Time heals all wounds… and other lies I’ve been told

When I started basic training at Ft. Leonard Wood in 1987, I was issued a Soldier’s Handbook that was filled with the things I would have to learn, including a section dealt with evaluation and treatment of casualties under fire. This was startling because we were just playing soldier here, right? It even talked about something called a sucking chest wound!

Sucking chest wounds are often caused by stabbing, gunshots, or other injuries that penetrate the chest. Field treatment includes placing an air-occlusive dressing over the site and taping it on three sides.

Fortunately, I never had to deal with a physical sucking chest wound. But dealing with traumatic loss feels that way at times. The immediate trauma is astounding and everyone sees it. A gaping hole covered by a large field dressing that no one can miss. The first and second years go by with the wound still packed and those around you know about it. Tears and panic attacks happen frequently, kind co-workers understand when you take yet another a day off or rush out of a meeting, and your family learns to function again. But the wound is still there – it never goes away.

As time passes, the edges of your wound are less raw and maybe it can be covered by a bandaid instead a bulky field dressing. Less visible to others, but still there. A joke makes you laugh, you enjoy a vacation, your daily routine doesn’t include tears. Life sweeps you up in its movement for days at a time until a song, or a picture, or something silly like seeing her favorite cereal at the grocery store violently rips the bandaid off. There you sit, four years out, sucking for air because the wound is as fresh as the day she died.

“I thought it would get better.”

Time heals all wounds is an astounding lie we should stop telling. The passage of years might bind the edges, but time heals nothing. Losing a child doesn’t get better, it just gets different. My wound is less raw and exposed, but it is still there and always will be.

Every single day since Kylie died six years ago, my open heart has missed her. I wonder what plays she would have done in high school and where she would be attending college. I miss her smile, her big personality, and the little girl that loved to be still and snuggle. 

Six years without her is a long time. There are longer stretches when the pain is tolerable than there were in years one and two. But I have come to realize that I will never stop missing her. Never stop yearning for her. Never stop hurting.

Time does not heal all wounds.

So how can you help someone who has experienced great loss? 

  1. Give them space to grieve in their own way, and remember that they are broken even years after their loss.
  2. Say his or her name. Kylie’s name is not something to be avoided – it is healing for me to hear people remember her.  
  3. Acknowledge hard days – her birthday, the anniversary of her death, and the holidays are difficult. But kind words, texts, and little gifts of remembrance help keep me afloat. 

And if you’re the loser like me, I’m deeply sorry for your loss. If you’re new to your grief, I hope I haven’t discouraged you. I can assure you that moving forward gets a little easier every day you get out of bed. But I’ll not lie to you like the old saying about time, the pain won’t go away because it is a direct reflection of the love you shared. And that is worth remembering. 

In An Instant

Our covered porch has been largely unusable for several years. In the spring, we decided to clean it up and make a space we could enjoy. One night, my daughter, JB approached me.

JB: Dad, we should make the porch a hanging porch where everything is a swing or hammock.

Me: That’s the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard.

One day later…

Me: So, tell me about this thing you call a hanging porch.

After some hard work and several swipes of the credit card, I’m sitting on the hanging bed typing this post. It was a great idea, I admit. And since we live in the woods, it comes complete with nature.

In fact, a little Carolina wren built a nest in a decorative watering can and she’s very vocal about her property claim to the porch. In the beginning, I tried to dissuade her from building in the can because our neighbor has several cats that often trip the motion detectors on our security camera. Fearing for the safety of future baby birds, every time she started building her nest, I dumped it out. And every time I dumped it out, Mama Wren began building again until I gave up.

Her eggs hatched recently. At first, I knew it because Mama Wren’s angry screeching became louder when I dared enter her porch. Then I started to hear them squealing for her. It was kind of fun watching nature take its course. As they grew, poor Mama Wren flew in with worms over and over. She became a nonstop, feeding machine.

And in an instant… it all changed.

One morning I saw the watering can lying askew on the porch and I knew. I set the now-empty can back on the table. Empty but a few twigs. I find myself very sad about the baby bird’s fate and poor Mama Wren.

Mama Wren came flying in with a worm in her beak and looked inside. No one to feed. No explanation. Her babies were gone.


Things can change in an instant!

We have friends whose 21-year-old daughter was killed in a car accident last week. In an instant, their life tragically changed. I’m so broken for them. I’m so sorry for the loss of their precious girl and the potential that has been ripped away from this world. For the anniversaries, holidays, and birthdays that will have an enormous hole in them, and their new life that is a constant mix of joy and grief. I can only go a couple of minutes without picturing their faces and whispering a prayer of comfort.

Their grief journey will be different then mine. But having lived the unimaginable and being a few years down the road, I wanted to send a message of support. As I logged onto Facebook, I noticed that the last message between us was on February 13, 2015, the day Kylie died. On that day I received a sweet message of love and support. What a circle.


My thoughts put in words today are two-fold:

First: Life is meant to be lived in community, not alone. We are all called to bear each other’s burdens when they are too heavy to be lifted alone.

Second: Love well, say what needs to be said, and make the most of every moment you have. For you never know when the cat will come and your life will change in an instant.


Mama Wren keeps coming. On some trips, she has a hopeful worm in her mouth that she leaves with. On others she warns me to stay away from her nest with piercing threats. When will she know that her work is complete?