“Time heals all wounds.” We’ve all heard it before. Most of us have said it at one point in our lives and maybe even believed it. The thing about this phrase is that it it sounds so very concrete. As if TIME is the ONLY thing that will ABSOLUTELY heal ALL wounds. I couldn’t disagree more. I don’t mean to sound pessimistic but unfortunately not all wounds heal. Healing brings things to a close and practically erases any trace of brokenness. Cuts heal. They are open and painful but once they seal up, they seldom leave any evidence of their existence behind. Grief doesn’t seal up. It doesn’t become erased after several years. It always is. Grieving for your child is an active process that carries through your entire life.
This week I returned to work again after 7 months and for the most part it was great. I felt a piece of myself re-emerge. I have spent the past several months embracing my grief and actively healing. It’s been hard work but it was a necessary step to living my life again, not just surviving it. I feel lighter on my feet, more energetic, optimistic and excited about my future again. But my wounds are still very much present. Every time I see a pregnant belly I am encouraging myself on the inside to smile and not stare or drift off into my thoughts. It takes an active mental reminder to ask a woman how their baby is and an even stronger active reminder not to cry when she shares how great her pregnancy is going, or the newly discovered sex of her baby or when she updates me on the countdown of how much longer before the little bundle is in her arms. It still makes my heart skip for a moment and my body wants to cry. The difference is that now I know how to cope with these moments. But the wounds are still very much open and the pain is still very raw. I am happy for them but I am also human. It still breaks my heart that my son isn’t here. It still stings a little to witness the sparkle in a new mama’s eyes when she is talking about her baby.
I work in a hospital. This means I work with hundreds of people who may not interact for weeks or even months at a time. On my second day back a woman asked me how my time off with the baby was. She thought he was alive. She thought my time off was filled with changing diapers and rocking my son to sleep. I hated telling her the real reason I took time off. I hated breaking her heart. I hated ripping off the band-aid that was holding my heart together in the hallway of the hospital like I’ve been forced to do so many times already. But I had too. My only other option was to run away in tears. I guess that would have been okay as well but it would have meant that my time off was pointless. Instead it showed me how far I have come. I boldly told her that he was stillborn and that I needed time off to grieve. I hugged her and told her she didn’t know and to not feel bad for asking. I then went to a patients room and went about my job. My heart completely stopped but there were no tears in the moment. They came on the drive home. The wounds are still very much open and the pain is still very raw. I wish I had a different story and could show her pictures of how big he has gotten. Instead I asked her how her baby was doing and the truth is…it hurt like hell to listen.
I recently read an article about a couple in their 80’s who was visiting their stillborn daughters grave for the very first time. They were never told where she was buried. They were told to move on. They were never allowed to hold their baby. They were told it makes it harder. The image of this couple kneeling at the site of their baby’s grave is proof that time didn’t heal their wounds. They were sobbing in each others arms, reeling over the baby girl they never had the chance to know. Their wounds were still very much open and their pain was still very raw. 60 years, 3 more children and several grandchildren later. The ache was still so obvious.
The grieving may seem better on the outside but better doesn’t equate to healed. The wounded have constant reminders of their loss and the pain knows no time. It still hurts to the core, the same way it did 15 months ago when I first heard the words, “We can’t find a heartbeat.” Time may allow the wounded to get used to the reminders and teach them how to deal with the pain in those the aching moments more gracefully, but it doesn’t heal them. The cuts of loss never completely seal up. They just scab over for short periods of time. The only thing big enough for this type of healing is Jesus. I truly believe that will only fully occur when we are embraced by his loving arms at the gates of heaven. Until then, we will keep replacing the band-aid that gets ripped off so very often.