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The Fifth Stage of Grief - Acceptance

Updated: Sep 9, 2021

Reaching this stage of grieving is a gift not afforded to everyone. . . we may never see beyond our anger or denial.. . This phase is marked by withdrawal and calm. This is not a period of happiness and must be distinguished from depression. —Julie Axlrod

I don’t know if we truly reach a level of full acceptance, especially in a situation that is ever changing. I often feel I have accepted my new sense of normal only to be knocked off my feet again by a byproduct of TM. My doctor likened my health to a bank account. Whether we like it or not as our bodies age everyone experiences declining functionality.

Aging changes occur in all of the body's cells, tissues, and organs, and these changes affect the functioning of all body systems. —Medline Plus

Thanks to nerve damage as a result of TM, my body has fewer reserves in my account to draw from, therefore, I encounter age related health challenges at a faster rate than a healthy body. With each new challenge I find myself learning to adapt and accept the situation.

Acceptance to me means, 1) recognizing there is no fix to this particular problem, 2) emotionally processing the four previous stages of grief, and 3) determining how to manage the current limitation one is confronted with.

One of my all-time heroes is Christopher Reeve. His accident occurred shortly after my diagnosis. I followed his progress and sponsorship of stem cell research with eager anticipation. But most of all, I felt if he could maintain a productive life with his severe paralysis so could I.

Christopher described acceptance by comparing life to a prism, one need only turn the prism until the light shines through it again (not a direct quote). My most memorable experience that demonstrates this process was an afternoon I spent with a friend attending an outdoor production of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. Armed with walking sticks, my friend and I headed down what I had been told was a short trail to the amphitheater. The trail turned out to be long, steep and full of switchbacks. By the time I reached the bottom I was exhausted and my morale was totally deflated.

As far as I was concerned, I had failed. I felt I had let my friend down by being slow and cumbersome during the hike into the theater (she, of course, didn’t have any expectations of me). My physical limitations were glaringly real to me and most frightening, how would I make it back UP that trail?

I spent at least half an hour turning the prism over and over trying to find the positive in the situation. Eventually, I recognized that I was in a beautiful environment, with a trusted friend, watching a wonderful production of a very entertaining musical on a gorgeous day. I was in my element, outdoors, regardless of how difficult it was to get there. I also had to bury my pride and accept a ride back up to the parking lot (thank goodness the event offered this option). Once I accepted these circumstances, I was able to enjoy my surroundings and identify the light in my life again.

At the onset of my condition, finding the positive in each new challenge took hours to process. Over time I found that processing the emotions and turning the prism to the light became easier and easier. It’s a learning experience and one that must be embraced with a deep desire to live again, not just survive. I believe that I finally taught myself to be a glass half full kind of person and am happier for it.

To connect with “TM warriors” demonstrating indominable attitudes check out Clay Garner’s website I subscribe to his daily meditations and look forward to each day’s insightful post.

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