Time is a Great Healer...?

Time is a great healer. Apparently. 

It’s an expression that we will all have heard and no doubt have had said to us. I can remember during that strange limbo period after my Mother had died when life around me returned to normal and I was still wading through the void of pain, that hearing this expression would make me angry. Time was passing, I wasn’t healing. It was a lie... or perhaps there was something wrong with me and I had missed the healing train that would carry me forward into normal life.

It was the same when I heard people talk about loss. I hadn’t lost my Mother, she had died; there was a difference. If you lose something you can hopefully find it again, or find something to replace it. If you lose your keys or wallet or glasses then it’s an inconvenience but they can be replaced, and you move on. But I had a gaping void in my life and nothing could or would replace this.

Eventually my mind cleared, I began to focus and understand the reasons for what people say and what I felt.  We aren’t taught about death and grief, the whole gamut of emotions that hit us out of the blue like an express train.  One moment you can feel ‘ok’ then the next you’re shaking, sobbing or just want to scream.  So people really don’t know how to react, what to say or do.  They are uncomfortable with your pain, your grief and deep down they know there is nothing they can do to help.  They forget that the simple act of being there for you is enough, even when you forget they are there because the black hole of emotions has swallowed you. And so not knowing what to say, they use the age old clichés in the hope that it provides comfort because that’s all they know how to do, what any of us know to do until the day we stand there grieving. 

Time isn’t a great healer at all.  Time as it passes just allows us to change our lives, to accommodate the void that now exists where our loved one used to be.  Time gives us the opportunity to change and adapt and step back into living, with the grief now a part of our daily routine.  And time can help us regain some semblance of normality, as we know that every now and then the emotions will overflow and the tears will come. 

I didn’t lose my Mother, or indeed any of the other family members or friends who have died. They are still with me, still part of my life every single day.  And now after 2 years I can think back and smile and laugh at the memories of her. And sometimes I cry. And I still find it so hard to look at photographs.  But that will change.  My life has changed, adapted and altered so that the empty void has become part of my routine, but less painfully and with more smiles.  When someone close to us dies, we are changed and the difficult truth is that we will never be the same person ever again. We are made stronger.

Nigel J Brewis is an artist, illustrator and writer living in the north east with his partner and 4 cats. He is an holistic therapist and has worked for over a decade in mental health.


  1. This really does hit the nail on the head. Beautifully written, thank you.

  2. ‘They forget that the simple act of being there for you is enough, even when you forget they are there because the black hole of emotions has swallowed you.’ It’s so important. When people talked about my son after he died, I would cry and they would immediately clam up and apologise for upsetting me. They didn’t understand that, while it was painful, I also needed to know that he had made an impression on their lives; that I wasn’t the only one to grieve.

  3. No, time definitely isn't a "great healer"! Yesterday was the 11th anniversary of my mother's death and the pain is still as raw. I've now got the 11th anniversary of my dad's death to come in July. I'm still grieving 11 years on. I couldn't grieve properly for my mum as I had to be strong for my dad who was disabled. Then he died 5 months later.

    After my dad's funeral ended I went home alone - not one of my uncles,aunts, cousins said okay do you want to come back to ours. If it hadn't been for 4 of my parent's elderly frirnds helping me over the following days I would have ended my own life. My relations said "We'll be in touch" 11 years on and I'm still waiting.

    There hardly any counselling provision in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. I got 3 short sessions from the Carer's Centre and that was it. I wish this site had been up in 2008.


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