By Geralyn Ritter
Time heals all wounds is a common saying that is full of hope. Whether you just lost a loved one, ended a relationship, or are recovering from trauma, that phrase is likely to be said to you by someone in your life. The phrase is hopeful, but is it really true? Here, we will examine the “time heals all wounds” cliche, how true or untrue it is, and time's role in the healing process.
So, will time heal all wounds?
When someone is going through a hard time, they are likely to be told that time heals all wounds by at least one person in their life. They are offering hope that, eventually, they will get past this and feel better. The hope is that when someone has had enough time away from the event, the pain will fade, and they will heal. The problem is that time alone is not a magical healing aid. If time was all that someone needed to heal, then everyone who experiences emotional pain will eventually heal and be fine.
Time is an important ingredient in the healing process, as it gives us time to distance ourselves and look at things neutrally. However, time alone is not going to heal wounds.
Why isn't time enough?
Time lets you distance yourself from the issue and process it. However, time on its own is not going to address the cause of the emotional pain. Sometimes, it can get a lot worse before it gets better. After someone gets past the initial shock of the event, time can cause the old memories to stir and re-emerge and even cause fresh wounds. Weeks or months later, the reality of the event that caused the emotional pain can set in, making your distress worse.
Even in the long run, time may not improve distress for someone. They can become stuck in their distress for a lot of reasons. They may not want to accept the reality of the cause of their distress because the feelings linked to it are too overwhelming. The intensity of the circumstances might be too traumatic for them to process the distress. They may not have a safe space to process their emotions, making them unable to begin the healing process.
Time Moves Slowly When You Hurt
The way we experience the flow of time is subjective. When you are sitting in a hospital injured, time feels like it slows down. When you have a migraine and are waiting for medication to kick in and make it feel better, seconds can feel like hours. The same thing happens when you are in emotional pain. The days can just bleed together, the distress weighing you down.
Trauma is Timeless
Trauma can literally change your brain. Trauma can cause post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which can lead to flashbacks, nightmares, and intrusive images and thoughts. Your brain can feel like the traumatic event is happening right now, even though it happened years ago. Recovering from trauma is a long and difficult process that often requires the help of a therapist.
So, what does heal wounds?
In order to heal from an emotional wound, you need to acknowledge that time alone is not the magic solution. When you have a cut on your arm, it can heal over time, but if you clean and bandage it first, it can heal better. An emotional wound is not a cut that will just heal on its own eventually. These require that we acknowledge them and work to heal them; emotional pain is complex. We have to put in work to heal, and the first part of that is acknowledging the wounds and knowing that you need to put in the work.
Ignoring and suppressing emotional wounds will not make the pain go away. It just turns into anxiety, pain, and anger. If you do not have a support system in place that can help you heal, consider seeking out a therapist or group therapy setting so you have somewhere to safely explore your feelings and work on healing.
Time might make your wounds feel less raw, but that is not going to cure the pain on its own. It is important to stay patient with yourself in the process and not blame yourself if it takes time. Healing is not a destination, it is a journey, and it can take time to complete your journey. Everyone heals at their own pace, and you cannot compare someone else's healing journey with your own.
About the Author
Geralyn Ritter is an accomplished corporate senior executive, miracle survivor of the 2015 Amtrak train derailment, and author of Bone by Bone: A Memoir of Trauma and Healing. Geralyn is the executive vice president at Organon & Co., a new Fortune 500 healthcare company dedicated to the health of women.