Does time heal all wounds?

I led a memorial service for a family whose loved one had died some time back.  For some reason, as I listened to the music during the service, the old saying “time heals all wounds” popped into my head.  I have no idea why – I really don’t like that phrase.

If you know anything about wounds, physical or mental or spiritual, you know that some of them sink in deep.  Deep wounds need good care:  antibiotics, possibly surgery, perhaps even a stint in one of those oxygen-rich hyperbaric chambers.  Truly, even small wounds need care.  Just take a look at the legs of a kid who keeps scratching mosquito bites!  I’ve been in hospital rooms and have sat through enough times counseling church members to know that time alone does not heal.

Why did that phrase pop into my head?  Maybe it was this:  as I looked at the family, I could see they were making it through the passage of time.  The loved one had died quite a while ago, yet here they all were, hugging and telling stories and sharing their tears.

Time, it seemed, had given the family a gift.  The death had occurred during terrible weather, denying the family the opportunity to put together a proper service. With the forced extended time, they put together a service that felt right to them. During the extra time, they had found poetry to read, had hired a skilled musician to play during the service, and so on.  There had been time to find ways to “treat”, if you would, the grief.

So, I’m not sure if time itself heals, but how you use the time matters.  Here are a few ways I’ve found that people make good use of the time (and may experience some healing) after experiencing hurt or loss:

  • just crying it out.  Sometime when you’ve screamed and cried until you’re just worn out, you will feel a cloud lift.  (it may take several crying sessions.)  A good cry is a powerful force – it can help rearrange your emotions, pushing things into a more manageable place.
  • Putting together a worship service.  I must admit I find it hard to understand when people insist on not having a funeral.  Worship services held during a time of loss (funerals, candlelight vigils, and others) are a lot of work to put together.  Yet the time put into it can bear fruit:  fellowship with good friends, building up of community, a renewed sense of purpose.
  • Therapeutic activities — support groups, seeing a therapist.  Over time there may be results from continued conversation.  You might not feel like you “got anything” from one particular session, but a positive effect may compound over time.

Grief and loss are part of the human experience. I hope we will use the time of grief we’ll.

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