with Dr. Jason Troyer

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Does Time Heal Grief?


“Time heals all wounds” and “Time heals a broken heart” are pretty high on the list of things said to grieving people. But they are also some of the most common clichés that bereaved people find unhelpful. But is there any truth to these phrases – or more specifically, does the passage of time in itself – cure or heal grief?

The short answer is: no, it doesn’t. If it were true, grieving would simply be a matter of waiting out the clock until you felt better. We know that time itself doesn’t cure grief because it is very common for the intensity of grief to fluctuate up and down and some bereaved people say that their grief in their second year was harder than their first.

This isn’t to say that time doesn’t help at all – it does seem to dull the intensity of grief. But if your strategy for dealing with the death of a special loved one is to simply wait and hope that you’ll feel better – you may be in for a terrible surprise.

Time needs some help from you. Unfortunately you’re probably going to have to wrestle with grief – and I know that can sound intimidating when you’re exhausted and it feels like actively engaging your grief will only make things worse. But here are a couple of things you can do.

First, don’t be afraid to express your feelings, thoughts, and meaningful actions or rituals. Writing about your loved one and your feelings is a great way to do this.

Second, Don’t try to fight against unexpected bursts of grief or beat yourself because you think you’re doing something wrong because you feel worse today than you did yesterday. Grief is not a gentle slide where each day gets a little easier; it’s more of a roller coaster that throws unexpected twists and turns at you.

Third, work to find your own healthy balance in your grief – a balance between remembering your loved one and treasuring your memories of them, being present right now and cherishing those who bring you joy, and looking with hope to the future.

Even though time by itself doesn’t heal all wounds, that doesn’t mean you are helpless against your grief. You can take some active steps to help yourself – and along with some time, life will get better.

Jason TroyerComment