Putting radical acceptance into overdrive

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Every now and then you meet a person who turns your life upside down. I met just this person about 8 months ago on Facebook. He contacted me first, I think but. I really don’t remember and that detail is not germane to this story. He calls me “shaman” a title I really don’t understand but nevertheless, he has become very important to me. I feel a deeply rooted connection to him. We have never met, never spoken on the telephone or even had a video chat but he has affected me very profoundly.

The other day I learned that he has just been diagnosed with a very serious illness and this news has absolutely rocked my world, shattered me to the core. I keep being struck by  and returning to the absolute unfairness of this turn of events. He is an unbelievably kind and loving man. I love him but we are not “in love”. He is gay, you see, so our relationship is and always will be a platonic one but he feels like the soul mate I have searched for for so many years.

I feel so sad and angry and terribly distraught. It has brought up such huge feelings of grief for me -- for him -- for the possible loss of him, feelings that I now recognize are related to my leftover grief from my husband’s death.

Shortly after we met online I asked him to be my co-admin on a little Facebook group I run called Inspired Living. He immediately said yes and has been a staunch member and supporter of my group and I began to fall in love with him.Not in a romantic way but in love nevertheless.

He supported me through a very dark time when my boyfriend ghosted me and I was beside myself. He listened to me pour out all my despair and offered loving words of comfort. I got through that crisis, largely because of his support.

Now, a few months later, we have received this devastating news. I feel so angry and sad and afraid, all at the same time. I want to run away from the situation but I will stay with him and comfort him although from a distance because that is what friends do for each other.

He wrote to me shortly after he disclosed his diagnosis and told me that I should start looking for a new admin as well as a new gay friend. My response? “No. You are still here. And besides, as my daughter used to always tell me, ‘You are not the boss of me. You don’t get to tell me what to do.’

So I have to find a way to accept that he is going to have to go through what will undoubtedly be a tremendous experience. I have to find a way to accept that I can not literally go to him and put my arms around him and give him a bear hug to comfort him. I have to accept that he may not really be okay while I pray like crazy that he will be.

Learning how to practice radical acceptance was the most difficult of all the DBT skills I had to learn. I had to work really hard to learn how to let go of my control of the things I so desperately wanted to control. Believe me when I say it took a lot of work to get the hang of it. And now, I am being sorely tested. I am hurting and desperately want to change the situation but I can’t. So I feel helpless and angry at God and sort of alone. But,of course, I have to remember that this is so not about me.

I have to find the strength to help him along his journey without letting it engulf me. It stirs up terrible memories of watching my husband waste away from cancer. It took my husband two years to die and the process was exquisitely painful. He had been a very vibrant and virile man and by the time  he finally succumbed to his illness, he was just a shell of himself. Right now I am screaming inside about how cruel and heartless cancer is to all the people it touches. But this is the essence of radical acceptance. We must learn to accept the hardships that life puts before us no matter how much we want to change the situation. I need to remember this. And, as he would say, "On we go."