Time Does Not Heal All Wounds

By Deborah Morris Coryell

Among the most frequently repeated phrases about suffering are that “time heals all wounds” or “this too shall pass.” Time passes. It does not heal. Healing is an active process, not a passive one. If we have a cut and do nothing to clean it out or do not apply a salve, it will probably form a scab. It might take longer and it might develop an infection, but the wound will most likely close and leave a scar.

When I was 5 years old, I ran away from home. I didn’t get very far: the downstairs vestibule. I waited what seemed like an eternity for someone to come looking for me. When no one did, I put my hand through a small decorative pane of glass in my attempt to open the door. A little sliver of glass was left in the soft fleshy part of my hand. It closed up with that glass inside.

When we experience woundings to our heart, soul and mind, it feels as if we have been torn open. Sometimes we are bleeding, figuratively, from every orifice of our bodies. Eventually the bleeding stops and the wound closes, but what has closed inside? Have we healed or just closed up with our anger, fear, resentment and doubt inside? Occasionally we develop a “weeping wound,” which doctors define as a wound that doesn’t heal because of noxious matter that continues to fester and ooze. How many “weeping wounds” can we sustain before our entire system becomes infected?

As we begin to explore the meaning of healing through loss, we discover the ancient spiritual roots of the healing arts. From prehistoric time, the healer or shaman was the most powerful teacher and wise one of the clan. In many languages, the phrase to heal comes from the expression “to be whole,” derived from the belief that when we become sick, we lose our wholeness. Something or someone has broken through our wholeness and caused dis-ease within our body. To heal is to come back into that lost wholeness and ease. Returning to wholeness often means that we must somehow integrate the disease so it is no longer identified as a threat. Once it becomes part of us, we have incorporated what was thought to be a threat into our hearts and souls and minds. This explains how it is possible for someone with an incurable illness to be healed—they can use the disease as a path into wholeness. My friend Philomena lived 21 months past the three-month life span doctors had given her. In those two years she reached out to find her healing and possibly her cure. She searched for all those places inside where she felt “not whole” and eventually became the person she always wanted to be. Her last words to me were: “If the price of this illness was learning all I’ve learned, I gladly pay with my life because I’ve become the person I always wanted to be.”

Healing and curing are two very different concepts. Healing is a spiritual idea and curing is a medical one. Healing is an active process. It doesn’t happen to us; we must participate in the process of our healing. Healing happens for us. It is a gift we give to ourselves in the moment we decide to stay “open” to that which has broken us.

In chronic pain management, we are taught not to tighten around the pain but to relax and allow the pain to be present. The idea is that when pain is resisted, it intensifies, When we breathe deeply and acknowledge the presence of pain, it has room to move and can flow through us more readily. Pain is there to tell us something, to warn us of possible danger. This is as true for emotional, spiritual, and mental pain as it is for physical pain. When pain speaks, we need to listen. All it takes is paying attention to our pain so that when it comes, we remember to breathe and get soft. We don’t want to fight with our pain. We want to learn from it.

Time does not heal. But healing does take time. Give yourself the gift of time. To become whole means that as we open to the pain, we open to the loss. We break open and, as a consequence, we get bigger and include more of life. We include what would have been “lost” to us if our hearts and minds had closed against the pain. We include what would have been lost if we had not taken the time to heal. As singer-songwriter Carly Simon tells us: “There’s more room in a broken heart.”

Excerpted from Good Grief: Healing Through the Shadow of Loss

Related articles:
The Little Things We Do Make Us Stronger
Creating Inner Space Through Prayer or Meditation
Creating a Caring Space Through Prayer
Seasons of Grief

Also by Deborah Morris Coryell:
Simple Presence – Open Heart
The Art of Losing

Deborah Morris Coryell has worked in the health field developing wellness programs since 1974. She founded the Wellness Education Department for Canyon Ranch Spa Resorts as well as for the Pritkin Longevity Center. She is a visiting faculty member for Dr. Andrew Weil’s program in Integrative Medicine and is cofounder and executive director of the Shiva Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the education and support of those dealing with loss and death, located in San Luis Obispo, California.

Image credit: andreyutzu/StockXchng


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Comment by Bera on November 4, 2018 at 12:04pm

September 30, 2012 was the last day that I felt whole. My son left the house about 4 pm after he received a call from a girl telling him she removed his clothes from his truck.  He had just turn 20 years old on September 21. 

