By Sharon Swing
The old adage, ‘time will heal’ is not really true.
One thing is for sure, grieving loss and hurt does take time – but how that time is spent makes a marked difference in people’s lives. Time simply allows for experiences to be accumulated with evidence that either supply hope or evidence that reinforce feelings of hopelessness.
Moments of remembering the past with joy and laughter can often be followed by waves of crying and difficult emotion as the focus shifts from the preferred past to a picture of the future with a gaping void of loss from separation from a place, a job, routine, activities, innocence, or loved ones. It is a roller coaster of emotions.
According to Robert Voyle of the Center for Clergy Leadership, for those grieving, it is easy for time to unconsciously be consumed with replaying hopeless thoughts, imagining a future without the resources to deal with what will come. When people say, ‘I need to get over this,’ they put themselves in the past and replay the event over and over again, imagining themselves without having the resources needed to influence a different outcome. Instead of putting the event in the past, they may repeatedly put themselves in the past, reliving the difficult circumstances. The world continues to spin, and time rudely marches on in spite of a grieving person’s need for everything to stop while they recover their bearings and the breath that has been knocked out of them. While it is perfectly natural and understandable to want to turn the clock back in time or for time to stop, people need options that are actually possible.
Some people find hope because they can imagine a realistic future that can be enjoyable and life-giving; and believe that they have the resources (God, security, love, creativity, money, support of family and friends) to be able to get there. What these people have consciously or unconsciously discovered is that they can identify what was valuable about the past and imagine those things as present in the future.
For example, if a death or other loss of a loved one has prompted grieving, a person may over time come to a realization that the love shared with that person has not died with the person’s physical passing. “People are a temporal manifestation of an eternal truth or value,” says Voyle, “Those eternal qualities will never need to be lost – and they can be experienced in the future.” Remembering the love, companionship or friendship can be done in a way that brings those feelings to the present, and can create a path toward opening one’s self up to experience it again in the present, and the future. The love of a person that has been lost can actually remind us that we know how to love and believe we are capable of giving and receiving love again — in even deeper, more profound ways because the value of love is more deeply understood. We grieve deeply when we have loved deeply.
God’s love is the only eternal love. As long as we are in this world, we can count on the fact that he will be prompting us toward expressing love in new ways. In a needy and broken world there will always be options to find ways to give love, and when we do, we can find God’s love flowing to us and through us in new ways.
While time does not have the power to heal, God over time and beyond time, can, will, and does heal completely.
1 Chronicles 16:34 “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.”
What choices do you, or have you made about grieving?
Please help me to see that your love and faithfulness endure forever. Whatever I have valued and lost came from you. Help me to have hope as I imagine a future that is good because you are in control and your love for me is assured.
The ideas of Robert Voyle of the Clergy Leadership Institute contributed to this article. http://www.clergyleadership.com/