Sometimes those that walk alongside the bereaved are biding time, waiting for that “final” stage of grief: Acceptance.
And some therapists, counselors and armchair psychiatrists are certain that if the grieving mother can simply accept the death of her child, she can move on–that she can get back to a more “normal” life.
But this notion is as ridiculous as imagining that welcoming a new baby into a household doesn’t change everything.
And new parents have months to prepare.
I had the brief millisecond between the words leaving the deputy’s mouth and my ears hearing them for my mind to comprehend.
And I admit, there were moments in the day, even a few months afterwards, that I found myself saying out loud, “How can Dominic be dead?”
But those have mostly passed.
I accept that my son is dead. He will not return to me in the land of the living. He will not walk through my front door and he will not grow older, marry and have children of his own.
Every now and then, I do see a shape in a crowd, the shoulders set just so and for a moment my heart leaps. But my mind quickly remembers that Dominic is not here.
So, acceptance means that I understand that things are the way they are.
Acceptance does not mean that I have to like it or that I don’t wish some things were different.
Acceptance means that I comprehend the future will not include new memories with Dominic as part of our family circle here on earth.
Acceptance does not mean that I never look back fondly and with yearning for the years we spent together. It does not mean that I don’t grieve the years we won’t have.
I accept that I have a life to live even though part of my heart is no longer with me.
But acceptance does not mean that the life I live going forward is not impacted by my loss or that it isn’t framed at the edges by grief.
I am now what losing a child has made me.
Acceptance means that I will offer up this new me, just as I have offered up every new me in the past, to the God Who made me, to use me according to His plan and for His glory.
The people of Israel were shaped as much by what they lost as by what they gained:
A group of Israelites, led by Ezra the scribe, returned to Jerusalem from Babylon, and were charged with rebuilding the Temple that had been destroyed many years earlier.
A few among them had seen with their own eyes the glory and majesty of Solomon’s Temple, but most of those returning had been born in captivity. To the older men, this new temple paled in comparison to what they had lost. But to the younger, it represented a new beginning and a brighter future.
Many of the older priests and Levites and the heads of families cried aloud because they remembered seeing the first temple years before. But others were so happy that they celebrated with joyful shouts.Their shouting and crying were so noisy that it all sounded alike and could be heard a long way off.
Ezra 3:12-13 CEV
The grieving were sad, but they worked anyway.
Acceptance acknowledges loss, but is not immobilized by it.
So how to love me and others well in this phase of our grief journey?
Understand that acceptance involves both of us: while I must accept the fact that my child is dead and that my life is different than the one I would have chosen for myself–others must accept that I am who I am and I will never be the other me–the one before losing a child, again.
My life as a bereaved mother is always going to be a mixture of sorrow and joy.
It will always include looking back and looking forward.
It can’t be anything else.