We’ve all heard loose talk about acceptance. It’s as if we just have to make an intellectual decision to accept a situation and then ‘bingo’ it happens. Not always. Of course, it also depends on the nature and seriousness of the matter we are dealing with as to how we respond. There is no doubt that some situations in life can benefit from acknowledging and accepting outcomes or events in order to heal, recover and make changes. But some events are so profound and shattering that acceptance seems impossible.
For instance, if we lose a child, relative or close friend to illness, accident or suicide, how do we cope, let alone move to a position of acceptance? Because, anyone who has experienced a severe and devastating loss in their lives, will tell you that it’s something they do not want to accept and in fact it can feel like an affront if suggested. Instead it’s as if when in deep grief, the lost person or child is still in the foremost of their thinking and loving, and that’s how they want it. Many people who have lost a child or someone very close will say they don’t want to forget and they don’t want to re-cover and move on as some well-meaning people often suggest.
Nothing can be the same after tragic loss, people’s lives are changed forever. I suspect it’s the change of life circumstances that have to be managed and possibly accepted, not the loss. I recently heard a person say that she lives around her loss and that the tragic event is very much part of her life journey. Words or notions like recovery, acceptance and moving-on can sound hollow. Maybe it’s because those words are somehow linked with the connotation of returning things to normal. We know that returning to the ‘same’ life circumstances after major personal loss is unlikely.
Of course, there are other categories of loss and difficulty that require major adjustment and realignment. I have a good friend with an illness that progressed to a stage where she was unable to remain in her own home. A keen gardener and someone who valued her independence, she had no choice but to make immense changes in her life in order to receive the care and support needed to manage the physical symptoms of her condition. She was not just dealing with the trauma of ill-health but the lifestyle she knew was suddenly substantially changed. She is very brave and adaptive.
It’s hard to accept that our lives are different from what we imagine. We all have expectations or notions about what we want, expect or assume. It’s often painful to reconcile these expectations when issues such as infertility, illness, financial difficulties, relationship break down, living apart from family, disability and a myriad of other circumstances impact and stop us progressing and living the way we envisaged.
When change or unwanted circumstances encroach on our lives, disappointment, confusion, avoidance, denial, sadness, resentment, stress and worry can occur in response. Some individuals talk of a gradual creeping depression that descends over time when it becomes evident that their life isn’t panning out the way they imagined or wanted. This can leed to reflection and reassessment of life events. Sometimes for some of us, there’s value in reflection and taking a look at the past in order to negotiate the future.
Acceptance is a funny notion, it’s born out of loss. Real, imagined or disenfranchised. Acceptance is thrust upon us, its’ something we don’t choose to undertake. Acceptance is a process, not merely a decision. It’s a very difficult emotional place to arrive at because usually there’s pain and angst along the way. For some of us it’s giving up longed for dreams or wants. Perhaps, we have to see ourselves as different from the visualised concept of self and who we are. We arrive at the acceptance gate perhaps battered and bruised, even sometimes feeling a little hard done by. However, one thing is for sure, acceptance takes its time and toll, it’s an arduous journey, long and hard for many of us.
There is so much in this piece Heather and the timing is perfect for me. It’s my son’s birthday today and he would have been 28 years old. Sometimes I can’t help but think, ‘maybe I would’ve been a grandmother by now…’ and other, similar musings. But after seven years I think I have reached acceptance and I’ve also received an inoculation of acceptance it seems. The one, great loss of my child helps me to accept my new losses everyday. I hadn’t thought of it like that before reading your piece. Thank you!