Courage To Accept The Things You Cannot Change

Courage To Accept The Things You Cannot Change

“No matter what I do, I can’t get past the things my ex has put us through and continues to put us through.  Sometimes it feels like his goal is to make our lives difficult and painful.”

- Alice, single mom to two kids.

So, what do we do when we find our lives in a situation that is something we never would have wished for or even wanted: betrayal, illness, death, our kids experiencing pain, or we are the ones that have betrayed or caused harm to others?

When the reality we face is sometimes uncomfortable and challenging, our natural tendency is to fight to try to change things.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but when painful things can’t be changed or controlled, what is my responsibility and what is not my responsibility?

The Serenity Process: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change and the courage to change the things I can.  Well, we’re flipping things a little bit to ask ourselves, how do I have the courage to face the things I cannot change to find serenity?

What is one of the hardest things you have dealt with or are dealing with, and how did you find the courage to accept it?

For Marissa, it was the death of her husband.  She admits it’s the hardest thing she’s dealing with because it has a generational impact on her and her children. She says it’s hard going from a family of four and suddenly being on her own, dealing with grief and the kids. “If anybody could have given me a lifeline to make it go away, I would have grabbed it.”

Marissa believes that we do courageous things in challenging moments that we couldn’t have noticed, or thought were courageous.  For example, the most courageous thing we can sometimes do is wake up and get out of bed.

Amber finds it challenging to accept and deal with the fact that her oldest has autism.  “It’s painful to watch your kid go through something he can’t control, I can’t control, or that neither one of us asked for or expected.”

How to have courage to deal with things we can’t change

Acceptance

Marissa believes that getting to the place of acceptance might be challenging, but it’s crucial to get the courage to deal with difficult things in one’s life.

God

“Relying on God for strength and help is a sure way to get courage.  It’s saying, Lord, I need Your help with this every day.  I need Your Spirit to guide me to help me accept that this is real, and this is our lives and to find joy in it,” says Marissa.

Embracing

Marissa says embracing the difficulty gives you the courage to deal with it.  She had to embrace her son’s condition, understand his limitations and abilities, and all the beautiful and amazing things that make him who he is and the things that are challenging.

Difficult things solo parents face but can’t change

The past

Robert reiterates that we can’t change our past, however it can be frustrating not to be able to deal with things in our past - like childhood trauma, generational patterns, mistakes, and poor decisions.  These things can cause regret or affect our lives, but Robert believes we shouldn’t hide it.

Changing people

Kimberly adds that one difficult thing she faced was trying to change people, especially those whose decisions affected her, but she realized it’s not possible.  This is the same with trying to fix a marriage. Unless two of you want to fix a marriage, you can’t fix a marriage.

Amber agrees, stating that she tried to change her ex-husband during their period of separation. She was hoping and praying and trying to manipulate and control and do anything possible, but it didn’t work.

Past wrongs

Amber adds that the hardest thing for her to accept is that she can’t change the things she did wrong in the past and that she feels a lot of responsibility and regret.  Amber was filled with fear at the early stage of her divorce.  This fear made her hard on herself and her kids because she feared her kids might become defiant as they grew older.  “When I look back, I wish I could go back and change that, and I can’t,” she says.  Amber says she has made amends and talks about it but can’t change it.

What we are dealing with - 

Another thing solo parents face but can’t change is what they are currently dealing with right now.  Marissa has been living with a chronic disease for over seventeen years, and sometimes she would just spin and begin to wonder how the disease came about, however, she told herself to stop spending so much energy thinking about it because she couldn’t fix it.  Instead, it’s been to focus more on dealing with the disease.

Impact of divorce on kids

Robert says, “there’s no way around the impact of a divorce on kids.  It impacts them and leaves a mark,” he adds.  Although many people have tried to normalize moving on from a divorce, Robert still wishes he could have done something to make his kids not feel the impact of his divorce from his ex-wife.  Divorce has an effect on our kids even if it was an amicable divorce.

Finding courage to deal with difficult situations

Living one day at a time

Marissa says living one day at a time helped her find courage.  She says she couldn’t grieve all the hard things she experienced at once, so she had to take it in small bits and face the difficulties coming her way one moment at a time.  Her prayer has always been, “Lord, help me have the strength to face today and help me do what I need to do next,” she says.

