Chapter 7: Acceptance

Accepting her enormous (and hideously abrupt) absence from our lives is, for me, the first stage in learning to live with this brave new world that I don’t like very much.

—Lucy Hone

Not everything that is faced can be changed; but nothing can be changed until it is faced.

—James Baldwin

Four acceptance challenges

Acceptance is the first Gateway we may encounter on our healing journey. As we face it, we may feel shocked, raw, tender, and easily provoked. And, while there is always a gentleness to Acceptance, we also face confronting challenges in this new territory. Guided by the lessons of the Acceptance Gateway, I am challenged to do four things:

  1. HARSH REALITY: Accept the harsh new reality of my life (and the losses that had occurred);
  2. POSITIVE ASPECTS OF MY OLD LIFE: Accept the positive aspects of the life I had with Karl;
  3. POSITIVE ASPECTS OF MY NEW LIFE: Accept and appreciate the positive aspects of the new life I was now living; and
  4. GETTING HELP: Invite, welcome and accept appropriate personal and professional help.

In this chapter, my conversations with Karl highlight the role he played in offering (and to some extent accepting) help in the form of comfort, compassion, understanding, and guidance.

The harsh new reality

Acceptance that our loss has occurred is one of the essential tasks of mourning. It’s about breaking open and breaking down all the dimensions of our brokenness — in all its messiness and beauty. In any tragic situation, especially when a soulmate dies suddenly, part of our necessary adjustment and healing is accepting our harsh new reality. Some might call this accepting our dashed expectations. What makes this work complicated is that, early in our grieving process, we probably cannot imagine the dimensions of our new reality.

However, as Marianne Williamson advises in Everyday Grace, “no situation can be transformed until it is accepted as it is.”

There is no place for denial in the bright light of the Acceptance Gateway.

Following Karl’s sudden death, I have, albeit slowly and reluctantly, to accept that my life as I knew it has ended. Everything that I have identified with and was attached to has disappeared. My identity is forever changed. What I don’t realize initially is how much I have lost: my lover, my soulmate, my partner, chef, driver, editor, research assistant, co-dreamer, co-activist, gardener, mechanic, welder, bookkeeper, grocery shopper…

And I have no idea what else I am about to lose. I also lose (although not forever) my cognitive abilities, my memory, my competence as a planner, as an author, a speaker, a workshop facilitator, a businesswoman, and a senior member of my professional community. In a nutshell: pretty much everything.