“You're an orphan right? You think I know the first thing about how hard your life has been, how you feel, who you are, because I read Oliver Twist? Does that encapsulate you? “
Good Will Hunting
Ask enough people and they will tell you that time heals all wounds. That if you put enough distance between the horrors of your life, the hurt eventually disappears and the pain subsides. That you can move forward. It doesn’t matter if it’s days- weeks – months – years – enough time will make everything better. A broken heart. A busted marriage. A failed relationship. Infidelity. The loss of a loved one. Supposedly time has the healing power of a circus carnie.
Except it doesn’t always work that way.
It’s bullshit advice that is too often meaningless; words thrown around by people who have nothing else to offer, no matter how well-intentioned they might be.
Life can kick your ass in unimaginable ways and the passage of time will never diminish the brutality of those experiences. A harsh fact of life is that there are some wounds that just don’t heal. In dealing with their pain, victims-turned-survivors learn how to push forward, putting one foot slowly in front of the other until they begin to walk. Some take longer to do it. Some move faster and farther. Some find a renewed strength in their own determination. Others falter as they try to move forward. None run the way they used to. Time cannot replace what has been taken.
I live in a house like many others- a home with a strong foundation, walls, and windows that block the views while letting neighbors catch only glimpses of life inside. It is a house filled with incredible kindness, grace, beauty, and a love unmatched by any I have ever known – the kind that wraps around me fully and completely. It is a house filled with strength and quiet courage. It is a place where I find my own strength from the woman I love in ways I can’t express, and ways that humble me in my own inadequacies. It is also a house filled with pain. Pain that won’t heal, no matter how many years pass. Domestic violence and sexual violence leave that behind – scars that don’t fade away or disappear.
The passage of time does not matter in my house.
The curious thing about time is that it can be a paradox, allowing you to look forward while also enabling you to dig into the past. Spend too much time looking backwards and you can never move forward. Not long ago I believed I could make things better by talking about the past – that by somehow reliving each cataclysmic event my love had gone through would lead to some kind of cathartic epiphany while making everything better and easier to deal with. That the pain felt by these people I love fiercely would be tolerable if they could somehow examine it, dissect it, and talk about where it came from. But I was as wrong about that as I have ever been wrong about anything before. You can’t erase pain. Not with words and not with detailed examinations – that becomes another form of victimization survivors have to go through, with more questions to answer when they really should not be subjected to questions at all. In many cases, especially for survivors of both domestic violence and sexual violence, the only place the past belongs is in the rearview mirror where it cannot intrude on the present. When even seemingly inconsequential moments hide triggers that bring back nightmares, an uninvited look at the past can take someone down a wrong-way path of horrific proportions.
It’s in our DNA to solve problems and find answers, even when others don’t ask you to take on that role. If you aren’t a survivor the first thing to realize is that you will never have anything more than words to offer. And there are no “right words” to talk away pain. I didn’t get that at first and it took time to understand – I don’t have a single answer that will make anything better and I probably never will. I’m learning to be okay with that. I’ve come to understand that the only thing I can do – the only thing anyone who loves a survivor can do – is to be supportive and to love unconditionally. Love deeply and fiercely and never stop loving.
More people need to understand that.
Ask enough people and they will tell you all kinds of answers about how long it takes a wound to heal.
The only correct answer is that it doesn’t matter.
It will take as long as it needs to take.