Monday, December 27, 2010

My Struggle with Acceptance

Since Phil's death, grief has caused a long struggle between the desire to overcome and the need to accept the realities that widowhood has brought into my life. The concept of acceptance when applied to Phil's death has always felt like giving up to me. So, I stubbornly planned around any roadblock that would slow what I thought was forward progress, though I had no clear destination. I think I believed that if I kept moving I could outrun the need to accept the fact that the man I was going to spend the rest of my life with was not coming home.

One woman I met just a few months after Phil died shared this idea with me, and I have never forgotten her words. When she was surrounded by the pain of either loss or loneliness after the death of her husband, she would challenge herself to "rest in the riddle." This was a foreign concept to my stubborn, planning, determined mind. I remember wondering HOW exactly she did that. Can you force yourself to rest in the riddle? Since resting would mean being still, would acceptance sneak up on me unbidden? What I can see now, that was not so clear then, is that I was terrified of being frozen in grief. IF I stopped what would happen to me. Would the darkness swallow me up? Would accepting Phil's death mean he was forgotten? What would I have to let go of in order to meet the acceptance criteria?

I have struggled with this answer for five years, and it has taken me every bit of that time to find a path towards acceptance that didn't feel like giving up, or somehow failing Phil. Eventually I embraced the concept that my life is a tapestry. By making my every relationship, word, effort, endeavor, friendship, challenge, and tragedy a part of my life work...nothing is ever left behind. Accepting Phil into my life tapestry, and weaving a pattern with his love so beautiful that it becomes a piece of the whole that is noticeably more vibrant than many others gave acceptance a purpose. His love shines through my weaving, but only if I can allow him to become part of me instead of an idea outside of myself. That thought turned out to be a form of acceptance I can live with...and a worthy place for the kind of love Phil and I shared.

As the New Year dawns we will each be faced with choices about what to add to our own piece of life art. Your loss will color the final product, but so will your love. The lost moments we so long for are often the smallest gestures, the quietest moments, the most unimportant seeming are still creating those every day, and are slowly stitching them into your own personal tapestry. Stitch with flourish.

Wishing you all peace, hope, and love in the New Year.


  1. The tapestry of our lives is such a beautiful way to keep living without forgetting and letting go. I had a wise grief therapist use this example with me about a year after my Dave's death. As you shared, it was also an acceptable metaphor for my life. I was and still am struggling to balance the belief that he has died with the reality of what that means for me. Thank you for reminding me. I will continue to stitch and long for the time when I can look at my life's tapestry and say "well done, your life is beautiful and you did your very best".

  2. I just posted something similar this morning on Facebook at Thin Threads of Grief and Renewal ( T.S. Eliot said, "April is the cruelest month, breeding lilacs out of the dead land, mixing memory & desire, stirring dull roots w/spring rain." April, a time of rebirth, may be cruel for the grieving because you can see new life beckoning for you to participate. However, you are torn because you may think if you let go of your loved one and re-enter life/welcome new people, he/she will disappear. Mourning and being sad does not let you hold on to your loved one any tighter. The best way to honor your loved one is to move forward and not be stuck in your grief. You always take with you the love your shared and the gifts you were given by this relationship, so they can never disappear. You also can appreciate them better when you have moved further along the grief journey. Most of all your loved one would want to see you flourish and live the full life he/she was denied. That's what love is about -- wanting the best for our partner. To tweak your thinking just a bit -- think of your metamorphosis as receiving (which is the other side of giving) a final gift from your spouse.

  3. I like the post and the all helped me to see I'm on the right track after 14 months of being a widow...thank you and (((((HUGS))))) Theanne

  4. I like the comment rest in the riddle, because isn't that what we all have to do. We will never undersand why this has happened to us. And also about the journesy we are on , bcause often we need time to think about where to go from here. Resting in the riddle to me means also not having all the answers, but in a way letting them come to us, while actively doing what we are able to at the place we are at.