The Emptiness of Grief

Question: The emptiness left behind after a loved one dies. What do I do with it?

Emptiness is one of the aspects of grieving, experiencing that hole in our life and heart left by the person who has died. We know that hole must be filled with living but early in our grief experience it seems an overwhelming task just to get out of bed let alone figure out how to move forward into building a new life, and most of all a new life without the person who filled the emptiness we are now feeling.

My answer is simple yet the hardest to understand. Time. Time will fill in the emptiness. No words, no pills, not even all the activities you can find to keep doing will fill the emptiness; only time.

At first the pain and emptiness of loss is with us every waking and even sleeping moment. Over a period of months we gradually begin to see life moving around us through less pain. Life becomes less clouded by our grieving. But know we do not recover or even heal from grief. We learn how to live with it. We learn how to go on living without the person who was once so much a part of our life. That doesn’t mean we forget about them or we care less for them, we just learn how to go on living without their physical presence.

On many levels, we recognize we must figure out how to go on living with the loss in our hearts. Some of us start running, keeping so busy we can’t think or feel our loss. Some of us fight depression and lethargy as our grief becomes a heavy weight that keeps us from moving. We can rationalize, we can cry, we can be angry, we can eat too much, we can eat too little. All of these actions become our way of filling the emptiness. None of it works--we are still empty.

What to do? Be gentle with yourself. Accept the down days, strive for the better days. Don’t run too fast or walk too slow. Allow yourself to experience the feelings but gently help yourself out of them. Reach out to others (easier said than done). Cry when you need to and allow yourself to laugh and enjoy the life you still have. In the months following the death of your special person begin to think about how your life can be a tribute to the one who is gone. It isn’t how many tears that are shed that says how much we love and miss a person. Let how well you go on living say how much you love.

Emptiness is a normal, natural part of the grieving process. I also acknowledge the hollowness of words from others to “make it better.”

16 comments

barbara

Hi Rav, an interesting part of life is we tend to not appreciate something until it is gone. So normal but doesn’t make it hurt any less. You might write your dad a letter and tell him from your heart all the thoughts and feelings you are having with him gone—the I wish I had, the how much you miss him. Write from your heart and tears and then burn the letter and scatter the ashes to the wind. It might be good for your mum to write one also. Blessings! Barbara

Rav

I just lost my Dad to cancer at the beginning of July. He had been fighting it for almost two years and I really felt he was getting better, then all of a sudden he started declining. To begin with I was in shock and now the reality has started to hit. Me and my mum took care of him the last 10 months as he had lost his mobility. I never use to have time to do anything because I would be helping to care for my Dad. I use to complain all the time because I never got time to just do what I wanted. Now I feel so guilty for feeling like that. I’d give anything to go back and care for my Dad. The emptiness I feel is horrible. Me and my mum are really struggling. It’s just me and her left in the house now. My brothers don’t even come to check up on her and it’s really frustrating me. I just feel so lost right now.

Jasleen

I lost my beloved mother in March 2020.. my
Life has been so empty without her.. I have no clue how I m gonna live my long life with the only person who loved me more than herself.
I
May never recover. I miss her.. I cry every night n every day n all the time…
Reading the lines made me feel I can relate the way of pain mentioned in article…
Thank you

Ellen

I just lost my sister. She was my second mom. She had Parkinson’s and it is a very dehabilatating disease. She lived 6 hours away,so it was difficult to see her often. I’m so happy she isn’t suffering but I feel SO empty. I was closest to her and my other sibling who died three years ago. I am grateful for my supportive husband, children and know it takes time to grieve.

Gill

The anniversary of my husbands death is approaching and I’m feeling sad and empty. He died 13 years ago. It’s very true that you never stop missing a loved one, just have to learn to live with it. I wish I could be happier, but I don’t think I ever will. My heart has a big hole in it left by his death. Don’t get me wrong, I live my life, I work, have a lovely family and grandchildren, friends and a partner of 3 years. Previous to him, I was with someone for 6 years. But they aren’t him. He was my soulmate, my best friend and we met very young and married young, grew up together and had a family. He can’t be replaced, I understand that, but I miss him so very much and I miss the life we had too. I feel sad for all the things he has missed. He would of so loved the 10 grandkids we have now, would of loved that he could teach them stuff and they would of adored him. It’s always worse this time of year as he died on 2 January and was taken to the hospice on Christmas Eve. People ask me if I’m looking forward to Christmas…… I smile and say yes…. but I hate it. Thank you for your wise and kind words. I will allow myself this sadness and these tears. Xx

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