Losing someone you love is hard. By hard, I mean almost impossible to get past. It invades every aspect of your life. It affects your appetite, your sleep, your relationships, your hobbies, and your work. It leaves a gaping hole where happiness used to reside. Loss also teaches one helluva valuable life lesson: time does not heal all wounds. Time is cruel and it punishes. Time forces you to remember, and it forces you to move forward, but what it doesn’t do is make anything easier.
Something does happen eventually, however, and you learn to try to fill that hole with new things. You attempt to find ways to make it hurt less. You know it will never heal completely, but hope that one day it will become a scar instead of an open wound, even if it is a scar that hurts when it rains, or it’s cold, or you just sleep on it the wrong way.
There’s a valuable distinction to be made between time and filling the void in your life. Time will pass regardless of what you do or don’t do. That’s the curse of it, it never stops, for anyone. Filling the void in your life is a much different process, as it involves you actively seeking new and enjoyable moments. While it may take time before you’re ready to open yourself up to something new, time itself isn’t enough. Time can’t do it alone. You must be proactive in your own healing process. You must get off the couch, out of the house, and find something tangible to fill the empty space.
To put the difference between what I call proactive and reactive healing into perspective, I will outline two similar yet vastly different days. The first day begins with the power going out at three in the morning, and because of the power outage, your alarm doesn’t go off and you oversleep. After rushing to get ready, you speed toward your place of employment and get pulled over by a police officer, which causes you to not only be fined for your infraction, but also to be even later than you anticipated. Once at work, your boss questions why you’re late and you begin to argue that it isn’t your fault, but rather, it was a series of unfortunate events that led to your tardiness. Your boss doesn’t accept your excuse and verbally reprimands you. You leave her office feeling even angrier than when your alarm didn’t go off or the cop pulled you over. You feel down and out, and your work performance suffers because of it. After work, you blow off your friends for happy hour because you had a terrible day and you go home, curl up on the couch, and binge a Netflix show while feeling sorry for yourself. You sleep awfully and the process repeats itself the next day.
Day two begins in exactly the same way. The power goes out at three in the morning and you sleep in. Instead of getting up and rushing out the door and speeding to work, however, you take a few moments to calm yourself down and make a plan of action. You decide to text your boss first thing and explain the scenario. You make coffee, you shower, and you get dressed. Once in the car, you don’t speed and therefore, don’t get pulled over by the police. You listen to a podcast in the car, uninterrupted, and drink your coffee. This serves as a form of meditation so when you arrive at work, you are in a much calmer state than you were when you woke up late. You go into your boss’s office and she still reprimands you for your tardiness, but on your way out she thanks you for letting her know what was going on. Back at your desk, you know you did all you could to make the situation better, so you aren’t as flustered. You make a to-do-list and you attack your tasks for the day. Your work productivity for the day is about medium paced and you are exhausted when it’s quitting time. You really want to blow off your friends for happy hour, but you gave them your word you were going and so you force yourself to go to the bar. An hour later, when you tell the story of your alarm, your entire group is laughing and starts recounting their own similar stories. When you finally lay your head down on your pillow, it’s with a smile on your face. You know tomorrow is a new day, and with that, you fall asleep.
The first day was filled with reactionary behavior. You allowed yourself to become a victim of circumstance and emotion. During the second day, however, you took a proactive approach and made the best out of a bad situation. While neither day would be considered a perfect day, day two was definitely the more positive one.
The same applies for when you lose someone you love. Sure, you can bury yourself in your bed with a tub of ice cream, but time itself won’t heal you. You need to get out in the world and make the most out of a bad situation. You must proactively try to fill the void. Who knows, you just might like what you find.
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