After the storm, a time for healing

  • Published
  • By Chap. (Maj.) Bill O'Sullivan
  • 4th Fighter Wing Chaplain
The initial shock wave following the news of the crash is past, the frenetic pace is behind, the memorial service is over, the Herculean effort is ended, but yet life isn't entirely back to normal. Lingering questions and bittersweet memories collide. Contrasting feelings of uncertainty and sadness, hope and assurance surge and recede like waves on the shore. It's done ... but is it, really?

Closure, an admittedly harsh, cold, impersonal term frequently associated with recovery after a devastating loss, is often met with an uncomfortable ambivalence. And although considered a necessary part of the healing process, emotional closure or acceptance can be elusive. Sometimes we don't bounce back as quickly as expected or as hoped.

The amount of time it takes to heal in the wake of a profound loss varies from person-to-person. Grief experts explain that everyone grieves in his own way and in his own time. And through it all, there is no prescribed orderly way that people heal from painful loss. However, it is important to remember that emotional and psychological healing is a process, a process that by definition implies duration of time.

Time may not heal all wounds, but the passage of time allows for sorting through tough emotions, coming to terms with what has happened and ultimately closure and acceptance. It is the passage of time that moves us away from the first impact of a tragedy and the first stages of grieving, when the pain is excruciating. Consequently, the wound may still be there, but through the sharing of our pain and the presence of collegial support, we see it as a scar and not as a living wound.

Also, the passage of time helps us heal by enabling us to gain perspective. How many times have we retrospectively pondered on painful, unpleasant events of the past and realized that things worked out after all?

Time also contributes to our healing in that each new day provides new experiences. When we suffer tremendous loss, our view of the future is obscured by the present pain. Instead, we must take each day as it comes and work through the ache inside. We must redirect our gaze from what is past to what is ahead. Joy is likely to return through the dawn of a new day, season or year.

When it comes to healing, acceptance and closure, there are no neatly prepared answers or checklists to follow. The passage of time will help, but only when we choose to use that time wisely are we able to learn to accept and overcome life's most tragic hardships.