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waves of grief

One of the most difficult but also one of the most important parts of the healing process is finding acceptance within ourselves of what has happened in our lives.

Unfortunately, many of the things that have happened are outside of our ability to control or change. We really can’t do anything about them. They happened. They are unchangeable and nothing we can do will make it any different.

They certainly include in large part whatever it was that happened to our loved ones that we couldn’t stop or change or fix and of course that our loved ones are not here with us any longer. And there’s also a lot more than that we may need to accept.

Coming to gradually and s lowly understand that our loved ones are not coming home, that the place they occupied in our material lives is going to be empty of them forever and nothing we do or wish or think is going to change that, is perhaps one of the hardest and most painful things we need to do during our healing journeys, and accepting may of the other changes is very difficult as well.

However, acceptance is almost essential to building the next part of our lives, to allow us to start to look for and find ways of thinking, of acting and of living that both honor what was and create what will be as we transition from us, to me all alone. Until we accept what has happened, it is difficult to want to even look for alternatives isn’t it?

Acceptance is often a verrrry difficult place to reach. There is often regret, guilt, anger, sadness, denial and probably most of the other emotions that live within grief that we experience and have to work through along the way. The journey is filled with uncertainty and unknowns. 

Some of us have really never been or lived alone in our lives. For many of us, being with our loved ones has filled essentially all of our adult lives. We have no or very few memories of a time when it wasn’t so. For many of us, we have very few skills from the past that we can apply to help us learn all we need to learn to craft the next part of our lives.

Denial can also be a part of the process of reaching or not reaching acceptance. It’s not necessarily a linear process or part of a list of stages we have to go through, but the magnitude of what we are experiencing is so very difficult to believe and come to terms with that sometimes its easier to deny and keep the hope alive in our hearts that we may yet somehow see things turn around and we will have our loved ones back in our lives again.

Acceptance also doesn’t usually come in one single flash of insight or light. It can grow gradually within us over time as it slowly comes into focus. It can also move like our grief does, sometimes we go forward and think we’ve got it and sometimes we go backwards and don’t have it at all and sometimes we stagnate and don’t seem to be going anywhere. These are all part of the process and kind of a “normal” way for us to learn to accommodate the huge changes that have occurred in our lives.

Once acceptance begins to appear, there seem to be times when our acceptance is strong and healing and then on some days along the way, often unexpectedly, the reality of what has happened reaches out and grabs us again and the pain of that realization triggers our grief back into full intensity, hopefully and thankfully just for a short time and then that too passes.

As with so many parts of grief, there is no timetable here either. We each reach acceptance in our own time and in our own way and when it happens for us, that’s when it happens.

A maybe “too long” list of (other) things to consider that we may have to come to accept (temporarily or forever) and deal with in some way in this next part of our lives. Many of them may also come at you at the same time: 

  • Being alone.
  • Living alone.
  • Having to do everything our spouse used to do.
  • Figuring out what to change, keep or leave out in our new lives.
  • Taking care of all the material world responsibilities by ourselves.
  • Making decisions alone.
  • Traveling alone.
  • Dealing with medical issues alone.
  • Dealing with loneliness.
  • Dealing with sadness.
  • Dealing with finance changes or issues alone.
  • Dealing with living arrangement changes.
  • Raising children alone
  • Losing old friends. 
  • Losing the future we had planned with our loved one.
  • Knowing what to do if family and/or friends don’t know what to say or avoid us.
  • Having no one to talk to, especially in the evenings.
  • I can’t sleep!
  • My mind keeps racing and looping.
  • I can’t stop crying.
  • Going out to eat or to a movie etc. alone.
  • Needing to make new friends.
  • Not knowing know how to make new friends.
  • Enjoying being with/going out with new friends.
  • Feeling guilty for being with/going out with new friends.
  • Feeling guilty for changing things, for wanting to do things on my own.
  • Knowing we have to move forward.
  • Finding wellness.
  • Being happy.
  • Being ok.
  • Having a good time. 
  • Coming to like living alone.
  • Being “relieved” to not be a caregiver anymore.
  • Learning how to not be a caregiver anymore.
  • Taking care of and being gentle with ourselves.
  • Learning to honor and remember our loved ones without grieving them.
  • Realizing we are no longer actively grieving.
  • Having to build a new life.
  • Learning that we are strong.
  • Others?

Some things we may need to accept doing without (temporarily or forever): 

  • Affection in both physical and emotional ways.
  • Affirmations. 
  • Someone to share the story of our day with. 
  • Someone to hold us when we are sad or need to cry. 
  • Someone to bitch to. 
  • Someone to sit quietly and just be together with.
  • Someone to eat dinner with. 
  • Someone to go out with. 
  • Someone to rub our feet or whose feet we can rub.
  • Your shared purpose in life. 
  • Your future plans.
  • Others?


  • Where are you at in the process of learning to accept what has happened?
  • Is there an aspect of denial in your thinking?
  • What would you like to share about how you feel about acceptance and what you are having a hard time coming to grips with?
  • Can you think of ways to overcome those things to help acceptance grow?