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“In between goals is a thing called life that has to be lived and enjoyed.”

~Sid Caeser

Learning #4 of 5 Helping Others Grieve and Respecting Timeframes

The ancient Greeks had two words to describe time.  One was Kronos, from which the English word chronological is derived. It means clock time – time measured by seconds, minutes, hours and years.  Kronos time is gauged by the calendar. It’s fixed, full of deadlines, schedules and in this technology-laden world, annoying beeps and reminders of what we should be doing every minute.

The other Greek word for time was Kairos, that means the right or opportune moment (the supreme moment). Kairos time refers to the time in which personal life moves forward through moments of awakening or realization, resulting from paying attention to the present moment. Kairos is an unmeasured kind of time some have compared to being in a “carpe diem” mode where you seize the days.

I had never heard of these two types of time until I recently read an article by Elizabeth Harper Need, Ph.D., published on the Legacy Connect website titled, “How Long Is This Grieving Going to Last?” According to Need, grief is best measured in Kairos time, not Kronos time. 

She says, “We are tempted to measure our grief journey in days and months”. We think, “All four seasons have passed, I should be ok by now.” Well-meaning people suggest, “Time will heal” or “Give yourself a few months, you’ll feel like yourself again.”  As all those who have traveled this path know, it is not the number of days that matter.  It is the progress that we’ve made in our learning, growing from our grief.  It’s the important questions we ponder and the revelations we receive.  Questions such as,

 “Will I make it through this pain?”

“Why did this happen to me?”

“What can I learn from my grief?”

As I wrote my first book, We Lost Her recently, I pondered this concept of time and grief.  My six siblings and I certainly heard over and over how time passing would heal us from the pain we felt at our Mom’s death – and learned that it didn’t.  Healing is an active not a passive job – we all had to work hard at growing through our grief, each in our own way and in our own time.  On page 171 of We Lost Her, we describe this learning and an experience I had with a friend that was grieving:

“Everyone grieves on their own timeline has their own individual grief response and way of mourning.  As someone wanting to help others grieve, it’s important to honor their journey, not impose our own schedule or experience.  What works for me may not for you, so seek to understand and then support, not edict what the griever needs to do.

We had a dear friend, Rosie, who lived across the street from us in Decatur, Illinois. It was our first move away from our home area, in 1988.  She was a “character,” outspoken and loud, but caring and loving too. The kind of character who would poke at your chest to make a point. She and her husband, Lambert, didn’t have any children and they quickly became our adopted grandparents in Decatur.  Joy and Ab loved them dearly. 

When Lambert died unexpectedly in 1991 Rosie sank deeply into a sad, sad place.  For months, years, she cried.  I confess I lost patience with her, trying to cajole her out of her funk. I realize now, that was wrong.  She just needed to grieve in her own way, in her own time.” 

Heartlinks Grief Center works in Kairos time, helping those that are grieving to make progress on their own timeframe.  The staff and volunteers have the heart needed to nurture that grief journey, with patience.

My charge for you this week, dear reader, is to practice patience.  Patience with those you love who are grieving.  Patience with yourself in your grief.  Patience that you will make it through.  Not that you will ever not miss or forget your loved one – you never get over that loss in your heart – but that you will, in your own Kairos, not Kronos, time, have peace and calmness and find healing and purpose from your grief.

Be Blessed,


“We Grow Stronger Together”

Ellen Krohne, author of We Lost Her, available on

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