When I was a kid, I was simultaneously enthralled by and scared of thunderstorms. My parents taught me the old trick of counting how long of a time gap there was between a bolt of lightning and the clap of thunder. The closer in time those two events were, the closer the storm was to you. Soon it seemed like the thunder and the lightning were happening at the same time. “It’s right over our heads now!” My parents would say. Then the time in between would grow longer, the thunder would get softer, and soon it would all be over.
Healing works kind of like this.
When the pain is right on top of you, the smashes to your heart seem to fall one on top of another in great rapidity. Memory! Recollection! Nostalgia! Betrayal! Heartbreak! There is little or no time between these shocks of pain. You try to count. You try to breathe. You’re never quite sure if you will make it through the storm while you’re in it.
As time goes on, without you realizing it at first, the space between the shocks becomes larger. Now you only hurt a few times a day. Now your nightmares are down to one, then to zero. Now your nights of sleeping without waking are up to two in a row. Three. Counting and breathing.
Pretty soon the hits stop coming, at least for the most part. You might hear a roll of thunder in the distance, and you take notice, but it dissipates again. You’re paying attention to the clearing in the clouds and the faint outline of the sun. You wonder if you might even see a rainbow.
Pretty soon you don’t even need to count anymore. The storm has run its course and it’s hard to remember what it was like when it was right on top of you.