Acceptance vs Reality in the Grieving Process
Last week, I shared a recent study on grief that reported acceptance of a death is high, higher than expected, soon after the death has occurred.
That report of higher than expected acceptance, gave me pause. As I thought about it though, I realized that acceptance of a death and a death becoming real aren’t exactly the same thing.
I would agree that most people accept a death has occurred, and that most will tell you they accept that it’s occurred.
That’s different from the unconscious forgetfulness that’s such a characteristic of the first few months of grief. When I talk about a death becoming real, I am talking about the experience all grieving people report, almost without exception, of picking up the phone to call the person or coming home expecting them to be there. Throughout the first few months there are these split second experiences of forgetfulness followed rapidly by reality hitting yet again.
It’s not a full blown denial that a death has occurred that might be called lack of acceptance, but there is clearly a period of time that’s needed for the psyche to catch up with reality.
So I think both are true…levels of acceptance are high following a death (especially for anticipated deaths which is what was studied here) AND it takes a few months for the full reality and the implications of that reality to hit home completely.