Accelerate Your Recovery from Loss: Healing Doesn’t Have to Take As Much Time As You Think

Monday, December 28, 2009 13:01
Posted in category Setting Goals

By Ellen Brown

If you’ve ever lost a loved one or even a job, someone has probably told you, with the best of intentions, to “just give it time.”

The only problem is that that statement simply isn’t true. “It’s one of those falsehoods that’s been passed down from generation to generation by ill-informed people,” say John W. James and Frank Cherry, authors of  The Grief Recovery Handbook: A Step-by-Step Program for Moving Beyond Loss.

The truth is time alone doesn’t heal anything. I mean, think about it. When you break your leg, does your doctor say “Just go home and give it time. Time heals all wounds.” I certainly hope not, and if so, I’d advise you to run, I mean hobble, to another doctor, who will actually mend your broken limb.

One of the reasons we often tell people who are dealing with loss that “it will just take time” or “time heals all wounds” is that we don’t know what else to say or what other options to offer. As a result, some people wait around for years, hoping one day they’ll magically feel better.

In The Grief Recovery Handbook, James and Cherry say they sometimes ask participants at their seminars whether anyone is still feeling the pain caused by the death of a loved one 20 or more years ago, and many people say they still are, in fact, adversely affected by their loss.

While you may be inclined to dismiss those reports as purely anecdotal, studies have shown that people typically suffer from their loss for many years. Through his extensive research, psychologist Edward Diener found that it often takes widows between five and eight years to regain their previous sense of wellbeing. Similarly, those who lose their jobs often suffer the effects of their loss long after they return to the working world, according to Dr. Diener, the Joseph R. Smiley Distinguished Professor of Psychology at the University of Illinois.

I don’t know about you, but 20 years, or even five to eight years, sounds like a long time to wait. When we tell people to “just give it time,” we’re actually inviting them to wait for a day may never come.

The good news is that there IS, in fact, something you can do to deal with your loss and accelerate your healing. And it doesn’t have to take 20 years or even half a decade. Though everyone is different, it can take as little as several months (depending on your circumstances) to move through your loss, if you are actively working the process with a life transitions coach.

As a life transitions coach, I help clients:

  • Express their feelings, so they can grieve their losses
  • Explore the ups and downs of their relationship with the person or job they lost so they can see their circumstances more objectively
  • Look at the unfinished business they had with the person who passed away (or a colleague who fired them)
  • Find a way to bring closure to the situation, even if they can no longer speak with that person
  • Look at the lessons they learned from the relationship or job and how the lessons caused them to grow
  • Explore what they DO have to be grateful for in their current lives
  • Consider how they can use the lessons they learned in the next chapter of their life
  • Transform their lives, so they are thriving, rather than “surviving”
  • Move beyond their loss to a new beginning

When I help clients work through these steps (not that it’s a linear process), it accelerates the healing process, because instead of waiting for time to pass, they are taking action designed to promote their healing. This process helps people move into the next phase of their lives in a way that is more hopeful and less fearful, allowing them to open to life’s limitless possibilities instead of bracing against the danger of being hurt again.

So what are your thoughts about the phrase “just give it time?”

In the past, how long has it taken you to move through a difficult loss?

I’d love to hear what you have to say. Please join in the conversation by leaving a comment here on Stepping Stones (scroll down to the bottom of the post).

Are you dealing with a recent loss? If so, I’d love to help out. Visit my website at to sign up for an introductory session or a coaching package that’s right for you. Since coaching sessions are conducted by phone, I can work with clients anywhere in the world.

Ellen H. Brown is a certified professional coach based in Cleveland, Ohio.

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One Response to “Accelerate Your Recovery from Loss: Healing Doesn’t Have to Take As Much Time As You Think”

  1. Susan Steinbrecher says:

    December 31st, 2009 at 9:12 am

    I believe “just give it time” is a common phrase we often all use when at a loss for words when something heart wrenching happens to our friends or family. For some people, I think time heals wounds (with in reason). But for most, I believe talking through it with a professional is the best route to go. When we are in such a “low” place it’s hard to identify we are trapped in a pattern. Beautiful post, Ellen!


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