I was talking with a client the other day, let’s call her Julie (not her real name), about the recent loss of a relationship which had affected her deeply. Our conversation went something like this:
Me: The final stage of Grief is known as “Acceptance.”
Julie: But I don’t want to accept it! I can’t be grateful for this loss.
Me: Acceptance in this sense does not mean the current definition of being thrilled about it. Rather, acceptance is letting go of your Plan A (living with this person in your life), living with a Plan B (without this person in your life), and learning to be OK with it. It’s learning that life is still worth living, even if it is Plan B.
Julie: But it still hurts.
Me: Yes. Being OK with Plan B (your loss) is a lot like learning to live with a hole in your heart. The hole will never go away. Nothing can fill that hole; it is here to stay. But acceptance is learning to live around that hole, around the edges of your heart without bitterness or resentment.
Julie: That doesn’t give me much room to love or live fully, just around the edges.
Me: The marvelous thing about God is that He grows what’s left of our heart “3 sizes”, like the Grinch. We still have the hole, but there’s just as much heart surrounding that hole as there was before the hole came into being. So, although we’re living around the edges, the edges are now much larger.
That’s what grief is like. Whether you have lost a relationship to death, divorce, or a move, lost a job, lost security, lost a dream,loss of an ability, or have experienced any kind of loss, you end up living with a hole in your heart. At first, it’s hard to breathe. It may even seem unbelievable that you’re able to live. But over time, as you progress through the stages of grief*, you will learn how to live around that hole in your heart. In time, you may find that your heart has grown around that hole so it doesn’t hurt as much anymore. Accepting what you still have, and accepting that you no longer have what you used to have. That’s acceptance. That’s living with a Plan B. And Plan B can be very fulfilling, life-giving, and rewarding…even if it is Plan B.
At The Summit, many of our counselors specialize in helping clients work through their grief and loss, helping them find satisfaction and fullness in life. Dr. Hoag has experienced and worked through considerable grief in her own life, and has helped hundreds of others heal and rebuild their lives after experiencing their own grief and loss.
*Note: Elizabeth Kϋbler-Ross, M.D. first defined the five stages of grief in her book On Death and Dying: What the Dying Have to Teach Doctors, Nurses, Clergy & Their Own Family, Scribner, 1966