15th June 2022
As I have noted on a few occasions in this blog, the ‘five stages of grief’ model gives a painfully simplified characterisation of grief and its role in our lives. That idea was penned in 1969, and much more research and insight has come out since then. One thing that the ‘five stages’ model does get right, however, is that people can reach a stage of ‘acceptance’. We do reach a point where we start to ‘accept’ the pain of someone dying or losing something else that was deeply important. Working as a bereavement counsellor in Harrogate and online for a number of years, I have supported many clients on that long but doable journey.
But what does it actually mean to ‘accept’ your grief? There are, unsurprisingly, a number of misconceptions around what acceptance really means. In this blog post, I will outline a few things to keep in mind about accepting grief.
Accepting Doesn’t Mean There’s No Pain
It is important to note that acceptance does not equate to being free of distress, trauma, or difficult emotions. It doesn’t mean you are ‘over it’. The hurt that came from losing someone close to you will remain. The important thing is to accept that pain, understand its role in your life, and no longer feel driven to fight against it or make things different. Accepting means accepting all aspects of the bereavement, including the difficult emotions that come with it.
Acceptance Isn’t Linear
Once someone has come to accept the fact that someone has died, as well as the emotions associated with that loss, it doesn’t mean they are immune from slipping back into not accepting the death of that person. Certain events, or sometimes nothing in particular, can bring people ‘back to square one’, as it were – suddenly unable to deal with the pain of the grief and wishing for life to go back to the way it was. That is a perfectly normal process; I’ve seen it on many occasions as a bereavement counsellor.
Acceptance Means Staying Present
Whether someone has suffered a bereavement or is struggling with some other kind of mental health issue, the tendency is to indulge in behaviours that bring them out of the present moment, or make them feel numb, such as alcohol or other substances. If someone started drinking more heavily after someone dying, the act of stopping entirely – and being able to maintain that streak – shows that they are willing to be present to their thoughts and emotions, however difficult they may be. If, on the other hand, someone claims to ‘accept’ their grief whilst continuing to drink every day, it is a sign that they have not properly engaged with and come to terms with the trauma that they hold inside themselves.
In other words, acceptance equates to having the strength to stay in the present moment, no matter how hard it is.
If you are struggling to accept the death of a loved one, I am here to provide bereavement counselling in Harrogate and online that gives you the space to explore your emotions in a non-judgemental, confidential environment. Feel free to get in touch with me by phone or email at any time.