We have all been educated on how to acquire things. We have been taught how to get an education, get a job, buy a house, etc. You can take courses in virtually anything that might interest you. What education do we receive about dealing with loss? What school do you choose, to learn to deal with the conflicting feelings caused by significant emotional loss? Grief and loss are so much more predictable and inevitable than gain, and yet we are totally ill-prepared to deal with loss. To make matters worse, society helps promote these killer cliches about loss. This article explores the top three.
Time Heals all Wounds
“Time heals all wounds” isn’t that what they say? We all know that isn’t true. How many of us walk around thinking that by putting time between us and the death or loss we are ‘dealing’ with grief? We figure we can put it away in a dark corner of our closet and only bring it out when we’re ready for a good cry. Eventually, we will open the closet and it will be gone…right?
Learning to cope effectively with loss is the result of actions taken within time, but this idea that staring at a clock long enough that eventually things will get better is damaging. This process is totally individual and there is no absolute time frame. Sometimes in an attempt to conform to other people’s time frames, we do ourselves great harm.
You Should Be Over it By Now
It is bad enough that well-meaning, well-intentioned friends attack us with killer clichés, but then we start picking on ourselves with grieving quotes like this. We start believing that we are defective or somehow deficient because we haven’t “gotten over it” yet.
If we take just these two killer clichés, we can see that they have something in common. They both imply that a non-action will have some therapeutic or recovery value. That by waiting and letting some time pass, we will heal.
You Have to Keep Busy
While waiting for time to heal all of their wounds and convincing themselves that they should be “over it” by now, many grievers also follow this incorrect advice and work two or three jobs. They fill their time with endless tasks and chores. At the end of any given day, asked how they feel, invariably they report that their heart still feels broken; that all they accomplished by staying busy was to get exhausted.
Subscribing to these killer clichés severely limits and restricts our ability to participate in effective healing. It is not only that people around us tell us these bereavement quotes or clichés in an attempt to help, but we ourselves learned and practiced these false beliefs for most of our lives. It is time for us to learn some new and helpful beliefs to assist us in grieving and healing from relationships that have ended or changed.
Question: I have heard that it takes two years to get over the death of a loved one; five years to get over the death of a parent; and you never get over the death of a child.
Is this true?
Answer: part of the problem is the phrase “get over”. It is more accurate to say that you would never forget a child who had died, any more than you would ever forget a parent or a loved one. Another part of the problem is that time, of itself, is a recovery action. Although healing after loss does take time, it is the actions within time that lead to successful healing. Reprinted from R. Friedman.