I can't imagine any of us has not heard this phrase in the wake of a loss. The comforting pat on the shoulder, the sympathetic sigh - "Just give it time, time heals all wounds."
I'm not sure folks really think about what they are saying here - it is just a reflex (one of many) based on cultural habits. But does Time really heal? Will we really "get better" if we just wait long enough? In my experience of many decades, the answer is, absolutely not.
Now, let me take that statement apart a bit. The shock of the loss WILL wear off, as our psyche gets used to this massive change, and it becomes part of our lives. But then there is most often that dull ache, maybe a feeling of removal from reality, continued bouts of tears or anger - all the emotions that our loss has conjured in us. Those must be addressed in an active, empowered fashion.
I believe that this concept of waiting until we heal can be quite damaging. It gives the impression that we are helpless drones in the face of our own pain. Time is so important to our healing, but it is a question of How we use that time. Waiting does not Magically Help, in fact, it can make it worse, as your pain can be drawn out for years and decades.
My touchstone for this is my favorite uncle. I love him dearly, but he always seems so melancholy – and angry – and he won’t talk about it. He holds a tremendous amount of anger and resentment towards his mother (my grandmother) and has never been able to let go of it – because he has never been taught how. And she has been dead over 35 years. Even in years of therapy, no one has told him things that actually work, and he was unable or unwilling to shift his beliefs. He has carried that pain for decades, until his back is literally stooped. Time has done him no good at all.
Only Taking Action shifts you into Healing and Integration – There is no timeline for healing – the one thing I can tell you for sure is that just waiting for the pain to go away will keep you sad and stuck. Taking active healing steps, talking about your pain and your losses, working on your emotions, no matter how scary they are, is what will allow your pain to lift. It IS doable – I’ve walked that path – the key word is DO – and I can help you DO your healing work and bring you relief, once the immediate stuff is out of the way.
So what do you DO? The path is different for each of us, as I've said, so be patient with finding out what helps. But in general, some things might include:
- talking about your loved one, sharing memories, telling stories
- talking about the whole person, even if there are painful subjects to cover, such as unspoken conversations, apologies, regrets and anger. Loss leaves a complicated wake and none of it is off limits.
- honor your emotions and allow tears to come - holding it back out of shame or obligation to keep up appearances will make it worse - releasing the feelings releases the pressure inside you
- do things in your loved one's honor or memory - build something, plant something, donate something - in this way, their legacy lives on
As always, I'll add the caveat that if the one who has passed was toxic, abusive or worse, the emotions that are left may be complex. Do not hesitate to get help in unraveling this web, so that you can build some happiness for yourself. Let Time be your ally now - you deserve that.
In the early days following a death or Life Change, put aside your worries about how long this will take – just get through the first challenging tasks, then let yourself breathe for a bit. Begin your Healing Work mindfully and with support. Know that there ARE tools that work - and that you are not alone.
If you would like to speak to me personally about the above subject or any topic surrounding Grief, Loss, coaching or healing, click here to set aside a personal Free ½ Hour Empowerment Call. You are not alone.
Claire M. Schwartz
Leading You Back into the Light after Loss