Isn’t this the advice we get -and give- when nothing’s left to say? Isn’t it the vaguest, yet most irrefutable argument for someone who is devastated? And here comes my question: Is time a healer then?
The first answer that comes to mind is yes. Well, not really.
When someone has to face a difficult experience, the emotional impact can be tremendous. You can’t just wait to overcome the grief, sadness, anxiety, pain or any other negative feeling which arises from a traumatic situation. If you just expect it to heal itself, you are more likely to end up with unresolved, emotional baggage carried with you till it finds a future experience/excuse to reappear.
Most people don’t feel like facing a tough situation the moment it occurs. Who would blame them? Who would have the power to go through the death of a person for example, while they are in grief, struggling to cope with the demands everyday life? Only a few. There are loads of those people who repress their emotions, hoping time will make the trauma less painful. The result? They end up at the same point they started: Pain. This causes more frustration since they find their unpleasant emotions “unreasonable to persist after all this time”. This is when they realize how time failed to work for them. Actually, this realization -that time isn’t a healer- is often what motivates most of them to act towards overcoming emotional baggage. Unfortunately, in some people it takes longer to realize it, since their frustration of time’s non-healing power causes more emotional suppression out of fear and denial in facing their problem. Nevertheless, sooner or later, sufferers who have kept themselves busy (=suppressed their feelings) letting “time do its job” will eventually find their emotional obstacle standing in their way.
So, how is time a healer?
Time can be a healer. And not just a healer, but a great healer. In reality, it’s not time that heals an emotional difficulty, but rather how you use time. You are the great healer. What counts is the period between the traumatic experience and the actual healing, the healing time, let’s say, and your attitude towards it. Time doesn’t count; it is just empty numbers passing. It can’t take your pain away, because it doesn’t have power to do anything. The passing of time can help only in the sense of taking some temporal distance from the event, which will prepare and facilitate the healing process.
This process should consist of small steps that aim towards healing, which should be frequently assessed by the individual through self-questioning: What have I gained? How far have I moved since the painful event? What have I changed in my life after the event? What meaning can I draw out of it? How do I feel now? How do I feel about myself and the event? The key is to embrace your feelings and be in touch with them. Understanding what, how and why is a major healer. By healer, I don’t mean that your recovery will be all rainbows and daffodils. Revisiting painful events is far from pleasant. So, it’s okay to take your time and small breaks within your healing time. You need some distance from your traumatic experience. Basically, you can do everything you want that focuses on yourself and makes you feel better. You’ve passed through a lot. However, if the “do whatever makes you feel better” is suppressing the emotional difficulty, you just numb the pain and hinder its healing, which builds up more emotional burden inside you. You don’t want this. You don’t need this.
You can’t reverse the past; you focus on present. You can’t forget; you let go. You can’t really erase the pain; you weaken its power over you.
It’s not “time is a healer” but rather “use this time for your healing“. Your attempt, your triumph. Not time’s, not anyone else’s. The only certain thing is that only positive things will come out of this in the end.