So many well-meaning, wonderful, loving people offer the token advice of “time heals wounds” whenever a loss or tragedy occurs. Unfortunately, it happens to be one of the worst things to tell the bereaved. Not only does this saying de-legitimize what the grieving are feeling, it also holds no truth to it. Time does not heal wounds. In fact, it is a dangerous phrase, one I easily fell into during the early days of loss.
So why is this phrase so dangerous, you may ask inquisitively (if you are not asking this then pretend you are, for my sake)? Well, in essence this saying tells us that we can sit around and be a grief potato— a term I coined to describe society’s couch potato approach to grief. Not only is this unhealthy, but it sets people up for depression when time never heals their wounds… a depression that can have destructive results.
Another side to this phrase is an unrealistic expectation of this loss disappearing. Have you ever seen someone with an amputated limb? The wound is raw, bandaged, and very sore. Eventually the pain will subside some, but the limb never grows back. This doesn’t mean you never recover from the loss of a limb, but an amputee is forever affected— forever impacted—from the loss.
Time does not magically heal your wounds. There is no quick fix. Time does not give an amputee functionality again, nor does it replace their limb. Instead, they have to go through hours of rehabilitation, therapy, and self motivation to regain their movability.
So, if time doesn’t heal wounds, what does?
Rehabilitation, therapy, and self motivation. Now, before you start checking people into counseling and rehabilitation centers for the emotionally crushed, let me state that this process looks different for every person. Some people need to be their own therapist, other people may need a support group, while yet others need to be able to pour their soul out to a professional.
Like any other aspect of life, mourning is an active, working process, not a passive one. If you sit on the couch and become a grief potato waiting for time to heal your wounds, you will be waiting there an infinite amount of time. So what then, is a healthy approach to grief?
If you want to do something or make it better, you have to take the initiative to do it, right? This concept applies to all aspects of life. I mean, you don’t sit on the couch and wait for a job to fall in your lap, do you? If you do you will continue to wallow in your unemployment status. You have to get up, fill out applications, and sit through interviews. Just the same, if you sit around waiting for the grief to go away, you will never move past it.
It is important to remember, whether you are the one grieving or the one trying to offer encouragement and support to the grieving, that this process takes time. Every person is different. But no one should be left in the grief potato state. Remember; the amputation will always be there, but the grieving can learn to live with it.