If you enjoy dirty looks, a sure way to garner an angry glance or start an argument is to tell a grieving person “time heals all wounds”. When it comes to the topic of loss, no two words in the English language are used more frequently together in the same sentence than time and grief.
Much of what I read and hear about “time” and its relationship to “grief” focuses exclusively on how time effects or doesn’t effect grief …. What I see very little written or spoken about is the opposite side of the coin which is equally as important … and that is how does grief effect time?
It is true that time can be of help to us when we grieve in the sense that it gives us some space to gain perspective and ability to better cope with loss. Time can be an effective tool in our healing but it is directly dependent on how we manage and use our time.
When we mislead grieving individuals by assuring them that time alone will heal their wounds, we are being neither responsible, respectful to the magnitude of their loss or realistic. Some of the most broken and hopeless people I have met over the years are those who had experienced a traumatic loss and leaned only on the passage of time to help them find healing.
So, how can we use time to help us find healing in our grief? How can we use our grief to eventually help us make more meaningful use of our time? Here is a very simple acronym guide I have put together which can be very helpful, especially for newly bereaved individuals.
Tell – As grievers we need to tell our story of love and loss more often than most good friends and family will probably be willing to listen. Telling our story over time helps us to both normalize our loss, and it keeps us connected to the deep love that will always live within us after our loved one dies. Make a commitment to find “safe” people who will allow you to tell your story, share your memories, emote your pain and who will not try to fix or rush you through grief … We need to share our story … not just for a week, or a month, or a year …. But for as long as we live.
Invest – Use your time to invest your time into resources which help you understand the emotional, physical, spiritual and mental challenges your body is experiencing in grief. The more you know about the effect’s grief has on your heart, mind, body and soul … the more prepared you are to develop coping mechanisms and seek necessary support to carry you through the darkest parts of this valley we call grief. Just as cancer patients educate themselves about their disease, so too must grievers educate themselves about the trauma and assault to the system that grief brings.
Mirror – Connecting with an individual or group of individuals who have experienced and survived a similar loss is one of the most effective uses of time a griever can spend. Support groups are often the mother lode for finding most things needed to help us in grief. They provide a safe place for us to tell our story over time, and we can learn from others about the grief journey. When we avail ourselves to others who have walked our similar journey for many years we are given an opportunity to try things that have worked for others, or get steered clear from ideas that were disastrous for others. Having support from those we can mirror and learn from is invaluable when we are newly grieving and sailing into uncharted waters.
Energy – Grief is one of the greatest teachers I have ever known. One powerful lesson many of us learn who have walked this valley for any length of time is that “life” and “love” energy are not finite within us … there is a limit to how much we can do in the limited amount of time we are given here on this earth… grief helps me to prioritize how and where I want to spend that energy. Grief makes me constantly aware that it takes energy to be angry, resentful and unforgiving … grief taught me to spend as little energy as necessary on negative business so that I can focus more energy on loving and building Ashley’s legacy.
So, the next time someone asks you if time heals in grief, you can let them know that time only passes. It is what we do with our time in grief that can change the world.
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