“It’s not the load that breaks you down; it’s the way you carry it.”
~ Lena Horne
Think of a painful injury such as a wound — one that’s fresh and open, bleeding. You attempt to secure a bandage and some protection.
You move onward. As time goes by, the wound starts to heal, but you’re left with a scar — a physical reminder and mark of what occurred.
In similar fashion, that’s how I view certain emotional wounds. They’re scars that will always be a part of us, regardless of time and longevity. But that’s okay, because it’s all about how you choose to carry your load, your past.
Death of a loved one, heartbreak, fractured relationships or a traumatic life event may all fall under the umbrella of things that never leave you. And while that’s not to imply that you cannot proceed forward and achieve peace, the wound – the superficially healed wound – may still be deeply ingrained.
However, it seems as if people seek to minimize periods of grief. The mantra, ‘time heals all wounds,’ is recited excessively. Is there a particular shame in hurting? In feeling pain? Do we want to somehow magically erase those scars?
Possibly. It might just come down to simplicity. It’s easier to avoid conflict and turn the other way. It’s also probably more comforting to visualize the finality of a grieving period on a timeline. “A year passed,” you might say to yourself. “I should be better by now, right?” I once had the same train of thought regarding a broken relationship, and someone compassionately conveyed that there is no actual timetable for sifting through loss (of any kind, really).
We feel how we feel. If it’s a wound that does fall under the umbrella of things that never leave you, we can acknowledge that truth, while allowing it to let us learn and grow and become stronger.
“I don’t think you ever get over the loss in your heart,” Elizabeth Harper Neeld, Ph.D, said in her article on legacy.com. “And that has nothing to do with your spiritual strength or trust, or even with whether you’ve been true to your grieving,” she said.
She goes on to express the heartache she experiences when holiday season arrives, and her son’s presence is missing; yet, she’s obtained a state of calm and acceptance. “If something happens, or we’re somewhere Cliff would have been with us, we’ll say ‘Hi Cliff, wish you could see this…something like that, but it’s not heavy,’” she shared. “We take stock and say: I am changed by our loss, and I have changed my life as a result of my loss. And we are not shriveled permanently like a dry stick because of our loss. We can feel alive again…probably wiser, maybe quieter, certainly full of gratitude and a desire to contribute to what we have been through.”
In terms of a set ‘finish line’ for grieving, Neeld explains the distinction between chronos time and kairos time. Chronos time pertains to the calendar. It describes the past, present and future and is measured by clocks. Kairos time refers to the “time which personal life moves forward: kairos time refers to a deepening process that results from our paying attention to the present moment, a process through which we are drawn to the movement of our own story.”
With regard to mourning, Neeld shifts her focus to kairos time. She asks herself reflective questions such as: What insights have I acquired? What meaning can I draw from this heart-wrenching loss? As a whole, she notes that the time it takes to ‘reach integration of our loss’ is usually longer than anticipated. In other words, the amount of kairos time it might take to reach a comfortable place (where the loss is with you but not dominating your life) is most likely longer than what the average person suggests.
Sometimes, we have battle wounds that have originated from emotional means. And even if time is irrelevant in terms of fully healing, we can still wear our figurative scars proudly. We’ve gone through something really hard, but have ultimately landed on the other side.