A very belated conclusion to the original series: 

We all experience loss at some point times in our lives, but life goes on whether we’re ready for it to or not. As I write, I’m sitting at the old desk of my friend Pat; beside me on the bookshelf are Jack’s books. Both of these men have died, and as mentors to me in my ministry I often wish they were here to give me advice or offer support when I’m not sure what to do next. They are not forgotten, and I carry their memories with me as I do the work.

As a hospice chaplain, I spend a lot of time talking with people who are coming to terms with their own mortality. I also talk with their families both anticipating, and later coping with, the loss of a loved one. However, we face many other kinds of loss as well, including jobs and relationships. Other difficult transitions that we don’t always recognize include a child moving out of the house, or aging and the inability to do things we used to do. In all cases, there is a grieving process as we adjust our lives to our new situation.

In the past few articles, I’ve written about denial, anger, bargaining, and depression as some of the aspects of grieving. Not everyone goes through all these stages, and even those who do don’t necessarily go through them in that order. The final stage, this week’s topic, is acceptance. You can’t “fast forward” through the process. Everyone seems to go through at least some of these emotional processes when coming to terms with a significant loss. When we allow ourselves to go through this process, we can start to move forward. It is important to express grief, even as everyone will do this in their own unique way.

Various things can slow down the process, such as when the loss was sudden and unexpected, or if there is otherwise “unfinished business.” Multiple losses within a short period of time can also make things particularly hard.

Even when grief is not complicated, we still feel the effects. Sleeping may continue to be disrupted, either sleeping a lot more than we used to, or not being able to sleep as much as we’d like. Appetite may be affected in similar ways, too, and it’s not uncommon to experience an unexpected (and oftentimes unwanted) weight change, either gaining or losing weight. We may have problems remembering things, and trouble concentrating. All of these things are a normal part of the process of grieving, even after we’ve found acceptance.

And loss is difficult, even we know that some good comes out of it. A child moving out or going off to college is ultimately a good thing, but is a big adjustment for everyone. A loss of a job can lead to other opportunities that we hadn’t seen before. Even in death, we can be thankful that the person is no longer suffering, and has found peace that passes all understanding in God.

In the garden at Gethsemane, Jesus asked his Father, “let this cup pass from me.” (Matthew 26:39) Even knowing of the resurrection to come, Jesus still hesitates and wants to avoid the suffering he knows is ahead; but he expresses acceptance when he says, “Your will be done.” (Matthew 26:42) Acceptance doesn’t mean that we’ve forgotten about what we’ve lost, or that things suddenly become easier.
No matter how dark things may feel at the time, life goes on; while we can’t rush our healing, acceptance will come when we allow ourselves to feel and express grief. God’s healing love will surround us and allow us to find a “new normal” in our lives.

This article was originally published in the Wilmington (OH) New Journal on 10/31/2014

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