Hard-boiling an egg takes about 10 minutes; a haircut takes about a half hour; college typically about 4 years. All of this varies a bit, depending on how hard you like your eggs, how fancy a haircut you’re getting, or how many times you change your major. Things “taking time” seems about as self-apparent as it gets. (Unless you’re interested in a critical analysis of whether or not there’s any such thing as time–you might look here for more on that.)
What bugs me is that it’s so dismissive. While it’s intended to convey compassion, it mostly has the effect of pushing someone away.
What’s more, the activity that follows from the assertion that “it” will take time isn’t so helpful. What’s conveyed is that the best practice in response to trauma, pain, heartache or loss is, essentially, to wait it out. My objection to that is what’s not included: sharing your pain with friends, looking at how you got into the situation (where relevant), developing new ways of dealing with sadness, and exploring what comes next. In other words, “it’ll take time” begets passivity at a time of great need and great potential for growth.
Next time you find yourself starting to say it, check out whether you’re saying it just to have something to say. Perhaps consider instead, well, saying that: “I don’t know what to say, but I can see you’re in pain and I want to be close to you.” The next time a friend says it to you, ask for something better–a hug, a shoulder, some tough love, or a good conversation.
And if you’re therapist is the one saying it..? Maybe it’s time to consider a new therapist.