I was in the house when I hear him talking.  I told him told him not to go over to her house and he started that he wanted his clothes back.  I followed him outside and he kissed me on my cheek and said mom, I will be right back. 

He never returned. 

I asked his dad to call him and tell him the weather was going to be getting bad. He told his dad that he was riding around with some friends and he was on his way back soon. Later one of his friends posted on Facebook that he was shot in the head and to pray for him. Facebook is faster than the police, unfortunately.  

His dad got a call and immediately I dropped everything and headed to the hospital. 

Yes, it was T.J.

The nurse finally came and asked us to walk into another room. She told us he had been shot and they didn't think he would make it. Well, he tried for 3 days. He was a fighter. However,  the wound was to much. 

Here we are our only son, talking to him. I begging him to hold on. I apologized for all my mistakes that I made his short 20 years of life. I reminded him he had a daughter name Mariyah and a son Jaden. They needed him. His dad needed him. I needed him and I loved him with all my heart. 

Folks told us to pray, believe, have faith and think positive, read the bible and everything would be alright.

No of that help save T.J. life. He is dead now!

Well, 2018, my pain is the same as 2012.

Time does not heal every thing. 

The girl and her brother told the police that my son shot himself and we all knew that that was a lie. But a sister and brother would never tell the truth.  No healing from a lie that they told. But in her home who words could be heard. Only their lies to this day. 

This fight and struggle is real and living ever since September 30, 2012 s like and always will be as follows: 

Yes it hurts 

Yes I cry every day 

Yes, no one really knows how much I hurt by looking at me

I am a mess from the inside, my mind, thoughts and inner peace seeks the truth.

My marriage fell apart that day too.

We are just two folks under the same roof that know each other. I don't Enjoy my job anymore, I just have to pay bills and shelter over my head. I want to retire as soon as I am old enough.  I am 59 now, and I am counting the years, days. I will not have to go out in the public and smile like I really care.

I am tired of this pain.

Comment by claire dionne on February 12, 2011 at 10:42am

Leonard, I hear and understand your call to be able to live your own closure, your very own unique way, your very own understading and knowledge of relations and events. I am battling through this myself rignt now (family rifts and over-performers versus the weakest of us all  due to illness or else), and I have the assurance I survive the despair ONLY through  the knowledge that we are all on this earth to learn about us through living. Which means experimenting.


Whenever things coming to us are easy, we can rest, Ok... But we don't learn. As simple as that! We just remain existentially as little and ignorant as on our very first moments of conscious living. The greatest French writer of ALL time, Marcel Proust, came from nothing but pain,hunger, loneliness, and an awful lot of bad experiences and choices that he made. But in his older years, most successful and looking back on his life of misery, he told his best friend: "I have had the worst of life, and survived it. What I learned of myself made me who and what I am. If I were to live it again I would not change anything".

This humble lady writer, not famous for a dime, is telling you that our learning path takes us to the most intense experiences. We have to try to go through them whatever they are. The worse the learning,  the more knowledgeable you become. Instead of refusing them one after the other, it it possible to simply accept whatever is given and sort of feel it just passing right through you. It is astounding the quieting feeling that can come from the strongest of difficult time. Just  experience it while allowing yourself the largest measure of softness for the space you create in your heart not even knowing that it happens. I have just read somewhere here that the more grief you go through the more your heart gets bigger and softer and opens larger and larger chambers to feel love... love of yourself, to start with. And this is YOUR heart, YOUR chest who is gaining your benefits directly. The softest place ever for you is within this very own heart fo yours and arounds its surrounding structures. When every is noisy and all tightened up by pain and sorrow, will and need to get away from a painful experience (that grueling feeling of injustice towards your is a great example) just try to quieten your chest down and just let yourself feel the sofnest that you have attained within yourself through the learning processes of that one moment of hardship. You deserve this and it is yours and yours only to attain and feel...at will.  With a simple very very deep in and out breath, so very deep and woolly one wants to find it back over and over, just let it be behind your chest and own its deep and warm feeling.

