A myth is sometimes defined as a widely held (false) belief or idea. It’s hard to determine where popular myths originate, but many find their home in the cultures that surround them. Grief is surrounded by many myths, myths that have been widely accepted by Western culture. In terms of grief, one of these myths relates to time itself and its ability to heal. The popular sentiment usually goes like this: Time heals all wounds. It certainly sounds nice, comforting even. But is it true? Does it apply to grief?

Many popular myths do have a layer of truth, otherwise, they wouldn’t have such high pedestals. But what rings true for some may not ring true for others. Death is an event that affects us all, but its fallout is unique. The journey through the world of grief does not come with a map, most times it doesn’t even come with a compass. It simply comes. A myriad of variables may affect the journey, but the journey is always our own.

So, how does the sentiment – Time heals all wounds– apply? It may be helpful to break it down to its three main ideas: Time, wounds, and healing.

Time

 Time, in one sense, is a linear, irreversible event, a process that continues indefinitely. We describe it using ideas like past, present, and future. We try and bottle it up with pictures and stopwatches. But these are merely our attempts to capture events and memories. But time shows no partiality. It simply is. We learn to live in it, assuming the sun will rise tomorrow like it did today, that the seasons will change, and the world will keep spinning the same as yesterday. In many ways, life is time externalized. But even death does not make time take pause. Sometimes grief makes time our bitter enemy, we long for the past, knowing it cannot be recreated. But grief is not a linear event, it does not walk straight lines. Days, months, and decades do not always apply. In grief, minutes can feel like lifetimes; 30 years can feel like yesterday.

Wounds

 Normally, when we think wound we think injury. A cut, a scrap, or a broken bone. When my son broke his arm, his body was wounded. He needed surgery for the break, his body was wounded again, but this time in order to heal. Over the course of months his arm was in a cast, a year later we would say, it’s healed. In this case, time (along with medical intervention) helped him heal. But what about soul wounds? There are no casts for broken hearts. Death leaves a void, it takes away something that is irreplaceable. A broken arm can be fixed, but a broken soul is not so easily mended. Some wounds will never heal completely. They may get better or more manageable, but all it takes is a memory to make the fracture feel real again.

Healing

 Healing goes hand and hand with restoration. It is a process. A broken arm can heal with the proper intervention, the bone, the tendons, and the nerves can be restored to health again, though not perfectly. But it can be used again. Sometimes we are left with scars, some run deeper than others and many aren’t even visible. But scars are always visible to those who wear them. Grief is as much of a scar as it is an open wound. Some days feel numb and rigid, other days our souls feel the sting of being exposed to the open air. For grieving children, these feelings can change from moment to moment, like an unsettled world. Sadly, for many, any hope of restoration and healing fade away into quiet isolation.

Time is a Spectator

 So, where do time and the wounds of grief convalesce? Can time really heal all wounds? Simple answer: No. The wounds left by the death of someone we love are as unique as the person we lost, they are not like all wounds. To apply one-size fits all sentiment to something that comes in infinite shades is impossible. It is true that time can heal some wounds. But to apply this sentiment to grief is a tall order. There is no splint for grief, no ointment to dull our pain. Years do provide us with opportunities to reflect and sometimes they afford us comfort from the memories we bottled away, but grief healing comes when hope is present. We may hope that things get better with time, but time is only a spectator. Hope comes when we know we are not alone. The wounds we carry from our grief will always be there, they are reminders of love lost, but we do not have to tarry alone.

Sometimes the only way time can really heal is when we give ours away. May we all realize that it may only take one conversation or one gentle touch on a bereaved shoulder to set hope and healing into motion for the grieving children around us.

 

Please visit the National Alliance for Grieving Children for helpful resources and to find support in your area. 

 

No child should have to grieve alone. #ChildrenGrieveToo