“There is no such thing as complete acceptance. When you can remember a loss with a little distance and much less pain, you have accepted the loss and mourned it fully. You accept that life is different now and move on.” David Viscott, Emotionally Free
In the world of psychology, acceptance is a person’s approval/assent to the reality of a situation without attempting to change it or protest. It is close in meaning to the word acquiescence whose root means “to find rest in.”
Acceptance is a vital part of grieving and occurs on the “up-swing” side of the grief cycle. It is the beginning of the more positive side of the grief curve.
When you lose a baby, it takes a significant amount of time to get to this stage of the grieving cycle. So many aspects of grieving must be worked through before you can even think about this as part of the cycle. It seems inconceivable that you may ever get there, but you will.
What makes it even more difficult is that you have to actively choose to “accept” the reality of what has happened to you. You have to look reality in the eye and decide to move forward with your life the way that it is now. It takes even more effort to “find rest” or peace in your new situation.
Acceptance is the first step toward change. Eventually, you get to a point in healing when you are ready for change – a change toward a new way of living without your baby. You’ve done the difficult work of grieving the horrific loss of a child, and in this stage, you choose to move forward toward your “NEW NORMAL.”
Being around others who have been able to move on is helpful. Support groups are a good place to meet such people. Engaging God’s help with this stage of healing is also very beneficial. For more detail, let’s take a look at the Serenity Prayer. Most everyone knows the short version of the prayer, but read on below for the complete prayer:
God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
As it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
If I surrender to His Will;
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever and ever in the next. Amen.
by Reinhold Niebuhr
There are lessons that can be learned from this prayer – lessons that are useful in helping you with acceptance:
Acceptance doesn’t mean you are lazy or are giving up. It takes “work” to move forward with life without your child.
You must have courage to go on. It takes a brave soul to put one foot in front of the other in spite of the intense pain you are experiencing.
Living in the moment is important. There are enjoyable moments in life even when you are grieving. They may be momentary at first but get more frequent with time.
Good can come from hardships, and the death of a child is a huge “hardship.” Hardships provide opportunities for growth.
Surrendering your pain to God requires courage too. It’s an act of faith to give God your pain and trust Him to help you heal. Sometimes trusting Him without all the answers to the questions that have plagued you makes it even more difficult.
Happiness is attainable. Your life will go on and it can be happy as you establish your “new normal.” You are forever changed but not forever grieving.
Take the second half of the Serenity Prayer and personalize it:
I will live one day at a time.
I will ___________________________.
I will accept my hardships and attempt to work through them.
I will find a pathway to ___________.
I know this world is sinful.
I will trust_______________________.
I will surrender to ________________.
I will expect happiness in this life if I _________________.
And I expect supreme happiness when I join God and my child in heaven.