This is the final installment of the grief section in The Psych Writer series. Last week, we took a look at The Depression Phase. But now we can take a nice, deep breath and look at how far we’ve come. All the way to acceptance.
These phases are organized for the benefit of the clinician. They are not set in stone and the patient will likely not feel these things in order, or one at a time. They might, but they might not. Grief is individualized. There is also fluidity in acceptance. It can fluctuate, just like the other phases.
Oh, acceptance, this phase is so lovely, right? Happy bluebirds sing all around you as you realize you fully accept that x loss has happened and sunbeams arch from your head in a golden halo of enlightenment.
Acceptance isn’t pretty. It’s not always peaceful. It’s not often a loving, gentle tutor that allows us to smile once again. No. It’s part of the process, and sometimes, perhaps most of the time, it’s ugly before it is fine. The experience varies from person to person.
What acceptance is can be anything from a bitter resignation to one’s fate, to a calm recognition of this is how the way things are, and everything in between. This is the moment where a person says, “my mother is dead. Nothing can change that,” or “I lost my job and there’s no going back.”
Acceptance is the first step to putting one foot in front of the other and rebuilding life without whatever was lost.
Acceptance from the Patient’s POV
The patient feels the loss, though often less acutely than in the other stages. The grief has been replaced with the ability to function without the target of their loss. There may be lingering feelings of sadness, anger, and those feelings may resurge from time to time, but there is a sense in the person that they need to move forward. Acceptance of a non-lethal event, such as job loss or divorce, a spark of interest in other activities may arise. The person may have found a new love interest, or a new job may have them ready to move on from the old one.
Acceptance from the Therapist’s POV
While this is often a good sign that the patient is ready to make significant leaps into moving forward, it is important to check in with them to see how they feel about their newly found acceptance. Is there resignation? Optimism? Pessimism? Fear of moving forward? It will be up to the therapist to help the patient work through those retentive feelings so that the patient can move toward healthy and more helpful feelings.
What this Means for You, The Writer
Getting to acceptance might be a good starting point for your character, and however they get there will be far more interesting than the feelings themselves. Does your character need revenge in order to accept something that was taken from them? Will it help? Will they regret what they’ve done, or will they accept it and move on to better things? Starting a character in the acceptance phase might be interesting if you can flip the acceptance on its ear. What comes next after they’ve accepted their fate? These are all questions you may wish to answer for your character.
If you came here looking for psychological assistance, please contact your local crisis line. Dial 2-1-1 in the US for the United Way, or contact the Samaritans in the UK. For a list of international crisis lines, click here.
Breathe easy, we’ve gotten through this together. Now go write.
Now that we’ve done this in-depth examination of grief, let’s move onto some other topics. I take requests (you can ask via Facebook or Twitter). Next week I’ll do some fluffy topics or post a picture of my cat. Maybe. Or I might drag you further into the abyss. Who knows with me? If you’re in need of some lighthearted diversions, check out my Facebook and Twitter. Or for some entertaining fiction that touches on grief and loss, grab a copy of Exit 1042.