Dear Luna Vista families and friends of loved ones who have recently died,

In one of my favorite novels My Name Is Asher Lev (1972) by the writer Chaim Potok, the young Jewish artist who is the main character can find no other symbol for painting the suffering his mother endures than the Christian cross. Needless to say, this causes great controversy within his own family and the greater Jewish community, despite the acclaim it receives. But it also opens up a conversation about suffering. One of my favorite artists did a similar thing: Marc Chagall depicted the suffering of European Jews in the 1930s in his White Crucifixion (1938).

I know that not all of you who receive these bereavement letters are Christians. Some are members of other religious groups and traditions; others may have no particular faith. But I offer to you the illustration of the cross below in a similar spirit to Potok and to Chagall, as an opening to a conversation about sorrow, stress, and heartbreak.

Recently I received a note asking if I would talk to a family member about ‘making peace with what is’. Quite the topic when you have suffered and continue to suffer through a period of deep grief with all its competing emotions! I thought about what it means to accept where you are, which seems to be similar to making peace with what is. And when I thought about what might be an appropriate illustration for a letter on acceptance and sadness, I found the painting below very compelling: Jesus accepting his cross.

But accepting… that might sound like too much. It was named as the ‘last’ of the well-known five stages of grief in dying by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in 1969, although people have often translated it to five stages of grieving — but it was originally meant specifically for the dying themselves. And since that time, many in the field of grieving have come to realize that these stages are often not at all clear-cut, and you may find yourself revisiting them at various times. The thought of finally ‘accepting’ a loved one’s death, however, may just feel like something that cannot be borne.


Jen Norton, Station Two: Jesus Accepts His Cross, ~2019;

Litsa Williams, one of the founders of the thoughtful What’s Your Grief? online site and community (and co-author of the book of the same title), wrote an excellent article on acceptance, expressing her ambivalent and changing feelings about it: ‘Rethinking Acceptance in Grief: A Love/Hate Story’ []. I highly recommend reading it but will summarize some of it here.

From a young age Williams faced the death of a family friend and fought against any thought of acceptance of grief. She rebelled at the idea, because it did not seem right. It felt as though in accepting you were supposed to leave behind the person and their importance in your life, your warm memories of them and the love you still felt for them—just let them go. Little did she know she’d eventually be studying social work, particularly in the area of grieving, and that her ideas about death, sorrow, and particularly ‘acceptance’ would be challenged in a good way as she met various theories about how to help people through difficult times.

Have you had friends and even family members, or maybe work colleagues and other acquaintances, tell you that ‘you just need to move on’? I know I have, and I feel like Williams felt. In fact, sometimes I border on being rude and respond in no uncertain terms that I cannot do that, that histories and memories and hurts are important things to consider; I cannot just move ahead. (Of course, I wonder about their rudeness in urging this in the first place.) In the Jewish and Christian faiths, at least, memory is a rich theme and is encouraged.


Maurice Denis, Portrait of Martha
with Open Hands, ~1894-95

Williams finally came to something called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. She describes it like this: ‘…it didn’t mean being okay with anything. But, unlike simply accepting the permanence of the new reality, this acceptance felt more active. It isn’t a stage, a place where you arrive. Rather, it is an active way of being. One that felt helpful and instructive…’. (Now a note here: I realize that those of you reading this letter are at differing points of the grieving journey. For some it is just plain raw right now, and if what’s in this letter does not ring true at this time, or you feel yourself getting stressed reading it, you can put it down or away and wait till it feels as though it may be helpful. That’s okay.) This particular therapy was about accepting reality. And ‘accepting’ doesn’t mean you have to like it. You will accept that it is part of you, this pain. Along with your gifts and your joys and the happiness you’ve experienced along your way, this sadness, too, shapes you; brings meaning and depth and wisdom; and becomes part of your unique story. But it is not all tied up in that neat bow we so often long for. And, again, the person whose loss you mourn is not forgotten.

Williams puts it this way: ‘Acceptance is not resigning ourselves to a past we then put behind us. Rather, acceptance is creating a space to bring that past with us, the most beautiful parts and the most painful parts’. Again, do read her full article if you’re interested in hearing more of how she came to this understanding of grief and acceptance. And if you need or would like a listener or conversation partner to work through some of what you’re feeling and thinking, do give me a call. That is my role at Luna Vista. It’s a privilege.


Libbie Weber+, Chaplain, Luna Vista Hospice;
Home Healthcare & Hospice ‘Services with Flexibility & Compassion’