When I was in graduate school I got hooked on the series “Dead Like Me.” This is a show about an 18-year-old girl who dies when a flying toilet seat drops from the sky and kills her. As a dead person, she acquires a job as a grim reaper, which entails touching people who are about to die. Her assignments come on post-it notes with the estimated time of death from a boss who doesn’t provide a lot of answers to the questions she has.
Somewhere early in the season (as she is learning her new job as a grim reaper) she is given an assignment to “touch” a young girl who dies in a train crash. She rebels against this job, as she doesn’t see any reason for this young girl to die. She begins questioning her control over death as well as the non-sensical aspect of it, and refuses to follow through in “allowing” this girl to die. In the end, it creates additional problems, but she eventually comes to terms her assigned task.
I really liked this episode because it really got me thinking about acceptance and death. When people can’t accept or tolerate that horrendous things happen, there is a way extremely painful events can sort of “not happen”. And it kind of makes sense, because who does want to accept painful realities?
On the flip side, the piece about acceptance that continues to intrigue me is that acceptance is such a critical aspect of grieving. People who stanchly refuse reality get stuck. Really really stuck. Every time the person is reminded of the pain/trauma/death, there is an active effort to avoid it at all costs. The active avoidance or inhibition of grief can actually make things worse.
The painful process of grief involves extremely intense emotion- the ups and downs- the ebbs and flows. It is different from being stuck. Not everyone can be accepting at all times. But moments of acceptance bring moments of movement. And if movement is happening than “stuck” is not happening. And when movement happens, change comes, and when change happens, growth happens. And this is the process of bearing with intolerable life situations.