How do we get to acceptance? Ever since four family members died in 2007, including my elder daughter, the mother of my twin grandchildren, I’ve grappled with this question. I studied grief recovery then, and continue to study it. Many grief experts see acceptance as a choice we make for ourselves.
One thing is certain--our loved ones one wouldn’t want us to stay stuck in the darkness of grief. They would want us to live our lives to the fullest and be happy. Ten years have passed since my daughter died, and I’m living a new, happy life filled with surprises, including acceptance. Now may be a good time to start working on your acceptance path.
According to “The Power of Acceptance,” an article on the Abundance and Happiness website, acceptance is “based on the quality of consciousness that we choose individually.” Choosing acceptance requires awareness, introspection, and resilience. You need to gather some supplies, too, a willingness to change, learn, and believe in yourself.
Bob Deits, author of Life After Loss, cites steps you can take to achieve acceptance. When I read this section I thought of construction bricks. Each brick is sturdy and, when placed with other bricks, it forms a foundation or walkway. Laying a path to acceptance can be a foundation for the rest of your life.
Brick one: Believe things will get better. The death of four family members made me despondent, and I recognized this feeling. But I knew I wouldn’t always feel this sad. My sister-in-law kept telling me, “You will get through this.” I believed her and kept doing my grief work.
Brick two: Tell your story. Deep in your heart, you know you need to share your story. With retelling and the passage of time, you will eventually be able to tell your story without sobbing, and that’s progress. As you tell your story, remember that it may help someone else.
Brick three: Acknowledge your pain. Trying to avoid pain saps energy and cements you in place. You’re not going to feel better if you keep trying to avoid pain. That’s why grief counselors tell clients to “go with the pain,” something I’ve learned to do. In the long run, going with pain saves time.
Brick four: Ask how questions. According to Deits, “Questions that begin with ‘how’ indicate you are ready to face the reality of your loss.” He goes on to say these questions help you create a future. I think “how” questions are better than getting stuck in the muck of “if only I had” thoughts.
Brick five: Grow from grief. Judy Tatelbaum, author of The Courage to Grieve, thinks “we need to make something good from our grief.” Tatelbaum sees this step as an antidote to despair and this has been true for me. Grief can make us better people. I started writing grief articles and books. You may do something similar.
Brick six: Reach out to others. I’m a bereaved parent, daughter, sister, niece, and friend, so this idea comes from experience. When I felt strong enough, I tried to help other bereaved people. I listened to their stories, and gave them some of the books I’ve written. Every contact bolstered my acceptance path and made it stronger.
Brick seven: Let yourself laugh. After four family members died I didn’t laugh for a year or so. Thankfully, my humor slowly returned. As I told my husband, “My wacky New York humor is going to get me through this time.” To this day, I remember my first belly laugh and how good it felt.
While creating an acceptance path is an experience we share, each path is different, with its own setbacks, twists, and turns. Add more bricks to your path if you think you need them. When you can see the path you’re on the way to the future. When I was putting my bricks together sometimes I thought I could hear my daughter saying, “You can do it Mom!” And I did.