I have broken my left wrist twice. That’s exceptional, but to a musician, it’s notable. I vividly recall the second time I broke it. For a preteen who took piano and violin seriously (and whose parents took it very seriously), it was a major event. I recall my doctor giving very specific directions how to care for my arm, what activities to avoid, and what exercises to do.
Thanks to my doctor’s care, I knew how long it would take to heal and what healing should look like. So each day I knew what to do. I could see evidence I was going in the right direction. Time passed quickly, and I was soon whole again.
Broken hearts hurt more than broken bones.
No doctor tells us what to do the next day, what therapies will speed the healing and what milestones indicate progress. That makes grief, betrayal, loss, and loneliness seem that much heavier.
One day the Tween Me trotted upstairs to get my headband, never dreaming I would be landing on my broken arm at the bottom of the steps in just moments. Likewise, our hearts are suddenly and surprisingly shattered by unforeseen events. By now, you’ve likely experienced a few of these shocking events: death, bullying, job loss, or illness. I have, too.
“How does life go on after this?” we sometimes wonder. There are no easy answers, but there are helpful actions we can take to aid recovery.
Recognize healing will take time.
It was six months before my arm was out of a cast and I was attempting regular activities again. It took nearly twelve months to regain full strength and mobility.
Hearts heal slowly, too.
I want to rush the process. I get so sick and tired of being sad and of feeling the darkness of despair that I try desperately to climb out of the pit too fast. My scabs rip off my sore heart too soon then, leaving me gasping in pain all over again. Each time I’m tempted to despair, my husband wisely asks me to go look at the calendar — how long has it been? If it has been less than six months, he reminds me, I am likely expecting too much of myself. And he’s right.
Every major grief I’ve experienced — death, abandonment, illness, job loss — took more time to process than I expected. When I relaxed and allowed myself the time to experience the grief, then healing truly began.
Time is the best medicine.
If we don’t rush healing, but instead allow ourselves the luxury of time, we find many benefits over the weeks and months.
- The passing of days moves us further downstream from the traumatic event. That emotional, physical, and spiritual distance creates space for the soul to heal and even to thrive.
- Over time, new experiences and opportunities offer greater perspective on the painful moment. As we grow and change, the past experiences become easier to understand and overcome.
- New healing habits (journaling, meditating, investing in friendships, fresh routines) need time to take root and effect change.
- Some hurts cannot be comprehended but at a distance. There are some tragedies we will never understand in this life. If we are afforded a glimpse of God’s providential plan through the painful event, it will only come after considerable time has passed.
How to Give Yourself Time
So what to do? It may be tempting to tear off the calendar months quickly and rush toward healing, but long-term soul-health depends on slow recuperation. Major events like death of a loved one, marital difficulties, a long distance move, a change in financial status, ending a bullying relationship, or recovery from assault will take a considerable amount of time to work through.
1. Mark the time. Make a note of when the event occurred, and notice the dates six months and one year out from that. Anticipate that those two dates will reveal remarkable improvement. Look forward to feeling better!
2. Ask close friends and counselors to remind you to take time. They likely do already, but just in case, show them your healing timetable. Ask your confidantes to remind you on those dark days that there is light coming in a few more weeks.
3. Plan a celebration. You may not feel like it immediately, but begin getting used to the idea of a healing ceremony. It could be as big as a family vacation or as small as a quiet afternoon of coffee and journaling. But plan to acknowledge the healing journey you are taking and to give yourself an ending.
4. Allow yourself the entire mourning experience. Those six or twelve months you’ve marked off on your calendar? Cry your way through them. Psalm 56:8 tells us that God collects our tears in a bottle and records their amount, so give Him something to account for! Mourning is an important part of the healing process, so let it out in all its messy, sobbing, screaming force until there is no more left.
5. Look forward to being a better you. You will grow through this pain. You will be molded through tragedy. You will be changed in mourning. God uses these experiences to conform us to the image of His Son, Christ who became man to suffer in our place. The fire refines us to a glowing purity for His glory (I Peter 1:7).
I am so very, very sorry for the hurt you are experiencing. Praying for you today, friend, that time will bring healing and renew your joy.
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