I tricked you.
There is no such thing as an exact timeline for healing.
I wish it were that easy. I wish I could sit here and give you a formula so we could determine how many days you’d be hurting. It’s not like that.
Yet people will try to offer you advice, books to read (I currently have 8 books that have been given to me and are waiting to be read) or essential oils to buy. When that stuff doesn’t work and some magical number of days/months have passed we’ll be told to just “get over it”.
Sure, they may not say those words. Most will try and cushion it and frame it as gently as possible, but when you shake off all the niceties that’s what you’re left with.
We say some dumb things to grieving, hurting people.
And I get it’s with the best intentions. Actually, I really get that. As I’ve watched people I love walk through some horribly painful experiences I have tried to use every kind of word band-aid I could come up with. Anything to ease the pain and stop the hurting.
“It won’t always be like this.” Just another fancy way of saying, “You’ll get over it.”
We wrongly assume that time lessens grief and pain….but it doesn’t. Time (alone) doesn’t do anything. In fact, sometimes time can make it worse.
The last few years I found myself in a perpetually painful situation. One that has left me so strangled by anxiety that I am losing sleep (or unable to get out of bed). I have felt like a shell of a human unable to even fake a smile on the outside. On the good days I’m miserable and on my bad days I’m begging God to kill me.
I told myself a good Christian (a good leader) would just get over it. I told myself it wasn’t a big deal and to just get over it. I told myself it was all my fault and to just GET OVER IT.
As time went on the hurt only got worse as I compounded it with layers of shame and guilt because I hadn’t just….gotten over it. I’m starting to slowllllllly peel back those layers, but it’s only through getting help that I have made any progress towards healing at all.
But what about grief? It’s no different.
The thing about losing someone you love is that time only makes the chasm bigger. The time since you last heard their voice, felt their touch or saw their face gets further and further away. You don’t just get over losing someone.
I saw a bleeding heart plant the other day and for a moment it took my breath away. That plant will always remind me of my grandma. Each summer she would have one hanging on her back porch and we would watch the hummingbirds come drink from their flowers. I miss her and as the time goes by I only seem to miss her more.
At the grocery store this week, while we were all masked up and steering clear of each other’s personal space there was a woman who came up behind me in the meat department. I almost said to her, “Hey Ma!” thinking it was my best friend’s mom who passed away a few years ago. She’s gone and I don’t feel like I had the opportunity to say goodbye to her. Time hasn’t brought any comfort there.
Grief is more than death though. It’s the loss of a marriage that you thought was perfect. It’s the loss of a job because of COVID-19. It’s infertility or miscarriage. It’s singleness. It’s the result of abusive relationships. I don’t need to give you examples. You’ve got your own.
If there is no timeline, and there isn’t, what do we do?
It seems silly to try and give you some prescription for this. There are no “3 easy steps”. No miracle drugs. And to be honest, I’m still in over my head trying to work through it all myself.
My intention wasn’t to give you answers. It was simply to let you know that if you’re still hurting when everyone has forgotten why that it’s ok. Don’t beat yourself up over it. There’s no reason to be ashamed. Your healing process won’t look like anyone else’s so be gentle with yourself. No need to compare your journey with those in your Facebook feed.
Please, whatever you do, just remember to give yourself some grace.