Six years have passed since my daughter died from the injuries she received in a car crash. Three other family members died the same year. As I look back on my bereavement journey, I see spikes of grief – a rush of painful feelings – some expected and some unexpected. I also see that multiple losses and time have changed me.
Recently I read an article by Elizabeth Harper Neeld, PhD, published on the Legacy Connect website. The article, “How Long is this Grieving Going to Last,” describes two types of time, chronos and kairos. I hadn’t encountered these words before. What did they mean? How did they apply to me?
According to Neeld, chronos time is “ordinary” time, measured with a calendar, and divided into days, weeks, months, and years. Kairos time is our inner time, or as Neeld puts it, “moments of awakening” and “paying attention to the present moment.” Neeld says this is the time that really matters to us. In short, kairos times are those times when we are connected to our emotions.
Though we have made progress, many people still think we should be over grief in three months. Every grieving parent knows this idea is false. According to Neeld, there is no right or wrong time for grief. We take the time we need, she continues, and ask ourselves important questions. Some of my questions were:
• Will I survive such tragedy?
• How do multiple losses differ from one?
• Am I on the right path?
• What can I learn from grief?
• Do I have a new life mission?
• Can I make good things from grief?
• Are my husband and I raising our grandchildren “right?”
• Will we be able to let go of the twins when the time comes?
Only those who are grieving, you and I, can determine how long it will take to come to terms with grief. Neeld says healthy grieving, “at the right time for each of us, is an experience of integration.” After my daughter died several friends repeated the adage about time healing all things. Time can help, but in the long run, we really heal ourselves. Instead of marking time, we can make a conscious decision to grow from grief.
So I live each day in kairos time and it has led me in surprising directions. For years I had been writing health and wellness books. Kairos time changed the focus of my writing to grief and recovery. Like many bereaved parents, I decided to share my story. I speak to church groups, community groups, at bereavement conferences, and bereavement chapter meetings.
Were it not for kairos time I wouldn’t be doing any of these things. How do you measure time? Are you stuck stuck in chromos time and obsessing on the date of your loved one’s death. Or have you created a new life for yourself? Each day, you may memorialize your loved in various ways. Volunteering in memory of your loved one may also be something you do. Let kairos time lead you, guide you, and comfort you.
Love doesn’t end with death. You live your life in kairos time because you love a child.