By on July 16, 2010

What the heck is radical acceptance? Well, I heard the term in my therapist’s office as we were talking about grief. Even though my child is going to be turning 10 this year I sometimes have a tough time with the fact that I am never going to have another child – that I am done reproducing. My reproductive life is over as I know it. And sometimes that’s a tough pill for me to swallow.

Radical acceptance is accepting life on life’s terms – and learning to find effective ways to cope with whatever is going on with your life at that moment. It doesn’t mean you have to like what’s happening, or that you need to be passive, roll over, and not change the situation. But it’s about accepting “what is” – and with that the understanding that “you” and you alone have the power to change things, or the power of choice. Radical means simply “complete and total” It happens when you truly accept something from deep down inside of yourself – from the depths of your soul. It happened for me when I accepted my diagnosis in my mind, my body and my heart. It was then it was total and complete.

I chose to learn about radical acceptance and choose to practice radical acceptance because it’s amazingly effective at easing stress, or depression, and it really does wonderful things towards enhancing the quality of my life.

So how do we get “there” – to a place that we can radically accept what’s happening to us in our lives and still be happy you might be asking yourself.

I know for a fact that everyone experiences something extraordinarily painful at one time or another in their life.

For those of us who have received the diagnosis of diminished ovarian reserve or premature ovarian failure the idea that we will never ever have a child from our own genetics is simply devastating. The number of painful things that can happen to us in our lives is endless but the responses to that pain aren’t endless. So, after really listening and learning about pain I realized that there are only four things I can do when painful issues crop up in my life.

I can try and solve the problem by either remedying it, or ending the painful event, or maybe even leaving the situation that’s painful. This is the first thing I can do is solving the problem.

The second thing I could do would be to try to change how I feel about what’s happening and take that negative feeling and make it into a positive. You know, turn that frown upside down. So, that’s the second thing I could do.

My third option is accepting the problem. Just accept it. It happened, and accept it.

My last option of course is to stay absolutely miserable. So here you see you have four things you can do – solve the problem, change how you feel about the problem, accept the problem, or stay completely miserable.

The idea of “accepting” a problem was so foreign to me because I grew up with the mentality that accepting a problem meant I had to like it, and I could never change the situation.

Wow – was I wrong.

What I learned was something called “Reality Acceptance Skills” – there are three of them – radical acceptance, something called turning the mind, and then of course willingness.

Let’s go back to when we all received our original diagnosis. That would qualify in my book as a time when we all felt and faced a really serious problem coupled with an intense or serious pain. This is something of course that made us incredibly unhappy and it wasn’t something that we could change.

I admit when I first received my diagnosis I was miserable. Oh my gosh was I miserable. And then through many counseling sessions I accepted the reality that I had experienced many many miscarriages, that I was an infertility patient, and I had Premature Ovarian Failure. During those counseling sessions it was then I realized and accepted my diagnosis and realized if I really wanted to become a mother that it was going to be without my genetics and through egg donation.

It was then I figured out a way to accept the reality of my own life. I didn’t want to be miserable anymore.

And so I have learned about and practice radical acceptance.

When I learned to radically accept my diagnosis I stopped fighting it. I stopped fighting with reality.

Does this mean that life has been a cake walk since?

No not at all – it’s something I work on with many different things – not just infertility.  Radical acceptance is something that is inside each and every one of us – it goes on deep inside of us. We’ve all done it with different things in our lives. If you really think about this you will find some place in your life when something has happened in your life that you have just plainly accepted, whether you liked it or not, whether it was painful or not—and you have just accepted the situation. That’s what radical acceptance is. It’s letting go of that struggle and fight. Often when we accept we feel released, empowered and centered. It doesn’t mean that you won’t have sadness or grief. When we accept things we often have lots of sadness, but even with sadness we can feel that release. And when we accept we are ready to move on with our lives.

That’s what happens to many of us when we take that next step towards egg donation. We have radically accepted the fact that we will not have a child with our own genetics and in doing so freed ourselves to move on to explore another avenue of building our family.

I hear a lot – “I am stuck, I can’t move on, I am suffering.” We know that pain is pain. Pure and simple. If we add non-acceptance we then move into agony or the suffering mode. Radical acceptance truly changed suffering into ordinary pain. Pain we can actually work with and work through.

“There’s three parts to radical acceptance and the first part is accepting that reality is what it is. The second part is accepting that the event or situation causing you pain has a cause. The third part is accepting life can be worth living even with painful events in it.” (Dr. Marsha Linehad)

When we accept that every event and every situation has a cause we then stop saying “why me”

The best part about radical acceptance is that it’s helped me become a better parent, wife, friend, sister, and person – I have learned that acceptance is all about the word yes. It’s yes to the moment, to reality and to just what is.

I am not suggesting that radical acceptance is going to make your ovaries produce eggs, or fix your lining, or remove polyps, fibroids, or find you an extra 35k lying around to have a donor cycle. What I am saying is that radical acceptance will help you with the grieving process or whatever else is going on in your life – and if you let it, it will help you to free yourself and move on with your life however that may be.




Portland, OR

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