Acceptance: The Golden Ring
Accepting the reality that the loved one is physically gone, and that this new reality is permanent can be perhaps the most challenging Stage of Grief to process, but it can lead to the beginning of true healing.
Reaching this stage of mourning does not happen for everyone. Sometimes, death may be sudden and unexpected, or a person may never see beyond their anger or denial.
However, if/when one reaches this stage, they may accept that while the loss is still painful, they understand that life will go on. Either without the loved one or when they pass away.
While acceptance is not always a happy stage of grief, it is a benchmark for approaching life on new terms. This can lead to regaining happy feelings and a sense of control over one’s life. Acceptance can lead to a new way of life for the grieving individual and a sense of possibility for the future.
Acceptance has no correct timeline, and one can reach it anywhere from hours to years after the death of a loved one. This acceptance doesn’t mean you won’t feel sad any longer. It just means you’re beginning to live with the loss.
Some examples of signs that you may be gaining acceptance can include:
- Thoughts like, “I am so lucky to have had so many great experiences and memories with this person,
- “They will always be in my memory,”
- Regarding an impending death, “I will have the opportunity to tie up loose ends, make preparations.”
- “I’m glad to be able to enjoy the individual in my life while they are still here.”
Grief Management Strategies
Some grief management strategies you can use during any Stage of Grief, but namely acceptance, include the following:
- Writing down your thoughts, feelings, and memories
- Telling your story to others
- Talking to friends, relatives, or healthcare professionals
- Learning to manage stress in healthy ways
- Exercising, eating well, and getting plenty of rest
Employing some or all of these strategies during grief processing can lead to better and more healthy outcomes for the individual.
How Long Does Grief Last
You may be wondering how long it takes to go through the grief process. This is SO painful! When will I be done? Unfortunately, that is going to be different for everybody and will also be different depending on the circumstances. If your mail carrier dies, and you weren’t that close, you will go through the process much faster than when a parent dies. This can take years. Sometimes you will feel like you are doing all right and the grief will wash over you all over again. This is when the strategies mentioned above will be especially helpful. Above all you must remember to be patient with yourself. The death of someone you are very close to, is not something you recover from quickly.
You may also find that you travel in and out through the various stages of grief, finishing one, only to revisit it later. That is frustrating, but it is part of the journey. If you would like refresher on the Five Stages of Grief, here we go:
- Stage One: Denial
- Stage Two: Anger
- Stage Three: Bargaining
- Stage Four: Depression
- Stage Five: Acceptance
If you would like to receive more information on processing the impending death of a loved one, please contact our Hospice program at Bluebird Health, or take a look at the National Hospice and Palliative Care Program’s page on Grief and Loss which has good resources.