist. She specializes in PTSD and trauma so she’s been able to provide some further insight into mess of emotions I am.

  10. I think acceptance is a word that people use but dont understand the meaning of. To accept something means, to me, that you recognize and acknowledge something has happened. Such as: ‘I accept your apology’ or accepting a job offer. But I think what people are really saying is that they find your pain is something that is overwhelming because they couldnt deal with what we have had to deal with. People say to me all the time ‘I just cant imagine what it is like.’

    I have ‘accepted’ the fact that my son is dead. I just dont know how life is supposed to look now. I dont know how to interact with people the same way any more. I have ‘accepted’ that I will not see my boy again this side of heaven, but that doesnt make it ok. I understand and realize that this is now my reality, but my brain has difficulties comprehending how this life continues with him gone.

    • I’m sorry for your loss. I feel the same way. I know Melinda is gone, but that doesn’t make the days any easier or less confusing. I hope you are able to find some peace each day as I think that’s more valuable than the obscurity of acceptance.

      • Thank you, I do have a deep peace. I had my boy for 12 years, 237 days and 23.5 hours. And I am grateful for every second of it.

        I’m sorry that you lost your daughter. I have a book called “Gone, But Not Lost” by David Wiersbe, a friend sent it to me, and i found it to be helpful.

      • I’m glad you’ve found peace. It is something at times with which I still struggle for a variety of reasons. I have read many books since Melinda’s passing, but not that one. Thank you for the suggestion. I will look for it.

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