5 Popular Actions of Those Who Have Experienced Loss
- Miriam Neff Author
- 2017 18 Jul
Filling the Void
Emptiness is usually uncomfortable. Whether it’s coming home to an empty house, checking a bank account to find a zero balance, or opening the cupboard to find only old crackers and a few cans of soup. We don’t like having less. So we take action. Taking action is not a bad thing on its own. But beware; filling a void is better when it’s not done on impulse. When you feel empty, pause first and engage your mind and talk with a treasured friend. A feeling of emptiness is still better than filling that void with the wrong person or thing. Things can always get worse.
How do I know this? Throughout my counseling career I’ve watched, learned, and listened to those who have struggled. In my own life by becoming a widow, I’ve felt that same void. While job losses and home foreclosures are painful, I believe the greatest pain is that of loosing someone you love. It’s an ending you can’t change—a void that screams to be filled. There are options to take, some grim and some golden.
Here are five popular actions those who have experienced loss take. These are not necessarily appropriate, just popular.
1. We hoard.
We accumulate, often at great expense to our wallet and reducing the comfort of our living space. The popular reality television show, Hoarders, fascinates us all. We watch, aghast, as the camera rolls over stuff piled so high that living spaces are no longer living spaces. They are dangerous pathways. Whether the stuff is valuable or junk, the reality is that the space is not livable. No dining happens in the dining room. Tables and chairs are covered and so on.
Though we are fascinated, many of us feel a sympathetic twinge. We can remember trying to crowd out a loss in our souls with some thing. We may not have become a hoarder, but we remember trying to fill a void with retail or garage sale therapy. People are especially vulnerable after a loss.
2. We hand out.
We give, hoping that we might get something in return that will make us feel better. A better word might be bribe. I’ve seen it and been tempted by it myself. Handing out is giving to another person something that is of cost and value to you, in the hope that the person will stay in your life or invest time in your life, helping to fill your void.
For example, divorced parents might overindulge their child or children, hoping to keep their affections in this new season of life. Similarly, a young widow or widower may overindulge children, hoping to compensate for the absent parent. The empty space is large, and widowed people want more of their children rather than less. However, sometimes expectations ask for disappointment.
One widow with an empty bedroom allowed a homeless young man to move in. She allowed him access to credit cards, which he abused. Her children were dismayed but unsuccessful in getting their mom to send him on his way. She paid a heavy price, both emotionally and financially for bad companionship.
3. We hide.
Rather than let others see us wounded, we may withdraw. Hiding is also an attempt to prevent future losses. The risk of being wounded again is just too great for many.
On the other hand, there are those who will keep showing up in the same places pretending nothing has changed. While it may not be hiding out, it’s certainly hiding from reality. Some try to “keep up with the Joneses” rather than changing their lifestyle to match their new income.
I felt numb and preferred to hide out. Invitations, while few, were declined, and I did not know how to behave in a crowd when I entered the room alone. I had no partner to signal when I needed rescuing from a conversation. I had no best friend in the room, and staying home alone felt better.
Hiding can be a good thing given a few conditions. Hiding should be temporary, and hiding needs to provide a space for healing.
4. We hibernate.
Hibernation occurs when our hiding time becomes long rather than temporary. It’s a form of hiding that extends to losing touch with reality. It’s common to neglect our living spaces and ourselves.
Clutter collects—neglected mail on the dining room table, crackers and bags of chips on the kitchen counter, jewelry spread in abandon on the bedroom dresser, but then the phone rings! My friend is on the way to loan me an interesting book.I look around with new eyes and race about in overdrive, straightening things. You can see the value of another set of eyes entering our space. Inviting others into our space can help us step out of hibernation.
5. We hop into another relationship.
Hop meaning to take a leap before thinking and before healing. Hoping into a new relationship fills the empty space in your calendar, occupies that nearby chair, but it does not fill the void in your soul. One woman, after becoming a widow, remarried only to have that marriage end in divorce. In our support group, she stated that if she’d had our group for healing after being widowed, she could have avoided that painful mistake.
Before connecting in a new relationship, give yourself the time and tools to heal completely. Only then can you embark on another healthy relationship. Or you may decide that singleness is satisfying.
Our loss is the frame God has chosen for the work of art He is creating in our life. Through it we face down our weaknesses and discover strengths we never needed to uncover before our loss. Emptiness, though painful, means there’s room for opportunity.
Consider what new action, habit, or learning opportunity could fit in that void. And most of all welcome God in. When you welcome Him, He brings assurance that you are not alone. His companionship brings total satisfaction. He proves His Word; He is the God of all Comfort.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”
Based on From Where Do I Go From Here: Bold Living After Unwanted Change. Moody Press.
Miriam Neff, M.A. in counseling, has experienced loss in many manifestations from her beloved soul mate Bob going home to the Lord to a close family member’s incarceration. Yet, she has learned “that good things are still possible.”
Image courtesy: ©Thinkstock/CandyBoxImages
Publication date: July 18, 2017