Reflection on Acceptance

By Kathy Saul


Stroke cannot be cured. That is to say we cannot make it go away. We can, however, “heal” from stroke in the sense of adjusting our expectations and views of life. Most stroke survivors experience loss, and the loss in turn creates intense feelings of grief. According to Elizabeth Kubler Ross’ book, ”On Death and Dying,” there are five stages of grief: 1) Denial (This is not happening to me) 2. Anger (Why is this happening to me?) 3. Bargaining (I promise I will be a better person if…) 4. Depression (I don’t care anymore) 5. Acceptance (I am ready for whatever comes).


These five stages of emotion are not necessarily felt in order because each person is different and reacts differently to life events. Usually acceptance is the last emotional stage as we seek to work through the pain, loss and grief of surviving a stroke.


Acceptance is not static but a process. A study, published in 2002 by the University of Maryland Medical Center, of stroke survivors one year post stroke found that certain methods of coping help survivors to deal with the physical and mental adjustments required in their lives. After a stroke many survivors may feel depressed and angry about their loss of control and personal power. The study showed that the coping mechanism an individual chooses will have a huge impact on his or her ability to meet post stroke recovery challenge and to move on to acceptance and making a new life.


The most common ways people cope post stroke are: through religion, through humor, and through positive reinterpretation of expectation. These coping methods lead to gradual acceptance. The support of friends and family plays a huge part in the adjustment of a stroke survivor. The stroke survivor who cannot or will not address the facts of the stroke cannot move on. Disengaging from the recovery process and pretending the stroke did not happen, does not allow improvement or acceptance. Some survivors get stuck and are unable to move past their anger, their depression or their denial.


How do you come to acceptance and make peace with your stroke?


To paraphrase Dr. Albert Einstein, “I must be willing to give up who I was in order to become what I will be.”


Our pre stroke personality has a lot to do with how we cope with stroke and how well we rebuild our lives. Feeling good about ourselves is a difficult challenge when trying to incorporate our post stroke selves into a new self-image. Two survivors can have the same type of stroke and resulting disability, but one may recover very differently than the other depending on his or her outlook on life and feelings of self. The grief we experience for our loss and what we mourn before is just as unique to an individual as his or her stroke.


When does acceptance happen? When does a stroke survivor finish being sad, angry and depressed? Letting go of our expectations is a primary step in making peace with stroke. Begin to do what you need to do for yourself and respect yourself for who you are inside.


Acceptance, like recovery, is a journey, and it is a life long path that will require ongoing daily adjustments; we will probably never forget the person we were but through acceptance, our raw emotions will not overcome us. Feelings still happen, but if we can keep them in perspective, it will be easier to move on.


Copyright © November 2008

The Stroke Network, Inc.

P.O. Box 492 Abingdon, Maryland 21009

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