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The Heart Must Catch Up
Grief Journey, Losing a Spouse or Partner

Acceptance … The Heart Must Catch Up

People who have suffered deep, traumatic loss cannot heal all at once or right away. It is the same with acceptance. The brain knows what happened, but the “heart” doesn’t understand in the same way and must catch up later. For a very long time, I waited and longed for my husband to return. When we think like that – and it is normal for survivors – we are thinking with a different part of the brain where instinct, not reason, lies. It does seem to make the grieving process a bit easier. At first, thinking about a future without the man I loved was far too painful, as was thinking about the past. Somehow, I had to find a bridge between what I had lost and who I would become. There are so many things to mourn. Writing about them and about your feelings is one way to do that. It is difficult, soul-shredding work, but the tears will empty emotions like hate and anger and grief from you so that healing and acceptance can bring you peace. This is the hardest thing you will ever do.

While it feels like nothing will ever change, trust that the pain will soften, that life will be worth living again. I was so sure that could not happen for me, but it did. Believe that all of the terrible collateral damage can be handled. Waking to a wider world is part of the progression of healing. I found that bridge I needed by living in moments, one at a time. And in connections with others who understood what I was going through. I don’t know that healing ever stops, which is comforting to me. I just know the awful agony of the early time is not with me anymore and I live in a duality that includes happiness and sadness, peace and pardon, acceptance, and love.

I think we go partway into death with those we love dearly. We go as far as we can. It is an awful process, dying yet not being dead. The struggle to return to life and rebuild – to let them go – is even more painful. How could we live without them? Life would never be the same. We are not the same. But we are alive, and life calls us home. When I let go of what could not be again, I found I wasn’t really letting my husband go. I was just changing our relationship. His love was still there, warm and real.

I began to see how the loss was now part of me. But I began to be able to think about other parts of me again. I found a new me. That is when the pain started dropping away. I started feeling my love for my husband and his love for me. It was still there. I love him more today than I ever have. And I feel he is only in another room, the way he used to be sometimes. Close, just not right here with me. He is with God now, as I will be one day.

About the Author

Jan McDaniel

Jan McDaniel volunteers as an Alliance of Hope forum moderator, manager, and blog content provider. She is also a regular contributor to Psych Central’s World of Psychology blog and writes about survival, connection, and hope on her website.Read More »