A woman with dark brown hair holds her hand again the face of a clock. The clock reads 2 minutes past 5. I remember hearing people talk about how “time heals.” When my son Brent was killed on November 9, 1999, my whole world came crashing down around me. The heart-wrenching, gut-wrenching pain was unbearable. My whole being was in a state of turmoil. A short time afterwards, some people, trying to be helpful, told me, “time heals.” Did I believe them? Absolutely not! I could not imagine living without Brent, even for one day, let alone for the rest of my life.

I felt numb and robotic in my everyday living. For the first while, I felt a dark, ominous cloud overhead. The light in my soul seemed to have gone out, and I couldn’t even imagine ever feeling happiness and joy again. I found I was always questioning: why did this happen? What is the purpose of life? Brent was only 22, loved life and lived it to the fullest. He and his girlfriend were making plans for a life together. I realized then just how much our future dreams are linked with our children. How could I ever come to terms with such a loss?

For the first three years, I experienced pervasive sadness, lack of pleasure in life, envy of my siblings having their whole family, yearning for him and feeling the loss of all that he should have been here to enjoy. With all my struggles, how could time ever heal me? 

However, I found I would gravitate to people who also had losses. Talking about Brent and listening to their stories was helping me heal. Besides keeping overly busy with my work, I became quite involved in my church and social activities. To some people, all of what I was doing may have seemed like I was running away from the pain. In actuality, it was, but all this kept my mind occupied and helped me avoid thinking about the pain and emptiness I felt every minute of the day. Eventually, the heart-wrenching pain lessened, which is an important part of healing. I believe no one could continually live in that initial all-consuming pain. It would be detrimental to our physical and mental well-being. 

I was discovering that what time does is give us an opportunity to process our feelings. In 2003, I became a member of Threads of Life, which eventually empowered me and enhanced my healing. As weak and vulnerable as I felt, I was growing in spiritual and emotional strength and in understanding myself and others who had lost. 

In 2007, I overheard my daughter talking to another Threads of Life member. She said, “I wish my husband could have known my mother before Brent was killed.” Her words caused me to ask myself, “Who am I?” I realized time had healed me to a degree, but I now needed to work on getting some of my old self back, doing things we used to do as a family. I went out and bought an ATV and started going back up to our family camp. It was like a breath of fresh air. Somehow, I had neglected that invigorating part of our once-upon-a-time life. I was determined to get some of it back, and I knew Brent would want that as well.

Healing does not just happen by chance. It takes effort and mindfulness. A common misconception is that only time is needed to heal trauma. Healing is never instantaneous. It is a process. Time does have healing purposes, but ultimately, it is up to us to find ways to achieve healing as time passes.

It is important to realize the grief journey is a forever journey, and we will carry the scar of losing our loved one forever. We are now on a very different and difficult path in life. It is hard work that is ahead of each of us. 

To me, healing is reaching a sense of inner peace, coming to terms with my loss, and accepting that Brent is gone but not accepting that it happened. It should never have happened. 

The love and support of my wonderful daughters, keeping in touch with my friends, and developing new relationships when I became involved with Threads of Life, helped me heal. Through Threads of Life, I found purpose again. I found a safe place to express my innermost emotions. I found people to share my tears who cared and understood my journey.

Yes, time does heal, but it is in our own time. Remember, it is not just time that helps us heal. We have to be ready to accept the unacceptable, the death of our loved one, and be at a point on our journey where we recognize the rippling effect of our loss. We need to work hard to do whatever makes us feel a little better. 

Time has transitioned me through three different phases or stages: 1) who I was prior to Brent’s death, 2) who I was for the first seven years after November 9, 1999 and 3) who I am now. I am happy to be where I am now in my life and grateful to all those who helped me arrive here. Time has allowed me an opportunity to reminisce and adjust to my changing life, to enjoy my new life without guilt, to cherish and appreciate my memories and to remember and honour Brent and share his story. It is hard work; it takes faith, inner strength and patience, and it is important to be kind to yourself. There will be setbacks, but perseverance will allow time to help you heal. There is no race to the finish line. There is no finish line.

I pray you will find an inner peace, as I have, that will sustain you as you continue on this forever journey. Life is short. Life is a gift. Life is an experience. Live it to the best of your ability.

Joanne Wade
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