Moving Through Grief: Accepting What You Cannot Change

This week I've been focusing on grief and its effects on us in the Daily Devo.  Each day we're going to address one of the "Five Stages of Grief" established years ago by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in her work on grief and how we process it.

Today we're going to talk about the fifth stage: Acceptance. 

When I was doing research for this series of Devos, I came across this explanation of the fifth stage of grief, which Elisabeth Kubler-Ross characterized as "acceptance:" 

The fifth and final stage is related to acceptance. You're finally able to accept the reality of what's happened and begin to look for avenues to move on. It's important that during this stage you accept how this loss has changed your life and stop wishing for everything to go back to how it used to be.

There's so much that I want to unpack from that statement.  

First, the idea of a "final" stage of grief is a bit misleading.  As I've said, there is no linear checklist way to experience grief.  And everyone's experience of the grieving process is unique. 

But there does come a time when, after you've experienced a loss, you might start to feel like the fog is lifting, and you begin to accept certain things about your new reality.  

However, to make this a mandatory thing you must do is not healthy by any stretch of the imagination.  Again, this definition of the fifth stage of grief feels a bit overbearing. 

The fact of the matter is it just happens.  One day you feel better, then a bit better the next, and so on.  Acceptance is a long, slow process. 

There will be moments when a memory will come to you or a reminder of some kind, and then you'll find yourself back in profound grief, walking through all the steps again.  

However, the last line is the one thing that I find compelling about this definition of the fifth stage of grief:  

It's important that during this stage you accept how this loss has changed your life and stop wishing for everything to go back to how it used to be.

I know that for me, the loss of my mother was one of the most pivotal and traumatic changes of my entire life.  It took me a long time to finally accept how the loss affected me and an even longer time to stop looking back nostalgically and begin looking forward more hopefully.  

While I don't have the wild swings back into profound grief, I still have moments of sadness and longing, but they are natural, good, and sweet to feel now that I've come to accept the changes I experienced after her passing. 

Walker Percy wrote about this using the analogy of music to describe our acceptance: 

What needs to be discharged is the intolerable tenderness of the past, the past gone and grieved over and never made sense of.  Music ransoms us from the past, declares an amnesty, brackets and sets aside the old puzzles.  Sing a new song.  

If you have been grieving and feel as though you haven't done everything correctly to move beyond the pain the losses have brought, you can let that negative thought go, right here and now. 

God never intends for us to be perfect in our processes.  God intends for us to be human, which is how we should be.  We are perfectly imperfect, just as God intends.  We grieve because we love, and we love because we are made by love, for love. 

May you find peace when you experience loss and the courage to let yourself journey through grief to hope without judgment or anxiety.  God is with you, beside you, behind you, before you, and in you.  

May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.  


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