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. 

Birthdays in Heaven

Happy Birthday Baby,

I’ve been wondering what a birthday celebration in heaven looks like. I would imagine you get amazing gifts, a perfectly moist cake, and maybe you get to ride on a cloud or something. I’m sure our little homemade birthday parties wouldn’t measure up. Do you remember how mommy would make a beautiful cake, and have games and crafts prepared? Then I would hold a big cardboard cutout and you and your friends would throw jello at me. Those were fun days.

Today would be a big one for you, the day you officially became an adult. Eighteen. You could have voted in the next election. You always wanted to do grown up things and hated having to be the last one to get to do everything. But you got to see heaven first!

I miss you. It’s been five years since you died. That doesn’t seem like a long time, but it is an eternity when you’re separated from something you desperately want. It’s a hard life to know the one thing you want will never, ever happen. It’s a paradox – to want and can’t have. I’ve learned a lot about paradoxes. They’re a kind of contradiction and you probably don’t have them there. But a grieving life is one big paradox and lots of little ones.

The master paradox is one of steps. Every day feels like a step away from you. I’ve walked 1836 of them now and with each step, something is lost. Sometimes I have trouble remembering things about you and that breaks my heart all over again. But the flipside of this paradox is that every step is one closer to the day I’ll see you again. And that brings me joy.

We do have good days now. In fact, they probably outnumber the bad ones. It’s odd; sometimes having a good day makes me feel a little guilty, I’ll be honest. Like I’m moving on or something. I promise I’ll never forget you and I’ll never get over your loss.

You’re a huge part of everything I do, and so I wanted to say Happy Birthday. We’re all wearing yellow down here for you and doing something kind for someone else… like you always did.

I love you,

Daddy

 

 

 

Dear Daddy,

Thanks for sending me a letter on my birthday. I’ll be honest, I’d kind of forgotten. Days run together here in heaven and every one is the best one. That would be hard for me to explain, but you’ll understand when you get here.

We don’t celebrate our earth birthday, but you should see the celebrations we have when new people arrive. There are bands playing, cheering and shouting, and hugs from people they haven’t seen in a long time. And that happens every day! There’s always new people showing up. You would think it would get old, but it never does.

So I guess, in a way, we do celebrate birthdays – but the more important ones. The day you get to heaven beats the best of parties down there!

I miss you guys, too. But I can see things differently now. I see how short the time we’re not together is compared to all the time we’ll have. It’s like that little hard thing on the end of a shoe lace is your earthly life and the rest of the lace is eternity. I know you can’t think that way while you’re there – but the time is close when I’ll be running at you and welcoming you home. I promise we’ll celebrate to beat the band.

Oh, speaking of bands… they’re warming up. Someone’s coming! It’s my favorite one too – this New Orleans Jazz band – lots of trumpets and brass, and a big drumbeat. They’re fantastic – you’ll love them! I’d better go join in.

I love you all.

Smile,

Kylie

 

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