The 7 Simple Steps to Healing Following Grief, Trauma and Hurt, Even if You’ve Been Burying, Avoidin

Improving Your Mental Health Takes More Than Reading Quotes

There’s a long list of platitudes swirling around. You know what I’m talking about, the trite words of wisdom people repeatedly share on social media in an attempt to ease the pain of those who are suffering.

They’re so popular, they’re repeatedly posted in the comments under the status of someone hurting. We share and speak them often enough people believe and hold them as truth.

I’m not sure how they started or why they’re so memorable and widely accepted. I wonder if people know what a barrier they create to healing following grief, loss, trauma and hurt.

As a counsellor, I regularly see how platitudes interfere with the healing of my clients. Many of them point to some well meaning quote as fact. I guess if things are shared over and over again, people believe it must be true. Heck, I believed many of the niceties shared all over Facebook and Pinterest without ever challenging the statements. I remember a time in my life when I’d repin or share such quotes without questioning whether it was helpful.

I cringe when I reflect on those days. Not because it made me a bad person but because it halted my healing. I didn’t know it at the time but I used those quotes and platitudes as a guide to my healing and they were taking me WAY off track. Some of them even became an anchor weighing me down and preventing me from finding peace and closure.

I’m a Self-Proclaimed Platitude Hater

Are you shocked I’m a platitude hater? Well, hate might be a strong word. I’ve got a strong dislike for them, let’s just put it that way. No matter how well intentioned, the one that gets my hackles up is, “Time Heals All Wounds.”

Time Heals All Wounds

Why? ‘Cause it’s not true.

There, I said it. Time doesn’t heal.

*GASP*

In my private practice, when I ask my clients what they need to heal, many of them will say, “Time.”

You might even be thinking to yourself, “That makes sense,” and you wouldn’t be alone. This is a pervasive belief held by many. For most, they don’t know why time heals. They don’t question it and, instead, take it to heart and try to wait their pain out. Even after years when no change has occurred or when no healing has happened, they simply think the answer is more time.

Oddly enough, when healing does occur, people will point to the time it took. Giving time ALL the credit, as if it’s what did the healing.

Let me ask you a few questions. How do you know time heals? What about time makes it such a great healer? Think on your answers for a minute.

Challenge Your Beliefs

Let’s imagine you’ve experienced a loss (something you held as significant is no longer present in your world). It was ripped away from you. As a result, you experience pain from the loss, whether it’s sadness, anger, emptiness or a variety of other negative or unwanted feelings. Now imagine you do nothing with the pain and two years pass. Does the pain go away?

Many people will argue the pain lessens and the intensity diminishes. I’ll concede this could happen. To cope, we might engage in a variety of strategies to dull the ache the pain presents in our life. We might bury it, avoid it or engage in some kind of behaviour to numb the pain, such as drinking, substance use, overeating, gambling, becoming a workaholic, etc.

Although we’re not experiencing the pain as intensely, it’s still there. We’re just doing a good job burying, avoiding or numbing it BUT time has not healed it. Time has not taken it away. We’re only using strategies to deal with what time was unable to fix.

Living with Emotional Pain is Hard Work

Exhausting even. Suppression and avoidance take an emotional, mental and physical toll on us. Typically, when we experience another loss, trauma or deep hurt, we become less resilient and the pain we’ve been working so hard to keep under wraps, rears its ugly head.

If you’ve ever said, “Why can’t I cope with such a small problem?” or “I’ve been through worse, why is this such a big deal?” you’re likely living with some unresolved pain time has done a poor job at eliminating.

The reason is, all the pain we’ve let time take care of, builds up and reduces our ability to be resilient. Pain from the past starts to seep out. No matter how hard we try, we can’t keep it behind the dam or wall we’ve created. It spills out when we least want or expect it to. Making things even more frustrating is our inability to push it back into a manageable place. Once the pain from our past leaks out, it won’t be buried or avoided as easily as before.

Plus, all those coping strategies we used to numb the pain become maladaptive. The extra drink turns to six. The food we consume to soften the pain turns to 40 pounds. Time has passed, the pain remains and now we’ve got a secondary problem impacting our health, happiness, relationships and productivity.

Truth Bomb Time

Time ≠ Healing

If time doesn’t heal, how do we find the healing we desperately desire and need?

For anyone who has taken my free online mini training, Impact of Grief, you already know the answer. For everyone else, don’t fret, it’s not some secret or complex answer. In fact, it couldn’t be more simple.

Time is part of the equation it’s just not the whole answer.

Yep, that’s it.

Action Over Time Equals Healing

Time cannot be the thing doing the work, we’re the ones who need to do the doing. To find healing, the person experiencing the pain is responsible for taking action. Time does play a part because rarely are the actions completed overnight. We need time to take action but it’s the actions that lead to healing.

What you’ll notice is the equation is simple but nowhere did I say it was easy.