The old adage is that “Time heals wounds,” as if time itself holds some sort of healing powers. Any woman in grief would tell you it doesn’t. Time may cause the experience of grief to ebb and flow, but it does not in and of itself heal the wounds that have come out of the pain of losing a child.
Grief takes work. It takes facing our pain not ignoring it, walking through the intense emotions not avoiding it and finding a way forward. And that takes time. Sounds fun right?
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After I lost my second child, the intensity of my grief was so deep I chose the route of my friend. I threw myself into a full schedule and tried to avoid the pain as best I could. But the reality was I couldn’t avoid the pain yet when I tried to engage with it I felt stuck. I began to realize in this season of grief that I needed counseling. I needed someone to help me get unstuck and navigate the muddy waters of grief. My counselor was amazing and constantly encouraged me to do the hard work of grief.
But what was that ‘hard work’?
Many days it was simply choosing not to ignore or stuff down the emotions that were surfacing when I didn’t want to face them. Some days it was the conscious choice to look at my husband and say, “I’m really sad and missing the girls deeply right now”.
I don’t know why, but as time has gone on I have been less and less inclined to invite other safe people into my pain, yet it is when I do invite others in and especially, invite God into my pain where I feel a release in my soul. I have not always done the work well, and to be honest have avoided some of the work that I know is necessary for my continued healing.
Nearly a year ago, my counselor encouraged me to begin the counseling technique of EMDR. Simply put, it is used for those who have experienced trauma to enable them to work through that trauma and become unstuck in it. I wasn’t ready to step into that so I waited. But I had seen over the past year as different triggers elicited an uncontrollable response to grief in me that I needed to begin to deal with this part of my grief. “Time was not healing my wounds,” and though I was learning to live with the triggers, I realized I needed to not just live with them but develop healthier responses to them.
It was uncomfortable and felt quite wearisome but I finally realized if I didn’t do it then, I probably wouldn’t at all.
So I made an appointment with my counselor to begin the new season of working through the grief and pain of the loss of my first two daughters. I was hopeful that it would be another step in the process of my heart healing, but I was also nervous. I was nervous about the emotional reserves it would require and yet I knew that I must continue to do the work of grief because if I didn’t I knew every time I had avoided engaging with my grief, grief had done a work on me. And I’d prefer it to be the other way around.
Related: The Unexpected Waves of Grief
It has been four and three years respectively since I lost my daughters and I’m grateful that the work I’ve needed to engage with in my grief has ebbed and flowed and was not heaped upon me all at once. I have learned to be gracious with myself in the process and not put a timetable on when I need to engage in new areas of my grief and in that I have also begun to learn to be more aware of when in fact I do need to engage with my grief more. EMDR has been hard work, but I have seen healing in this season as well. Grief work I wasn’t ready to engage with three years ago but have become more ready and able to step into as time has gone on.
So my encouragement to you in whatever season of grief you are in is to engage with your grief, in however big or small ways and allow the time that passes to be healing time and not just time that passes.