You are now familiar with the pain of grief and with the highs and lows on the road to recovery. Perhaps you have also experienced having the realization of your loss descend almost physically from the intellectual plane with its feeling of head knowledge into your heart and very gut. That can be a painful time, for it is then that you know with certainty that death is final and that your loved one is gone for the rest of your life. It is then that searching for a return ends and work on acceptance can begin in earnest.
It may seem strange to even speak of “acceptance” when it concerns that which cannot be refused. Acceptance here, however is not a passive giving in or simply resigning oneself to what cannot be changed. As a step to recovery, the acceptance of loss must be the result of an active process to integrate the fact of death and the changes that it brings into the fabric of a renewed life.
At some time during the months of mourning, a decision is made - sometimes almost unconsciously - to resume an active life in which your loved one no longer plays an essential part. Perhaps this moment could be on a day when you are amazed to realize in mid-afternoon that you did not get up that morning with a sense of doom or that you did not think of your loved one until after you got your shoes on or maybe after breakfast. These can be frightening moments and bring fears that you are forgetting your loved one. You need not be afraid - your memories will remain but the pain of recalling them can now grow weaker and the sadness become more bearable. Now you will not always be flooded with tears when you remember your loss and the scenes which at one time turned over and over in your mind will no longer fill every waking moment. When you find yourself at this important stage, you know that getting there has required real work - work which, in large measure, contributed to those endless days when you felt too limp to move from your chair. It involved slowly altering the view of your private world and close scrutiny of your own life and beliefs. Where am I? Who am I? What do I do now with the rest of my life? You have probably not found definitive answers to those questions but in accepting the death of your loved one, you have stopped trying to wish back to life the person who is no longer there and you have found a way not only to survive but also to engage again in living. You have relinquished the nagging questions that troubled you in the early months - questions that have no answers. Where there was once anguish, a more peaceful, gentle sadness is beginning to settle in and you know it is this that will be with you always.
Your outward life has changed and, no doubt, your inner life as well. The experience of grief, of working through mourning and of accommodating to changed circumstances leaves a survivor very vulnerable but can also give to each one an understanding of the human heart and of suffering that no other experience can equal. This has often been the key which allowed survivors to find ways to lead full and meaningful lives in the aftermath of tragedy and to replace an obsession with the past by an attentiveness to the possibilities of the present.