Although I knew nothing about grief before it kicked me in the fucking face, I had a vague notion that acceptance was the final stage of grief. I thought, ‘If I can just get to acceptance-my walk with grief will be over.’ What I didn’t realize is that this walk does not end. Grief does not end. It is a lifetime commitment. Just because you didn’t sign up for it doesn’t mean you get to choose an end date. Not fair, right? But let’s be realistic, people.
There will be days when you hurt less, days you aren’t angry or depressed. No bargaining, only acceptance. Then that day will turn on you and you will be angry again.
For me, denial and bargaining happened in the hours after Noelle’s death. “Please God don’t let this be true. Don’t let her be dead. I will do ANYTHING!” Since then, I have been cycling through anger, depression, and acceptance.
I thought acceptance was an end result. It’s not. I realize now, I have been in the acceptance stage since day one. I just didn’t know it, because to me, acceptance meant my grieving time was over. I needed to have an end in sight. I needed to know there would be a day I would stop hurting and in my mind that day was acceptance.
Acceptance is not a day of the week. Acceptance is not a date on the calendar. Acceptance is choosing to know you will be OK. Acceptance is overcoming your depression long enough to get out of bed, shower and brush your teeth. Acceptance is the realization that life can be good without your loved one. Acceptance is also realizing one day you will be angry again. One day you will be depressed.
Acceptance is knowing grief isn’t linear; it is a continuous circle. And you, my friend, are the hamster on its wheel.
That doesn’t sound very positive, but I’m not here to bullshit you or give you false hope. Although this insight isn’t pretty, being aware of it leads you closer to the mythical OK.
Reading through my blog posts, you can see that I dance around with anger and depression quite often. I knew when I was writing them that the anger or depression was what was fueling my writing. I did not see acceptance trying to sneak in and steal the show.
Does knowing that I have basically been “accepting” all this time make me feel any better? No. Some days, the acceptance is worse than the anger, worse than the depression. Some days, acceptance is fear. Fear that I will forget the sound of her voice. Fear that one day when I am old, Noelle will be a distant memory of someone I once knew. Fear that there are not only five stages of grief, but six, seven, eight, infinity. Fear being the stage that I will never be able to conquer.