The greatest thing here is that area of sheer wellbeing and softness at the end of an intense moment of grief or sadness or despair is invariably attainable if you let it go through you and allow you to feel it freely for a moment. You will learn to choose its lenght or it will come and go by itself. Just let it be; after all, we both know you have become an expert at feeling the despair in the moment and it comes at will (unfortunatly). All is required is to allow gently the difficult moment to happen, and then be learned as unique experiences for you; and then surrender it to your very own treatment process equipment right within that soft place in your chest. Let it be the experience you have allowed yourself to get through as you learn more and more about it. You know what? You will soon learn that you do not need to feel so strong pain when you still have to learn from that particuliar experience.


You have to accept to be gentle with yourself, your human self, made better and stronger through these learning experiences. Imagine having learned to enjoy the softness and the gentle warmth inside of your own chest, the more difficult experiences the more assurance of the depthness and longevity knowing you

Comment by Leonard Shick on October 10, 2010 at 10:29pm
What do you do, when others control your closure? How do you find inner peace when false accusations are publicly printed about you? Whom do you turn to when others are taken from you falsely? How can you start the healing process when ones rights and laws have been transgressed against them, yet the truth binds your fate, and the memory of a child demands justice? Where do you find comfort for your soul when your faith falters?
Comment by Shirley Gutierrez on July 13, 2010 at 12:36pm
Dear Karen,
Yes, part of you is missing! I'm feeling the same thing. I have lost 2 of my 3 daughters to cancer in the last ll months. I am doing my best to try to recover from this but I feel there are 2 parts of me missing as if there are 2 holes in my body. I have accepted the fact that this feeling will never go away and I will never completely recover.
Comment by Kelly's Mom on July 3, 2010 at 11:30am
Time does not heal wounds. My beautiful daughter Kelly committed suicide so they say 6 months ago. Every day gets worse, I feel a part of me is missing, I am depressed and angry, I have panic attacks and I hate life without my daughter. I recently moved with my new husband but I unintently argue with him because I feel the loss of my daughter all the time. She was 27, she had her first baby, he was 6 months old. I will never forget that day/night, this has been the worst time of my life. How does one go on with the loss of a child. Life seems worthless and the pain sometimes is so hard to bear. Time makes this worse. Till the day I die I will think about Kelly. I feel I can't talk to anyone not even my husband. Oh when it happened everyone wanted to help and talk but not now, its like it never happened, to me everyday is a nightmare but I have to be a real good actress and put on a good face. I wish this on not even my worst enemy. The pain will never go away and I will never have my daughter again. Thanks for this website. At least everyone here knows the pain and our grief. My heart goes out to us all.
Happy 4th July...
Comment by Brittany on June 1, 2010 at 1:57pm
I am 23 years old and just lost my fiance best friend about a month ago to a motorcycle accident. i have never had to deal with losing anybody close to me until now. I'm not quite sure how to handle it and at times i feel like i will never get better. I'm hoping that this website will have some useful information so maybe i can cope better with my loss. my mom is having me go to a therapist but i'm not sure if it will help me out that much. i dont really know what to do, he made me feel complete. its like just yesterday i was laying on his chest listening to his heart beat! how do you ever get over something like that?
Comment by Nora on February 20, 2010 at 3:55pm
My broken heart is just that broken, My father passed on Nov 28 2007, due to CHR and ezefezma, July 12,2008 my 3 1/2 month granddaugher died suddenly, my granddaughters father passed,my son, now he passed suddenly Nov 28.2009, I found him on his bedroom floor, he had been gone about 12 hours. He is my only child, i feel my self hurting deeper and depression setting in more. I still have a hard time believeing he is gone. I miss him so so much. He had a hard hard life, always had a black cloud over his head, no matter what he did or how he did it it got messed up. Now i have feelings of looking forward to the day i pass. I don't want to go on, but i still have 2 other grand children that i love. I cry every day and still smile because i do know my son was saved and in heaven. Every now and then i smell his cologne. I wish i could go back the last 2 weeks of his life, i know something was going wrong. I have so many regrets. This greif feels like it is crushing me...
Comment by Georgia on September 21, 2009 at 9:31pm
You all have such fresh wounds. I have been grieving all day for my loved ones and I lost mine on June 6, 07 my husband who I miss terribly, and my 31 year old daughter who's life was taken just 9 months later on March 22,08 by her X-boy friend. The trial is still pending. He's in jail but little that does to ease the pain. she left a 10 1/2 year old daughter by beautiful granddaughter, who lives with her Aunt. I am 68 and never though I would lose one of my daughters before me. I Pray each day for my other daughters to be safe and healthy. Sometimes when the pain (lonelness) gets so great I go for a walk or get on the treadmill, sometimes it helps. My heart goes out to all of you who are dealing with this horrible grief. May God Bless you all.
Comment by Wendy on September 21, 2009 at 9:02pm
Thank you all for sharing, no, I agree, time does not heal the broken hearts that looses loved ones, I lost my son at the hands of others and the investgation is still in process now 2 years later. it keeps the wound open, I miss my son so much, we were very close, a day does not go by that I don't think of him and periodically cry. the pain is deep, and I still feel and pray everyday, his death is justified. I know one day I will see Matthew again in heaven, but his life was cut short at only 30 years old. I can't go into details at this time because of how things are at the moment. but it helps to write about it. It's my theropy. thank you for sharing.
Comment by Doreen Johnson on August 17, 2009 at 4:05pm
God Bless all of you and help you through each day. Losing a loved one, in my case it was a favorite aunt followed by my husband, is so devastatingly painful words can't express it. I'm touched by the posts that you all have shared....I really haven't expressed any feelings much as many of my family members would rather not talk about it. I don't know if it's because they don't know what to say, or if their pain is too much, or if they all think it's time I get over it.

