Crossing the Bridge from Acceptance to Surrender
An earlier posting, The Tragedy of Grief, referenced the model created by Elizabeth Kubler Ross to define the psychological responses to change that we would never have chosen, change that we were destined to experience. These changes are Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance, and we negotiate each of them time and time again. I want to plant a seed-thought for your consideration: If we don’t go beyond these responses, we are truly stuck. Grief is like a fixture; an uninvited guest that won’t leave. We have clamped it down and silenced it. But, imagine if it could make a sound, what would it be?
When I finally moved into the stage of acceptance, it felt hollow – it was a stance that I adopted, an arrival of sorts, but an empty one. My mind was okay with acceptance, but my heart and gut were not. I knew there had to be more, and there is. Dear Readers, we’re at the next level, and to keep things simple, we’ll call this Grief 2.0 – Surrender.
We want to take a look at this word “surrender” and get over the idea that it is a sign of weakness. It means that we’re beginning to loosen the grip on our broken hearts; that we’re loosening the intertwined fingers that have built a wall around us – a wall of protection – a wall that keeps us safe, while deep inside we know that safety is an illusion. For sure – without a doubt - Grief will visit us again. And again. It’s part of the deal.
Crossing this bridge from acceptance to surrender meant that I had to begin to let go - to loosen the hold and face the fear. I felt so vulnerable, so broken and fragile, afraid that all the fractured parts of me would end up in a pile of fragments. It’s weird, but up until the day my son died, I never even knew the word “grief” – had never thought of it or contemplated the meaning of it. But quite suddenly, the many griefs of a lifetime rose up to be met for the first time. Like a dam that was ready to burst – it did, and I was totally undone.
Everything that I had denied, buried, or pushed under couch – everything that I had conveniently forgotten or deliberately smothered started to creep up on me. Grief was overwhelming and she had her way with me. It felt like I was being dismantled; there was no refuge whatsoever. I had to come to terms with her or get stuck in a life of grievances. No way! Hell no!
“It is the accumulated losses of a lifetime that slowly weigh us down—the times of rejection, the moments of isolation when we felt cut off from the sustaining touch of comfort and love. It is an ache that resides in the heart, the faint echo calling us back to the times of loss. We are called back, not so much to make things right, but to acknowledge what happened to us.”
~ Francis Weller
Ultimately, there comes the day when you become the witness and realize that all those fragments are the precious sons and daughters of your own wholeness – children waiting to be recognized, welcomed, honored and embraced. In short, we begin to reclaim our lives, to weave a new experience out of shattered pieces. It’s a true Rite of Passage, Dear Friends. Can you feel the joy in this? My heart leaps as I invite you to come along on this journey with me – it’s not over! A new and noble path has arisen. It beckons to us all as we reach a point of readiness and maturity. It might be called evolution. Or awakening. Whatever you call it, this new path will take you beyond the self you have known.
“It is essential for us to welcome our grief, whatever form it takes. When we do, we open ourselves to our shared experiences in life. Grief is our common bond. Opening to our sorrow connects us with everyone, everywhere. There is no gesture of kindness that is wasted, no offering of compassion that is useless. We can be generous to every sorrow we see. It is sacred work”. ~ Francis Weller
The deep sorrow that I experienced in losing a precious son eventually led me to investigating my attachments – in this case, my attachment to my role as “Mother”. Without a doubt, it was the greatest attachment of my life, so, of course, it was in this role that grief would hit me the hardest. It makes perfect sense, right? All my other griefs were “little guys” in comparison. I invite you now to pause…………….and consider your attachments. Where are you most vulnerable?
One day the hero
Afraid to take
And the old interior angel
Slowly limps in
With her no-nonsense
And her old secret
And goes ahead.
~ David Whyte
As I look back – way back to when I was a young mother, I would have to say that I was both naïve and ignorant – I was young and didn’t know the ways of life. I joyously brought several children into the world, and I loved them fiercely. I built a beautiful little bubble in which we thrived; it was threaded with creativity, fun, laughter, songs, teaching moments, character and moral-compass building, and endless stories. The glue was my belief that I had it! Nothing could rock this little boat because I gave it my all; nothing could burst this precious bubble because I loved it! This, Dear Reader, is a picture of attachment; a set-up for all the lessons that life was bound to teach me. Years later, as my son lay dying and I had no control over the disease that tore him from me and his family, he told me that I was “teachable”. Smile.
Sure enough: I learned soon enough that attachment means disappointment and all kinds of things that cause us to grieve and really suffer. All these years later, let me say that I don’t love my children less, but that love is of a different quality. It’s wiser, to begin with, and not at all naïve or ignorant. It’s deeper and wider, but not fierce. Children, family, home and all else that I love and everybody else that I love, can, do and will surely slip away through my fingers. I hold it all lightly now as if it were a kaleidoscope of passing moments, seasons and cycles that are precious and beautiful. We might call this “surrender”.