I love this picture as an image of acceptance. The ocean is bigger than us, and more powerful. Yet, there are people who will grab a surfboard and ride a wave that they have no control over. This man is getting a face full of salt water, accepting it even reveling in it.
But, when you are facing something as life-changing and (arguably) as terrible as cancer, whether your own or that of a loved one, it can be a difficult thing to accept. Yet, acceptance is a key part of resilience. But, how do you do that? How do you accept something like cancer, and what exactly does that mean?
The Mental Process of Acceptance
The mental process of acceptance is simply making a decision to stop fighting the reality of what’s happening. That doesn’t mean that you don’t do treatment. It just means that you have the ability to say, “Yes, this is scary. It seems so unfair, and I wish it weren’t the way things are, but it IS the way things are.” From this point of acceptance, you can make better decisions based on the reality you are facing.
When our kids were young, I was often warned to never let anyone put a label on them. So, even when one of our daughters was exhibiting signs that something was wrong, we put off looking into it because we hoped things would get better on their own. By the time our daughter was 10, we could no longer ignore the problem. She was diagnosed with autism. The unfortunate thing is that if she had been diagnosed years earlier, we would have been better equipped to help her. The repercussions from her late diagnosis have left her emotionally scarred because of the unrealistic expectations we (and everyone else) had of her.
The Emotional Process of Acceptance
Often, resisting acceptance results in avoiding emotions that are perceived as unpleasant:
There is nothing inherently wrong with these emotions. In fact, they are all very healthy responses to the bad things that happen to us in life. The negative things associated with them are behaviors, not the emotions, themselves.
Bad behaviors are just as likely (if not more so) to arise from avoiding emotions. This is often why people turn to addictive behaviors such as gambling, excess alcohol consumption, drug abuse, sexual addictions, and even compulsive shopping, to try to cover up those feelings.
Release Resistance to Gain Acceptance
As I said earlier, acceptance doesn’t mean that you are embracing your cancer. It means saying, “This is real. What is the best way for us to deal with it?” Then you can gain insights from doctors and therapists and get on the same page as caregiver and patient. This is a process. In the beginning, acceptance can be very difficult. Not everyone finds it at the same time. That can be painful for both of you. Listening with an open heart to one another is very helpful with this.
As time moves on, reality has a way of forcing you into seeing it for what it is. Then if you have the misfortune of dealing with an advanced form of cancer, you must come to a new, even more important acceptance. This is crucial for the patient to have a good death and the surviving caregiver to have a good life.
Forgiveness is the greatest form of acceptance. It is the ability to give someone who has hurt you a gift. This is particularly important when the time is limited and the way you leave things is permanent. It doesn’t mean that what they said or did to you is okay. It just means that you aren’t able to change it, you know it, and you want to release them from the debt they owe you. That is a very powerful thing.
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?
There is so much more that could be said about this, but I will leave that up to you, my readers. Tell me your thoughts in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!
In 2012 doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan, with stage IV lung cancer. Since then, our family has been learning what it means to face cancer. I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.
My book Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, is available on Amazon.com
Also, put your memories into words with The Memory Maker’s Journal.
I also blog at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker