Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Relationship Between Healing & Time

In the aftermath of the Virginia Tech massacre we are not only learning more about the shooter but today’s issue of USA Today carries profiles of the victims. Students and faculty that loved life, loved learning and possessed promising futures are now silenced and snuffed out.

How does a parent or sibling or friend cope with such a loss? I’m not an expert on dealing with and recovering from loss. However, I’ve had significant losses personally and I’ve been with dozens of people in times of loss through the years. Here’s some of what I have observed.

Many of the commentators featured on a variety of network news and talk shows have commented about “time” such as, “In time they will be able to heal over this loss,” or “It will take a lot of time for healing to take place.”

Time is overrated. Time is not the healing agent. If you have had someone significant to you killed and therefore brutally taken away from you a hundred years of time will not bring healing. I have literally seen parents and siblings of someone killed thirty years after the fact still crippled and not capable of resuming a life of joy and full engagement.

Time is simply a context in which certain healing processes can work. If the processes are not engaged or don’t work then time doesn’t make much difference.

One of the processes is GRIEF. Grief cannot be skipped or glossed over. I know you’ve been watching television and you’ve seen tons of grief. That’s just a part of what I’m talking about. The initial grief can’t be stopped. It comes flooding over you like the water over the New Orleans levees. It’s the grief that demands to be experienced later that is significant.

I lost my brother many years ago while we were both children. I had grief while in college because I didn’t get to share those days with my brother. I had grief at my marriage because my brother wasn’t there to be my best man. I had grief when my children were born because they will never know their uncle, my brother.

It is important and necessary to experience and “go through” grief every time it comes knocking at the door of your heart. The Bible says it this way, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

In other words, the “comfort” can’t come unless mourning and grief open the door.

The second process that is necessary involves COMMUNITY. Community is a network of relationships that can enter the journey of grief with you. Sometimes community is like the large gathering of mourners in the Virginia Tech football stadium or being with the number of those attending any given funeral or memorial service.

But in the weeks to come community will look like my small group Bible study of 10 people with whom I meet every week. They check in on me, pray for me, put their arms around me, etc. Community looks like one or two good friends who will regularly call me or take me to coffee and help carry my burden of loss. The Bible says it this way, “Carry each other’s burdens.”

A third necessary process is HOPE. Hope is a promise; it is a confidence that this present painful day won’t last forever. It is a sense that a better day is coming. Hope believes that something good and positive and powerful can come from this horrific loss. The Bible proclaims, “God causes everything to work together for the good for those who love God…”

There’s more but I think you may already be seeing the overarching necessity to have “God in the picture”, to have God as a central character of the story of what is transpiring during your loss. God is the One who brings the comfort during your mourning. God is the One who touches you and embraces you and empowers you through the arms of community. God is the One who IS the Hope.

God loves you. God’s arms are open to you. You can have a full and meaningful life with God and you don’t have to wait until there is a crisis to find that out. I encourage you to seek and engage God before “time” is no more.


Anonymous said...

I agree wholeheartedly with your post. On September 11, 2001 my whole world changed. I had been a volunteer firefighter in New York City for ten years and although I left the service years before 9/11 I was suddenly faced with the loss of 343 fellow firefighters. The grief was literally overwhelming and crippling. Every time I thought about 9/11 my pulse quickened, my heart pounded and the tears just flowed. Sure you might expect that to happen right after the incident but 5 years later? No, time does not heal wounds.

God in his infinite mercy and compassion helped me through it. I had to face the grief; admit it; experience it and engage it. Once I was able to do that, God granted me a peace that surpasses understanding. I have not forgotten. I have not stopped caring and I certainly have not stopped feeling. I do however have a calmness and a sense of peace about it.

God used my community of believers to sit beside me and to walk with me and to hold me. I needed to share my pain and grief with them in order for healing to take place. Each time this happened I felt a deeper and deeper sense of hope.

My encouragement to those impacted by the events at Virginia Tech are simple. Find a community of believers; let them help you to engage in your emotions and let God do his healing and redeeming work in you and through that community.

Thanks for the post Scott!


Scott Brewer said...


Thanks for sharing your story. I've been privileged to watch God work healing in you.