Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The "A" Word: Acceptance

Amanda is turning in grades this week in Australia (teachers work so much more than we know behind the scenes!)...so she has asked me to write for her this Tuesday. Looking through the archives, I found this blog I wrote about the concept of acceptance, and thought I would share it again today. As you all know, acceptance is the final of the stages of grief. Well, I guess it would be the last stage if the stages were indeed linear...but that is a whole different post! Here is my idea, written two years ago, about how I found peace with the "A" word....and since Phil and I would have been married twelve years on June 16th, I thought a photo taken on our wedding day would be the perfect image for this post. Long live love.

Since Phil's death, grief has created a long struggle between the desire to overcome daily challenges and the need to accept the realities that widowhood has brought into my life. The concept of acceptance when applied to Phil's death was not okay with me. Somehow I felt that accepting Phil's death was a horrible combination of giving up and giving in to the pressure I felt to be "better." The way people said the word always sounded so FINAL to me. So, instead of heading toward the horrifying land of acceptance...I stubbornly planned around any roadblock that would slow what I thought was forward life progress, but I trudged forward with 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 loved 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." She allowed herself to not know the answer; to sit in the stillness; and gave herself permission to not ask why, when, what or how. This was a foreign concept to my stubborn, planning, determined mind. I remember wondering HOW exactly she did that. Since resting would require being still, would acceptance sneak up on me unbidden while I wasn't busy doing? 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 could live with...and a worthy place for the kind of love Phil and I shared.

Every day we are 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 details...you are still creating those every day, and are slowly stitching them into your own personal tapestry. 

Stitch with flourish.


  1. Michele,
    Thank you for the post! It is always great to read some of your thoughts and this particular piece is exactly what I needed right now. I have felt something for a few weeks now. A new feeling that hasn't been present for the last 2 1/2 years. After reading this, I know what it is. I am dancing around acceptance. I am at a point where I can finally stop for a minute and breathe without the fear of being completely overtaken by grief. I can look around and be comfortable with my space just as it is. I have stopped looking for Shannon around every corner, behind every door. Instead, I carry him within me. The loneliness and the missing him are still here but gone is the feeling to constantly be running and doing in an attempt to hide from these feelings. Finally, I am beginning to accept the reality of my life and to truly be okay with it. I would even go as far to say that I am actually enjoying my life again. Thank you again for the post. Looking forward to seeing you in August.

  2. I so wish I could " rest in the riddle", but not quite there yet. I still ask why, when, what and how...not quite as often as in the past, but it still have not quite accepted that this is my life, without him.

    My tapestry has become unraveled, I hope to untangle the mess and start weaving again. My life as an artist has taken a turn, I am searching for meaning, for acceptance. When I stop and rest, I am once again overwhelmed with it all. Nice to read how you have accepted your reality, and have incorporated it into your life art.

  3. thank you all for the posting and sharing... @anonymous - i am right there beside you, picking up the frayed strands and trying to remember how to weave....

  4. Michele, I love this. My LH has been gone a long time. But it was only after I got to this place:

    "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."

    that I got any real peace at all. I wish I had known going into widowhood that this was an alternative way of "letting go". I didn't ever want to let go.