Is acceptance the key to recovery?

hopeI read a great quote the other day from Michael J Fox, an American actor who seemingly had everything but was diagnosed with early onset Parkinson’s disease at the age of 30.

“Acceptance doesn’t mean resignation; it means understanding that something is what it is and that there’s got to be a way through it.”

I have found that accepting my son’s death and making peace with it has been the key to my recovery.

So what do I mean by acceptance? Three weeks after Toby’s death I was sitting in the garden with my new puppy. I really felt like downing all the diazepam pills my doctor had given me to take the edge off my pain and walking into the sea. It was only the little puppy gamboling around at my feet that gave me second thoughts. I just wanted the pain to end; it was too much to bear.

Then almost like a lightning bolt from the sky I just heard a loud voice in my head telling me that nothing would change the fact that my son was gone. I could weep and wail, rant and shout, scream and fight, but nothing was going to change that. It was not a bad dream, he wasn’t coming back.

So with that thought I could see three clear choices in front of me. I could walk into the sea and end my pain. I could live in abject misery and allow grief to destroy my life and my dreams, or I could accept ‘what is’ and find a way through.

I was fortunate I had this epiphany early on. It did not instantly take away my pain, but that acceptance helped me see that torturing myself with thoughts of Toby’s last moments, replaying over and over in my mind all the times I felt I had let him down and asking ‘Why?’ and ‘What if?’ weren’t going to change anything and bring him back.

I still had those tortuous thoughts, I couldn’t just switch them off, but every time they came I allowed them in, then found myself asking ‘Is this helping you recover?’ and the answer always came back, ‘No, these thoughts won’t change anything, you are just torturing yourself with your thoughts’. So gradually I learned to accept these thoughts, but then choose more positive ones.

It is not easy; I am not saying there is a magic switch where we can just switch off thoughts. However I have found that realising I have a choice and that I alone choose my thoughts helped me get through this nightmare. I do believe our thoughts create our reality.

I could either view my son’s death as a tragedy that would mean I would live in misery for the rest of my life, or I could accept that it happened and do my utmost to find new meaning and purpose in my life.

This quote if from a book called ‘My son, my Son’ by Iris Bolton.

“I found I had only partial answers and nothing really satisfactory.  I will never know all the answers as to why my son chose to end his life, but I came to the conclusion that I didn’t have to know in order to let go of the question, but only after I had asked it over and over and struggled with the WHY.  Had I not done that, I could have allowed mourning to become my life-style for the rest of my life.”

She also wrote this poem

I don’t know why…
I’ll never know why…
I don’t have to know why…
I don’t like it…
I don’t have to like it…

What I do have to do is make a choice about my living.
What I do want to do is to accept it and go on living.
The choice is mine.
I can go on living, valuing every moment in a way I never did before,
Or I can be destroyed by it and in turn, destroy others.

I thought I was immortal, that my children and my family were also,
That tragedy happened only to others…
But I know now that life is tenuous and valuable.
And I choose to go on living, making the most of the time I have,
Valuing my family and friends in a way I never experienced before.

This entry was posted in bereavement, Grief, Healing, Loss, Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Is acceptance the key to recovery?

  1. wow ! Anne that’s such a valuable poem ,
    and the words you write are so very true ,
    I feel like my emotions are dangling on elastic , I have so many highs and lows but it’s not daily it’s one week or two up and one week or two very down ! it’s like I know what’s best and what’s right but putting it into practice are two different things , I can advise another mum to what is best also but don’t always put it into practice myself .
    Hopefully I will gain the strength in time to do what’s best like your words say , move forward and appreciate what I have had and have now, thanks for your words , xx Ali

  2. jmgoyder says:

    You are so wonderful – and your words here take my breath away. xxx

  3. grahamforeverinmyheart says:

    I’m going to reprint this post and reread it every time I feel hopeless.

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