acceptance: letting go again and again

acceptance chalkboard

denial, anger, bargaining, depression.  the first four stages of grief are filled with raw and real feelings and many “i don’t knows.”  as i said earlier, these stages are so not linear and we cycle through them over and over again throughout time.  i like to think we bump into them at a difference place each time.

the last stage of grief is also one that we will revisit again and again.  acceptance is usually not a once and for all but something that we have to do again. we re-accept, we let go yet again, we forgive in a new way, we move forward again after periods of feeling like we are moving backwards.

the stage of acceptance is about accepting a new reality. it doesn’t mean forgetting the past, but it means moving forward toward the future with a new hope.

a lot of times, people want to maintain life as it was before the loss.  even if the relationship was hard, or the church situation was dysfunctional, or the job stunk, it was familiar. it was comfortable. we knew what to expect. and if the person we lost or the dream we were living was good, it makes the desire to go back and get-the-past-back even stronger.

in time, through bits and pieces of acceptance, however, we see that we cannot maintain the past intact. it has been forever changed, and we must readjust.

one of the hardest parts for me about my church grief was that i desperately wanted some of the old security back. there was something about the stability of life before a faith shift that i missed. the certainty, the structure, the belonging.  accepting that i could never get that back has not been an easy process, but 8 years out i am grateful for the past but so glad that i have moved into a new present.  celebrating what was and finding what works now  has been key for me.

finding acceptance can start as having more good days than bad days. there’s a tipping over where things begin to not feel quite so hard, there’s a tad more relief, a bit more color that comes into the grayness of the first four stages.

it can also mean beginning to make new connections, relationships, and new inter-dependencies.

acceptance is also risky, but it’s a good risk.

instead of denying our feelings, we listen to our needs (this is why nonviolent communication can be such a great tool)

we move.

we change.

we grow.

we evolve.

we may start to reach out to others and become involved in their lives.

we may move forward to stepping into some kind of life or connection or community or dream again.

we begin to live again with new flickers of hope.

i am not sure what acceptance looks like for you, but i know for me, a lot of it has to do with forgiveness, letting go, and intention.  it has to do with honoring what was and accepting what is.  it has to do with leaning into some of the amazing words in the serenity prayer (i know some of the language will bother some of you but i try and take what i can out of it and leave the rest)

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things i cannot change. courage to change the things i can, and the wisdom to know the difference. living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time, accepting hardship as a pathway to peace, taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as i would have it, trusting that You will make all things right, if i surrender to Your will, so that i may be reasonably happy in this life, and supremely happy with you forever in the next. amen.”

what do you need to accept about the past that you cannot change?

what is something that you can and want to change moving forward?

when we have done this station in real life, we used rocks and candles (a refuge staple, ha ha).  i can’t recreate this here, but you can imagine it here.

pick up a rock that’s on the table. feel the weight in your hand. as you do, consider what part of your experience it’s time to let go of, release, accept.

is it a person you need to let go of or forgive (including yourself or God?)

is it a resentment it’s time to release?

when you are ready, drop the rock in the bucket as a symbol of letting go and acceptance.

rocksbucket to go with rocks

as you finish, light a candle to represent a flicker of hope, your desire for new life and light to come into some of the darkness you’ve been feeling, as a gesture toward continued acceptance.

candles

remember, we’ll have to let go again and again and again. to keep dropping “rocks” and keep lighting “candles.”

peace and hope to all as you grieve whatever your unique loss is.  may you bravely walk toward hope, crawling when you need to, resting along the way, remembering you are not alone. you are in good company.  be gentle with yourself. trust the process.

i’ll see you next week with one last post before my summer break.  thanks for hanging in there this week! love, kathy

Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar co-pastors at The Refuge, a Christian community and mission center in North Denver and is the author of Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.

7 Comments

  • I do not know how difficult this series has been for you, Kathy, but I am grateful for them. Yes, acceptance … like the earlier stages in grief … is something that I have to keep doing. I have recently moved into this acceptance stage after five deeply painful years…but I find myself looking back with the very longing you describe: longing for what was but is no more. The tricky thing is realizing (accepting?) that the way things were was not all that great. As you say, it was familiar — and it was hopeful, because I am always looking expectantly for the move of the Spirit in the midst of my messy life. But I have come to realize that I was the only one looking to God with expectancy. And that is a hard one to swallow….

    I have, however, always been a “Lucy” kind of girl…one who sees Aslan before others do. And a Lucy always needs to follow Aslan, even — or especially — if the others cannot see and will not follow.

    It is hard to strike out alone…even Lucy failed on that one….

    Love you…

    Reply
    • it was hard and good in different ways but way-more-good than hard. interesting how much it stirred up in me, though, even after cycling through these at all our stations and events, too. another reminder that that is how grief is. keep lucy-ing, my dear. xo

      Reply
  • Not long ago the statement, “remember, we’ll have to let go again and again and again. to keep dropping “rocks” and keep lighting “candles.” would have left me with a heavy burden. But, today, I am filled with hope renewed. Knowing that it is part of the process to circle back through these stages with fresh eyes, guided by the Holy Spirit, brings peace to part of the journey of loss. I guess you could call it acceptance. 🙂

    Reply
    • thanks for being honest about that. i know sometimes it is hard to hear this reality, but i wish we’d get better about putting out there instead of perpetuating the false belief that “once we….pray enough, study enough, forgive enough, you-name-it-enough” things will be magically different forever. so glad your hope is being renewed. peace from colorado and thanks for reading!

      Reply
  • “acceptance is usually not a once and for all but something that we have to do again. we re-accept, we let go yet again, we forgive in a new way, we move forward again…”

    It is so encouraging to “hear” these words – to know that this reality is ok… normal even. I had to do the whole ‘re-accept, forgive, move forward’ thing AGAIN last week. But I take heart that each time it’s a little easier, a little quicker, and I find myself just a bit more solidly placed in the peace that comes after each cycle.

    Grateful for all you shared this week.

    Reply
  • Thanks for this series. It has been a helpful prompt to think about where I’m at and to realize some important truths about my life over the past few years. Three years after suffering a significant loss, I’m still grieving. I feel like I’ve cycled through these 5 stages multiple times and wonder if it will ever end. Feeling alone in the process has not helped. I plan to apply some of your practical steps to help me move forward.

    Reply

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