denial, anger, bargaining, depression. the first four stages of grief are filled with raw and real feelings and many “i don’t knows.” as i said earlier, these stages are so not linear and we cycle through them over and over again throughout time. i like to think we bump into them at a difference place each time.
the last stage of grief is also one that we will revisit again and again. acceptance is usually not a once and for all but something that we have to do again. we re-accept, we let go yet again, we forgive in a new way, we move forward again after periods of feeling like we are moving backwards.
the stage of acceptance is about accepting a new reality. it doesn’t mean forgetting the past, but it means moving forward toward the future with a new hope.
a lot of times, people want to maintain life as it was before the loss. even if the relationship was hard, or the church situation was dysfunctional, or the job stunk, it was familiar. it was comfortable. we knew what to expect. and if the person we lost or the dream we were living was good, it makes the desire to go back and get-the-past-back even stronger.
in time, through bits and pieces of acceptance, however, we see that we cannot maintain the past intact. it has been forever changed, and we must readjust.
one of the hardest parts for me about my church grief was that i desperately wanted some of the old security back. there was something about the stability of life before a faith shift that i missed. the certainty, the structure, the belonging. accepting that i could never get that back has not been an easy process, but 8 years out i am grateful for the past but so glad that i have moved into a new present. celebrating what was and finding what works now has been key for me.
finding acceptance can start as having more good days than bad days. there’s a tipping over where things begin to not feel quite so hard, there’s a tad more relief, a bit more color that comes into the grayness of the first four stages.
it can also mean beginning to make new connections, relationships, and new inter-dependencies.
acceptance is also risky, but it’s a good risk.
instead of denying our feelings, we listen to our needs (this is why nonviolent communication can be such a great tool)
we may start to reach out to others and become involved in their lives.
we may move forward to stepping into some kind of life or connection or community or dream again.
we begin to live again with new flickers of hope.
i am not sure what acceptance looks like for you, but i know for me, a lot of it has to do with forgiveness, letting go, and intention. it has to do with honoring what was and accepting what is. it has to do with leaning into some of the amazing words in the serenity prayer (i know some of the language will bother some of you but i try and take what i can out of it and leave the rest)
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things i cannot change. courage to change the things i can, and the wisdom to know the difference. living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time, accepting hardship as a pathway to peace, taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as i would have it, trusting that You will make all things right, if i surrender to Your will, so that i may be reasonably happy in this life, and supremely happy with you forever in the next. amen.”
what do you need to accept about the past that you cannot change?
what is something that you can and want to change moving forward?
when we have done this station in real life, we used rocks and candles (a refuge staple, ha ha). i can’t recreate this here, but you can imagine it here.
pick up a rock that’s on the table. feel the weight in your hand. as you do, consider what part of your experience it’s time to let go of, release, accept.
is it a person you need to let go of or forgive (including yourself or God?)
is it a resentment it’s time to release?
when you are ready, drop the rock in the bucket as a symbol of letting go and acceptance.
as you finish, light a candle to represent a flicker of hope, your desire for new life and light to come into some of the darkness you’ve been feeling, as a gesture toward continued acceptance.
remember, we’ll have to let go again and again and again. to keep dropping “rocks” and keep lighting “candles.”
peace and hope to all as you grieve whatever your unique loss is. may you bravely walk toward hope, crawling when you need to, resting along the way, remembering you are not alone. you are in good company. be gentle with yourself. trust the process.
i’ll see you next week with one last post before my summer break. thanks for hanging in there this week! love, kathy