“Time heals all wounds.”
Who hasn’t heard that one a time or two? I get the sentiment behind it, but it’s clumsily put, implying that a healed wound is like the injury had never happened at all. Perhaps it would be better to say, “Time helps you get used to the scars from your wounds.” Admittedly, that’s much less pity and a bit too long for a fortune cookie! I think it’s more accurate, and so I’ll stick with the latter sentiment myself.
The thing about deep wounds, is that they leave scars when they heal. Scars are funny things. Move just right and you’ll feel the pull on the scarred tissue that just won’t stretch quite as well as the undamaged area. Scars themselves tend to be quite sensitive, and while that lessens over the course of time, there may be days, years later, when even the feel of clothing against the scar irritates and inflames it. Changes in seasons and weather patterns can make old scars act up again, reminding us of how deep those long “healed” wounds once went, and the damage that was done.
Time has allowed me to become used to the fact that my mom is no longer here. Most days, I can talk about her, remember the good memories and be fine. Then there are days like today, nearly nine years later, when all I can think is, “I want my mom.” I want to sit down at her dining room table with a mug of the tea she kept in the cupboard for me because it was my favorite. I want to hear her laugh again. I want her to tell me that everything is going to be OK. I just want to hear her tell me, “I love you, kiddo,” one more time. I know that it’s not possible, and most days that’s alright. Today though… today it really doesn’t feel alright.
Part of me says that I’m being foolish. After all, it’s been almost nine years! Surely that’s more than enough time for me to “get over it”. I’ve had elderly women tell me with tears in their eyes that they still miss their moms dearly, and that no amount of time will change that. I suppose that it is a little bit encouraging that I’m not the only one still missing my mom after several years have passed. At this point though, you sort of feel like you need to push all of those feeling aside and get on with your day. In the period immediately following Mom’s death, no one would have thought twice if I’d cried and said, “I’m just missing her a lot right now.” Nine years later? It’s a different story. I have work to do. I have kids to take care of. I have a house and dog to tend to. Taking time to let the tears fall seems like a silly luxury that I can’t afford today.
Sharing the struggle with someone is problematic because you don’t know how they will react to your admission that it still hurts and you still dearly miss your loved one. There are some people who would understand, typically the ones who’ve also suffered a deep loss. A number of people would be confused about what the problem was because they haven’t been through that kind of loss yet, but they are sympathetic and kind at least. Some people roll their eyes and mentally label you a “drama queen”. There are even a few people who would take it upon themselves to be “helpful” and impatiently tell you to get over it like everyone else has, or worse, like they have, implying that they are better and stronger than you are.
I think that maybe Winnie the Pooh was onto something when he said, “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” How much we miss someone is tied closely to how much love and closeness there was in the relationship. The fact that I can still have a day, years later, when I miss Mom this much, means that there was a lot of good there. I had something that makes saying goodbye really hard. Maybe the fact that it’s still hard from time to time, isn’t something to be ashamed of, but rather something to be thankful for. Maybe it’s not just OK that I still struggle with grieving the loss, maybe it’s actually a good thing. We don’t grieve all losses this deeply, just the loss of people who impacted us deeply for the better. The kind of people who made us who we are, and loved us through everything. The kind of people like Mom.
Whether you lost that person recently, and the grief is still fresh, or whether it’s been years and this is just one of the days when that scar is particularly sensitive, it’s OK to still miss them. You don’t have to get to the point where you don’t miss them at all, and neither would you want to. It feels very lonely sometimes, the hard goodbyes, but we need not walk through it alone. Isaiah 41:13 is my reminder that I am not alone, “For I, Yahweh your God, hold your right hand and say to you: Do not fear, I will help you.” In the middle of struggling to hold back the tears, God is beside me, holding my hand and reminding me that He will help me. That’s the most comforting thought of all.