Thanks to each of you for sharing your feelings and experiences. At least I know I'm not "crazy" thinking or feeling the way I do. Trying to deal with loss by doing little more than working and sleeping isn't working too well but not sure how to do anything else. You'd think with my husband's death being over 4 years ago, I'd be "used" to it by now. I sure am no where near used to it and often wonder if I will have a life again rather than just existing.

Comment by Kevin on July 24, 2009 at 7:04pm
After reading some of the messages on this site, I felt compelled to post this message and share my story. I lost my father to cancer and that was one of the most difficult times in my life. Watching my father battle cancer, endure the treatments and take his last breath was not easy although it has made me stronger and become a better man. Please take a few moments of your time to read an article that was published about me, my father and my fight against cancer through song. This is truly touching so many people’s lives and I just want to continue to share it with the world. If my story helps at least one person deal with their loss of a loved one, then I feel like I’m doing my part.

Link to article http://www.2theadvocate.com/entertainment/50264372.html

Kevin “K-V” Stanford
Comment by joni turk on July 6, 2009 at 11:34pm
I have lost all of my sons in the past nine years. One of my twins, age 24 in 2000, his twin brother aged 30 in 2006 and our youngest boy age 30 on thanksgiving day 2008. the first death was suicide. to this day i have no idea why. the second twin was a horrific head on collision. now, our youngest son, i blame on iraq. he had come back and was terribly lost. we have four daughters left and i pray every day for their lives. i am not even sure if i have totally grieved for each child as i feel like i am in a whirlwind. my husband has been a wreck and had to be put on prozac just to deal with it. i am trying to hold the pieces together. we have moved far away from our home in order to try and heal. it is a peaceful place and we are slowly healing one day at a time. we miss you sons and part of our hearts will always be missing.
Comment by Steve Cain on June 26, 2009 at 8:16am
My wife just died suddenly Sunday night and I can relate. I have had desires to dial her cell just to hear her voice. I would love to have her here right now just to finish some things we started. Now I'll never get that chance...
Comment by Sandy on May 28, 2009 at 11:40pm
Time doesn't heal all wounds is very true. I lost my Dad to heart trouble when i was 38 & he was 71. I truly miss my Dad to this day & wish I could have him back for just a few minutes to ask his forgiveness for my stupidity in saying things that I shouldn't have said & would like to apologize for. Also , I would like to apologize for blaming him for things that were happening in the family that i have since learned he wasn't responsible for. Mostly I would like to have him back for a few minutes because I miss " Mr. Fix-it" He could fix just about anything & I miss calling to ask for his advise on how to fix something. I miss his beautiful blue eyes, his smile, the sound of his voice, the sound of his laughter & his dry sense of humour. He was indeed my hero, but I recognized that fact too late. He was a Capt. on the Fire Dept. & I have a tattoo , a congee for fire on my leg with Dad on it & the date he passed away. I have had many compliments on it & even though I know he wouldn't "approve" of my getting a tattoo , I hope he would be touched by the honour of it .... I miss you Dad !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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