My perception of Time changed when I lost my son Brent to a workplace fatality. Life and Time itself became meaningless for the first couple of years. I began to ponder the word Time, its meaning, its importance and the affect Time has on each of us who have lost.
Life, as we know it is time-sensitive and there are no rules of fairness or equity with death. I became intrigued by the concept of “Time”. How could one word like ‘Time’ with its multiple meanings be so many different things to so many different people? “Time” can be used as a noun, or as a verb, or as an adjective. One definition of Time states it is: “the indefinite continued progress of existence and events in the past, present, and future regarded as a whole.”
People regard time as endless, as infinite. It continues into eternity. Even when they say: “Time stood still”, it has not and it cannot! Heartache, pain, or the loss of what was central to your life can create the illusion of time standing still.
Interestingly, traveling always distorts one’s perception of time. We know there is such a thing as jet lag when rapidly traversing time zones. I often wonder how can it seem like yesterday when my world came crashing down around me and yet, like an eternity since Brent’s death and the last time I saw him or heard his voice. It’s a distortion greater than jet lag.
Time can have deadlines – some things must be completed and end by a certain date. With our grief journey there is no set time limit or deadline attached to our healing. It is unique and specific to each individual. I think of my Mom with Alzheimer’s Disease and how her world no longer has a sense of importance related to Time.
The elements of nature used to tell our ancestors the time of year. The moon and sun differentiated between day and night. The sun’s position in the sky was an indication that the daylight was progressing to darkness. When a mother loses her child the time of year becomes less relevant, the sun and moon blur into a pall of sorrow, and daylight that was once taken for granted progresses into a persistent darkness. It is difficult to imagine anything but darkness. But with Time and the support of understanding and caring people such as with our Threads of Life family there comes light and hope.
Time is a necessary commodity. We need time to heal, time to find ourselves again, time to find purpose and meaning, to complete projects, fulfill goals and dreams, to work out problems in finding solutions, and to nurture all relationships. Time is measured in so many different units – seconds , minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, decades, centuries, and millennia. Where would the world be without a sense of time? How would historians write about past events in the world to give us an understanding of what has happened over time?
It is said that time changes everything; for me, my tragedy has changed the way I now think of time.
Time gives us structure, sets guidelines for us, helps us schedule our day-to-day activities, puts routine into our life. However, often with losing a loved one we lose a sense of time, we become robotic, hovering in a state of endless heart-felt pain, wondering if there is even the slightest chance of feeling halfway whole again. Time loses its importance. Think of all those special dates, which now cause us to feel melancholy, and to lament in the bittersweet. On these days we remember the times when we had our loved ones near and felt whole, in control of our life, confident, self-assured, and happy. Was that yesterday or a million years ago? Memories are our connection with time and with what we have lost.
Music has a beat and a rhythm for keeping time. In dance, timing is important to keep in step with your partner. When a parent loses a child, how long must they dance to a dirge in solitude? When we have been living without our loved one, it becomes difficult to even remember what it felt like to be joyous in a life we took for granted so long ago. With loss comes a feeling of being alone in a world very foreign to the one we were so familiar with. We wish we could somehow turn back the hands of Time and return to that familiar world, to that world were we knew the joy of living. We realize we have little control over Time.
As we experience life, we realize the value of Time and how precious it is. Try to savour the Time you have with loved ones. Try to make Time count in all you do.
Like Time, tragedies are a part of life. It is vigilance and willingness to act in trying to reduce workplace fatalities that will hopefully make these tragedies a lesser part of life – a life that we all measure in “TIME”.
By Joanne Wade with contributions from Craig MacLean
In memory of Brent Wade, April 12, 1977 – November 9, 1999