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Thinking Out Loud:  Accepting That Which We Cannot Change!

Thinking Out Loud:  Accepting That Which We Cannot Change!

   The major task of mourning the death of a loved one is acceptance.  That is, accepting the reality that the loved one is no longer with us and accepting the multiplicity of changes that are taking place in our lives due to the loss.  Resisting inevitable change only leads to more pain.

   There are two levels of acceptance.  The first, intellectual acceptance, is easy to come by.  We can acknowledge the death of a loved one.  However, the second level, emotional acceptance, is a different story. It takes a much longer time because it involves the process of withdrawing our emotional investment in the physical presence of the loved one.

   Here are five ways we can assure ourselves that our grief work will not be prolonged and that we can eventually accept the death of our loved one on an emotional level.  Much of this is internal work and will call on us to strengthen our inner life.

Embrace the fact that life will be different; it is a new life.  This means realizing you have to give up some of the old routines involving your beloved.  Giving up the old for the new is a major challenge.  The inability to commit to this fact of life is what often brings on much depression. We can use up precious energy in resisting.  We need to decide as soon as possible that we will accept changes imposed by loss and start doing things that will accommodate change.

Realize that our social circle and/or support network may be drastically altered.  If we are widowed, there are some situations involving couples that we will not be invited to. This is often very difficult to handle.  There are also some people, even good friends, who are fearful of death and will tend to steer clear of conversations about our precious loved one.  We will sense their uneasiness.  We need to simply spend more time with those who meet our needs, and sometimes we may have to search for new friends.

Work on reducing the amount of time we give to negative thoughts. Negative thinking involves thoughts about our supposed inability to cope with all our new responsibilities, roles, and challenges.  Negative thoughts will never create the courage needed to deal with change.  They are the number one force in prolonging grief.

Look for support from knowledgeable sources.  Seeking knowledge and support from credible resources is very wise.  Most mourners grieve deeply in ways that are based on many myths that were accepted as truths early in life.  Look for information in four areas: emotional (how to manage emotions), spiritual (how best to utilize your faith traditions), physical (how to use exercise to reduce tension and anxiety), and mental (how to use your mind to calm yourself and change focus).  All of these will assist in reducing the pain of loss.

We need to ask ourselves, which areas are most lacking?  Ask others who have had similar loss experiences, people who conduct grief support groups, in hospices, churches, or hospitals—or if need be, a professional grief counselor.  Every mourner’s information needs will differ.

   All mourners need a companion, an ally, someone who will walk with you through the painful journey.  We should search for one or more companions who always lets us be in charge of our grieving. They may offers choices but do not tell us what we should be feeling or doing.  We should be free to bounce our ideas and emotions off this person, ask for their opinion on specific issues, and then decide what we will do based on our analysis of all of the advice we have received.

   Acceptance of our great loss is our number one goal.  Let’s keep it in the forefront of our thinking as we confront each day.  However, don’t allow that focus to obscure the various points of healing that we experience along the way.  At first, we will feel better but then have a few reversals.  As we keep working, the reversals will not hang around as long as they used to.  We will think of our cherished loved one with hope and comfort.  We will know that we are moving forward as we accommodate loss and change, love in separation as well as in the now, and reinvest in life.  Those are the practical definitions of acceptance.

John T. Catrett, III
Scissortail Hospice Chaplain
306 North Main St., Suite E
Bristow, OK. 74010

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