The Stages of Grief
There are five well-known stages of grief, and acceptance is the last one. To reach acceptance, you will go through the other steps of denial, anger, bargaining, and depression first, though grief does not always run in a straight line through these stages. You may jump back and forth between them (and some may not occur at all) before finally reaching acceptance.
Grief is not always related to physical death. It can be the death of a dream or the death of a life stage that you enjoyed. A new mother of a special needs baby may need to give up dreams for her child and the future she expected.
A recently retired man may need to grieve the loss of his livelihood and sense of identity. Both people will need to go through the stages of grief to reach acceptance in their new situations. When they take on that challenge, they can be greatly blessed on the other side.
An Example of Reaching Acceptance in the Grieving Process
Let’s look at an example of how the grieving process might play out in one woman’s life. Diane and Paul are recent empty nesters. They have raised three children together. Paul has spent the last ten years in a recovery program, overcoming his alcohol addiction that affected most of their 30-year marriage. They are looking forward to celebrating a new, happier future together.
However, Paul’s decades of drinking took a toll on his internal organs. Only two years into their empty nest journey of traveling and enjoying time with friends, Paul is diagnosed with stage 4 liver cancer. He chooses to be put on hospice care rather than endure chemotherapy and radiation. After three months of hospice, Paul passes away, and Diane is left a grieving widow.
Two months after the funeral, everyone has gone back to their regular lives, except Diane. She has felt numb, telling everyone she is fine. But her anger at the slightest provocations, as when she is driving, shocks her. Diane feels withdrawn, sullen, and miserable. Finally, she reaches out for help at church. Her pastor suggests that she meet with a Christian counselor to deal with her grief.
Diane’s counselor helps her review her marriage, along with all the hopes and dreams she had to give up due to Paul’s addiction. Diane struggles with feeling like she was partially responsible for Paul’s declining health. If only she had confronted him sooner, helped him eat healthier, and more.
Her counselor helps her see that she is going through the bargaining stage, which is normal and healthy. Diane is moving past anger into bargaining, which leads to deep sadness. At this point, she joins a grief support group at church, where she connects with other widows. For the first time since Paul’s death, she feels a spark of hope despite her depressed feelings.
With the passing of holidays and anniversary dates, Diane’s grief stages of anger, denial, bargaining, and sadness resurface. But she sticks with her counseling appointments and support group meetings to weather the changes. She also stays in touch with her children and takes up sewing, an enjoyable hobby she put on hold when her children were growing up.
Diane joins a quilting guild to connect with other quilters. The guild’s show-and-tell meeting is a highlight of her month, and she gains satisfaction from working on small sewing projects throughout the week.
On their wedding anniversary three years after Paul died, Diane visits his burial site with a much lighter heart. She still feels sad, but she is no longer consumed by grief. She thanks God for all the goodness Paul brought to her life. As she drives away, she praises God for bringing her to a place of acceptance.
Your story of grief and acceptance may not look exactly like Diane’s story. But you will likely have to overcome several challenges to reach acceptance, just like Diane. Here are more types of acceptance you can attain with God’s help.
Contentment with God’s Plan
The Bible says that God’s ways are not our ways, and his thoughts are higher than our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8). You may need to grieve about what God allowed to happen in order to reach acceptance. Once you go through the grieving process with God, you can gain contentment despite your challenging circumstances.
For example, you may not naturally like a certain aspect of your physical body or personality. However, with God’s help, you can reach self-acceptance by grieving what you wish you would have been given and accepting what God gave you. Meditating on Psalm 139 can help you understand your great worth in God’s eyes, just as you are.
Social acceptance is another common struggle that many people face. You may not feel accepted by your peers, your family, your coworkers, or other groups. If you have faced rejection, betrayal, or exclusion, you may struggle with a strong desire for social acceptance.
Rather than striving to win the approval of others, you can work on your relationship with God. When you put more trust in him than people, along with grieving what may not be possible in your relationships, you can find the peace and acceptance you seek.
Conditional acceptance is a compromise. It means that you are willing to accept one aspect of a situation but not another. For example, a newly divorced man may grieve the fact that he needs to move in with his parents while he financially recovers.
But he reaches for acceptance by setting a 24-month deadline to move out on his own again. During that period, he will receive the counseling support he needs to rebuild his spiritual and emotional reserves.
Contentment with God’s plan usually means giving up something we deeply desire. God wants us to be honest about this. The longer you deny what you wanted, the less spiritual growth you can experience.
You may get stuck in one of the stages of grief if you don’t make acceptance and contentment your ultimate goal. However, getting stuck in a grief stage is a common problem. You can reach out for help if acceptance always seems outside your reach.
Finding Acceptance in the Grieving Process
The day you find acceptance is the day you step into the new life God has for you. But you may need help reaching acceptance. The grieving process is difficult and painful, and it may last much longer than you expected. A caring Christian counselor can help you walk through the stages of grief and find acceptance.
Often, what you are grieving about now may be related to older grief. As we can see in Diane’s story, she wasn’t only grieving Paul’s death, but also the toll that his addiction took on their marriage. She needed to work through both problems before she reached acceptance. You may also need help dealing with deeper issues from your past while you cycle through all the grief stages.
When you enlist the help of a Christian counselor in your grief journey, you have true hope of reaching acceptance. Your counselor will listen with compassion, ask thoughtful questions, and offer guidance for making new choices. By connecting with other support groups, as Diane did, you can have even greater hope of reaching the acceptance stage of the grieving process.
The team of counselors at our office is trained in walking you through all the stages of grief. No matter what life situation you are facing, you can find the hope and healing you are seeking by reaching out to us. Give us a call today, and we’ll help you reach out for acceptance.
“Grieving Alone”, Courtesy of Pixabay, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Man in Plaid”, Courtesy of Nathan Cowley, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Talking”, Courtesy of Juan Pablo Serrano Arenas, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Counseling Session”, Courtesy of Cottonbro, Pexels.com, CC0 License