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Wayne State University

Aim Higher

Dec 9 / Peter Lichtenberg

Acceptance and Grieving: Two different things?

A widowed friend of mine looked at me the other day and said “when your loved one is terminally ill you accept their death, and you are more prepared to accept it than if they die suddenly. But,” she went on to say, “that isn’t the same as grieving; you only grieve later.”

I found these words profound. I spent so much time during the first two years after Susan’s death focusing on my children’s needs, managing my household, making sure work was okay (indeed work has been phenomenal) and although I had many periods of terrible sadness and pain, the issues related to persistent grief were put off. Now, in the past six months I have been grieving the permanence of my loss. I miss knowing that Susan will be home to greet me or vice versa, that the story of love and friendship that we created will never evolve more, and that the warmth, intelligence, humor and smile that simply emanated from Susan will never again capture me wholly and totally.

I am taking the time to grieve the permanence of my loss, and at times the sadness is simply piercing. I’m finding that my social support system has changed greatly. Several people have dropped off and my circle is smaller. Perhaps my grief chased them away. Yet I am finding that by owning up to my grief I am opening up more to Debbie, and I am incredibly grateful for her patience and presence because when I spend time with her I enjoy it so totally. I used to say this after Becky died and before my life with Susan: “Healing always takes longer than you expect.”