Over the past month, news updates, alerts, and even memes focus on COVID-19. The world is indeed changing in response to this pandemic, and it is not an easy change. 

I hesitated to write about this since it seemed that words might not effectively capture the depth of feelings that are associated with what is going on in the world lately. Yet, when faced with grief, loss, fear, and lack of safety and control, radical acceptance is our most useful skill. 

Radical acceptance is the idea that we acknowledge and experience what is happening or has happened in our life, including pain and discomfort. Instead of saying, “This isn’t how things are supposed to be,” we would say, “This is happening, and I am struggling.” 

To understand radical acceptance, I think we first need to define these terms:

Radical: far-reaching or thorough.
Acceptance: the willingness to tolerate a difficult or unpleasant situation.

Radical acceptance is stating that without judgment or conditions, I am acknowledging and experiencing the discomfort and pain of life today. By accepting this pain, I can reduce my suffering and begin to cope and adjust.

It is important to note that acceptance is not passive or “giving up,” but instead is a choice we make to reduce our suffering. It is not an easy skill; we often have to bring ourselves back to radical acceptance. We can accept the truth of the world right now: it is scary and isolating. It is overexposed and helpless. It is healing (though not nearly as quickly as we would like).

When we turn (or return) to radical acceptance, we are saying, ‘I can learn to deal with this pain. This is happening to me and the world. I can’t stop it.’ Rather than spinning our wheels, denying reality, or even engaging in unsafe behaviors, we can now shift our minds from rejecting what is and focus on what we can change. 

With this switch, we can then focus on the things we can control, like keeping ourselves safe by following CDC recommendations, validating our emotions, engaging in self-care activities, getting enough sleep, and even turning off the news when we need to. We can practice gratitude for the safety we may have at this moment. We can get connected with others in exciting and new ways. I am a fan of game nights via video. We can keep our facts straight and even imagine ourselves coping effectively.

Yes, this is happening. Yes, the world will change, AND yes, that’s overwhelming. 

And yet, we are not alone. We are doing our best. We are going to get through this with all the grief, pain, and fear that comes with it. We can accept this and change what we can. We are not broken, just healing.