Robert agrees with Marissa’s method by adding that when looking for strategies to deal with grief, most people prefer to get past grief instead of grieving and accepting the weight of the situation. “I don’t think there’s another way to move to the next part; you must embrace the grief part,” he adds.

Marissa states, “Grief is a necessary part of life, but it’s not a popular thing to talk about because it involves pain and facing our sadness.”  Earl Grollman says – “The only cure for grief is to grieve.”  The only way to grieve is to feel the pain of what we’ve lost, especially things that matter to us, like our marriage, health, or the peace of our kids.  We have to feel the sadness; we can’t skip to the good part.

Kim adds, “although it is good to grieve, some people are afraid to do so because they were not allowed to grieve when growing up.  Instead, they were told to just move on.”  Kim heard phrases like “God’s got this” growing up as a preacher’s kid. There’s a part of me which says, I am not allowed to grieve and feel these things even for five minutes.

Robert adds, “we should deal with grief one chunk at a time.  Grief won’t get smaller if we don’t walk into the grief process.  Not grieving is refusing to accept things that won’t change and denying them.  We can’t move into courage unless we’ve had a sense of what we need to be brave for - to get a posture of courage, we have to accept that things are not the way we want them.”

Grieving allows you have greater intimacy with yourself

Amber thinks the grieving process is about honoring all of her and who she is, where she can accept that what she’s going through matters, and she has to care about it.

Amber says as she cares more deeply about the impact on her and her kids, it helps her bring more of herself into future settings and circumstances, which brings her more courage because she’s taking care of herself, noticing what she needs and what matters. So, then she can have self-compassion and care about that, which builds courage.

Marissa says grief hurts, and as a society, we are trained to avoid the things that hurt, call them bad and run away from them as fast as we can.  But because we live in a microwave world where things happen within minutes, we’re comfortable sitting in the uncomfortable.

Marissa adds that grieving for her was too much discomfort because she had lost her husband and had so much to do at once, she knew she had to walk through it.  I had doctors who told me - if you don’t deal with this, it will deal with you.  It’s going to come back in a couple of years, and it will be in a way it will be harder for you to deal with then.

Another way Marissa deals with grief is to understand that what she is going through does not define her and her circumstances, and who God is and what He is capable of.  “It’s where I am, not who I am, and not who God is,” says Marissa.

Letting go of entitlement and pride

According to Robert, if we want to find the courage to face things we can’t control, we must let go of entitlement and pride, thinking our pain is special and unique and believing that others are not capable of understanding the kind of pain we are feeling.

Getting rid of the pride of thinking that we’re walking in a kind of pain that nobody else could understand or has experienced is essential in finding courage because it takes away the entitlement that the pain is unique to us.

Marissa adds that listening to other people’s pain makes us realize that we are not special in a way entitled to hold on to our pain.  Instead, our pain makes us unique in that we have a gift we can give others when they are hurting, and we can help them walk through it.  

Robert adds that though we don’t want to feel that our pain is unique, and that no one understands it, we still need to know that our pain is unique to us, and our stories are worth celebrating.

The power of grieving in groups

Amber says any feeling in isolation can go to a really ugly and dark place because we aren’t designed as humans to feel and experience difficult things without other people in our lives.  Therefore, a huge part of the grieving process is to share it with others.  Grieving in isolation becomes self-pity, and that’s where entitlement comes.  

Robert adds that grieving the situation that we can’t change and letting go of entitlement leads us to acceptance.

Even if

Robert refers to a song by MercyMe titled ‘Even If’ which he says confirms we shouldn’t live in denial of our pain but accept its reality even if we feel God didn’t do anything about it.

It takes time

Finding the courage to accept the things we cannot change doesn’t happen overnight, it takes time. According to Robert, we can move and have the courage to accept the things we can’t change but still be affected from time to time. This doesn’t mean we haven’t done the work, or we aren’t successful.  It just means there’s a process to moving towards health and acceptance.

Amber says when big things happen, there’s supposed to be a long time to grief and process.  Instead of pushing the process away, we should allow it to be a part of our experience by creating room and space for it and realizing that it’s what makes us wholehearted human beings.

Takeaways

  • Courage starts with grieving
  • Let go of entitlement; we all go through pain
  • Let go of pride, or we’ll end up in self-pity
  • Acceptance of our human limit
  • Gratitude


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