I have had many major changes in my life, so many that a while back I actually wrote a short book about life transitions. Any time there is a big change in our lives; it leaves a space, a hole, a void. Emptiness that we often so desperately want to fill… but how we choose to fill this void is so very important to our future happiness.
So, when you move and you feel alone and lonely, what do you do? When a relationship ends and you feel sad and isolated, what do you do? When someone close to you dies and you feel a vastness inside like you have never felt before, where your pain simply engulfs all of you, what do you do?
Do you quickly find a new friend in your new city, because at that moment in time you are not feeling too picky, so any friend will do? Do you rapidly find a new relationship because you are scared to be on your own, so any relationship will be better than being alone? Do you cling on to those around you because you are afraid you will drown in your pain otherwise, and any one around you will work?
When my dad suddenly died over a year ago, most likely from a recent medication change, I felt lost within my own grief. I had felt grief before, but nothing as deep or debilitating as this grief.
I knew as a counselor how important my daily self-care routine was (typically my morning run with my dog), but I realized early on that this was no longer enough, so I added in a page of journaling every morning. And, as every writer who has ever experienced grief realizes, making yourself write that very first page takes so much strength and will power, but once that first word is on the page, you often cannot stop writing, as the words and feelings and emotions and pain and grief, so quickly flow out of you and on to page after page after page.
And yet, this wasn’t enough either, there was still something missing to help me through my grief.
A close therapist friend had lost her best friend suddenly the month before my dad passed away. She had been posting her daily self-care routine on social media to keep her accountable and doing what she needed to be doing to help her through her early grief. What a brilliant and healthy use of social media, right?
Well, then my dad died, and her daily posts became like a lifeline to me. What is interesting is that we were doing almost the exact same self-care routines, except she was doing a daily two-minute mediation as well. I had tried longer stretches of meditation in the past, and could not commit to it consistently everyday, but two-minuets a day seemed doable.
It turns out that this short, daily meditation was doable and also life changing. I became more grounded and centered and present in my everyday life. I became more mindful of my five senses and what was going on around me. I started noticing when my body was craving stillness because it meant I needed to slow down and take a break from whatever it was I was doing at that moment in time.
All this also brought me closer to this friend; a friend who has helped to fill this void in my life that was left by the sudden loss of my dad. She is positive and funny and smart and encouraging and she builds me back up when I am feeling upset or unsure or lacking in some way, just the way my dad used to do when he was alive.
It is funny because our friendship deepened so slowly that I almost did not notice how it was filling this empty space in me. I am not sure exactly how this happens, but I will be forever grateful that it does happen; especially when we are patient and let these relationships grow and strengthen naturally over time.
I am hopeful that through our friendship I have been able to fill some of that emptiness that the passing of her best friend left within her as well.
I recently read two amazing books on grief, The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying by Nina Riggs and When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. Both are beautifully written and then suddenly end as both authors died very young from cancer. The endings of both books have stayed with me, almost hauntingly, as here are two books and two lives left unfinished. But, in speaking about filling these deep empty voids, I recently read in a magazine that as the late authors’ spouses were on tour together to publicize these books, they fell in love and are now together…