Lately I have been thinking about the concept of ‘acceptance’ in relation to family. Mostly when we talk about acceptance it is about receiving a favourable reception, because we all want to be accepted, but it’s a whole lot more complicated than that.
Sometimes because of needs or wants we make choices or decisions that the rest of our family is not happy about. The more these events lie outside our family’s range of understanding or control, the more anxiety and fear inducing they are.
If news that we give our families is seen as a threat to the status quo, it can throw them into a state of shock, anger, confusion, turmoil and depression, as they are unsure of what the future will be like for them. There may be feelings of betrayal and whilst still in denial they may bargain for things to remain the same, or for some negotiated compromise – even if that is impossible.
And when they realise that things will change whether they want them to or not, family members start to think about what their personal boundaries are, and work out what they can and cannot live with. Sometimes, if they can make sense of it all and feel comfortable, there is gradual resignation, or more hopefully acceptance, and integration of the news into their lives.
But acceptance of the news does not mean family members have to like it, or agree with it, or incorporate it as an ongoing part of their lives. If our news is incompatible with their values and beliefs they become disillusioned and eventually they often withdraw from us, first emotionally and then physically.
The reality is, no-one can be forced to accept anything and sometimes with ‘big ticket’ item news we are going to sadly face rejection, and that is very hard to accept.
If you have recently given your family some news they are struggling with, I wish you well and hope they come to a point not just of accepting the news, but that their journey also leads them to embracing the news.