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"Acceptance" is a Tricky Word in Grief

Day 70: “Acceptance” in Grief

Out in the world, the word “acceptance” can imply agreement, or consent, or even acknowledgement that something is valid or correct. When we grieve, “acceptance” may be one of those words that makes you bristle (and rageful), and yet, the word seems to get thrown around a lot in grief. “Acceptance” shows up in the 5 stages of grief, it is in the 4 tasks of mourning, and it seems entrenched in the vernacular as some beacon that reveals healing.

Here is my take on “acceptance:” No person needs to come to a place of “acceptance” in order to heal in grief. For what happened is unacceptable. And it will always be. No matter how much time passes.

What I believe we should actually use instead of “acceptance” is “knowing.” What I think many have been trying to convey by “acceptance” is more about that time in grief when our heart “knowing” catches up with the mind “knowing.” Our minds can know that events occurred immediately, whereas our hearts don’t accept unwanted factual change easily, nor quickly.

This connection of mind and heart “knowing” is when the fullness of the reality of our loss washes over us. This is not acceptance in the sense of agreeing with what happened, nor claiming it is in any way that it is ok. This is a psychological and biological process in which the reality of all of our systems (heart, body, and mind) align to take in what has occurred. That is all that I believe “acceptance” means in grief. And healing in grief does not mean that anyone ever needs to find what happened to be “acceptable” or “ok.”

Welcome to my 100-day project. I hope to provide a daily offering on something grief-related. I am a grief therapist and educator working with people in Oregon, Washington, DC, Maryland, and Maine. This feed is in honor of each person who has trusted me with their stories and wisdom during their grief journey. I hope that others may benefit from simple and straightforward talk about a topic that can be difficult.

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