Accepting the death of your loved one can be something you feel you will never be able to do. There is something about the finality of it that you will never hear their voice again, smell their fragrance or feel the intensity of their hug or see the reassurance of their smile.
You may be wishing that it was you who died instead. If only you had known, you would have held their embrace longer, said those three beautiful words, I love you, one more time or made amends for harsh words or a broken relationship.
I understand each one of those thoughts and have felt the same emotions. However there comes a point where holding on to these does not serve you. As difficult as it is accepting the death of a loved one, is quite freeing. Allow me to set something straight. Acceptance does not mean forgetting their existence, your love for them or your relationship. Acceptance is not expecting your loved one to call, text or walk around the corner like it was a bad dream or a horrible joke being played on you.
Not accepting their death will keep you in the past while the rest of the world keeps going. As you grieve, have you felt like the world should stop and grieve with you? Although you may wish this, it will not happen. The world is living in the present moment and focused on the future.
Not being able to accept her son’s death became a stumbling block for Eileen. I say stumbling block because she was able to work her way over it. If we considered it to be a roadblock, she would have gone around it or moved it to the side without working through it.
As we talked through this, I saw how deeply she loves her son, how much she misses him and his daily phone calls. I suggested she write a letter to her son with all these points included. It was important that she expressed her emotions. In this letter she needed to feel all of them: anger, denial, disappointment, sadness, heartache, and what other emotions that could surface. We wrapped up our zoom session with her promising herself she would do this even though she feared it would be an extremely painful experience. Eileen doubted me when I told her it would be good, and that with acceptance comes healing.
We were scheduled to meet the following week. I had an idea what Eileen’s experience would be, however, I wanted to hear it from her. When we met, she was eager to share about writing her son a letter. She set aside an hour in a quiet comfortable place to write to her son Tim and was quite surprised how quickly the time flew by. She was able to tell Tom all the things she wanted. Even with the fear of crying and sadness, she wrote a love letter to her son. Indeed, she cried, tears dropping on her pages, nose running, and eyes blurry and swollen, Eileen told Tim everything she had been thinking and wanting to tell him since he had been gone.
Writing her letter was her final kiss hug, and I love you. She realized that it was time to let go of the expectation that he would respond and accept the reality that he was gone.
One memory that brought a smile to her was how Tim introduced her to singing karaoke. It was something they had done together at home. Since his death she had not turned on the speakers or picked up the microphone, even to dust it. It was hers and Tim’s special time together. While she missed doing it with him, she was inspired by this memory and grateful for their time together. She decided it was time to do something fun again, in her son’s honor.
What surprised Eileen was how light she felt after finishing. She no longer felt the burden to deny his absence. The light bulb of reality was encouraging. She felt equipped to focus on the present. Even more remarkable, she felt Tim was telling her she needed to accept he was gone. In her heart she realized she would be OK and that she just crawled over one of many stumbling blocks in her grief journey.