Why It’s Important to Resist the Urge to Immediately Fill the Void After Loss
It’s hard coming home right now.
The front window is empty.
The halls are quiet.
And there is no canine companion to great me as I enter.
I caught myself scanning the front of PetSmart today, half-hoping that they had an adoption event going on. And that’s just the latest urge of many to select a new puppy that I’ve experienced in the past week. The desire to immediately fill that dark cavity in my heart, to fill the silent vacuum with the cacophony and enthusiasm of youth, is powerful.
Yet it is too soon to give in to that yearning.
Because right now, that longing is coming from a place of grief, of desperation for the pain to fade and for what we lost to be returned. Bringing a new dog in now would be less from a desire for them and more from an attempt to fill the Tiger-sized crater in our home.
None of us likes to sit with pain. To be still and experience the aching longing and hollowed heart that follows loss. We seek to fill that chasm with whatever is at hand and of interest.
In times of loss, some turn to food, finding temporary comfort in a sense of physical fullness. Others enter the dating scene prematurely in an attempt to find the person (or persons) that make the emptiness less noticeable. When an abyss opens within a relationship, some look elsewhere to fill themselves and others may decide that the addition of a child will top off the cavity.
It’s a natural urge. We want to fill ourselves up so that the loss is no longer so conspicuous. We want to distract ourselves with the new in an attempt to forget the old or in an effort to ignore the broken. We want to rush through the heartbreak into a new beginning. We want to feel good and we want to forget that good is not a permanent state.
Yet there is purpose in spending time in mourning. There is a benefit to sitting with the pain for some time. Just as there is a season between autumn and spring, we need some time to simply be with the discomfort and the yearning.
It is a space where what was can be remembered and honored. It is a reminder that all things have a beginning and an end. It is an opportunity to reconnect with yourself and with what is important as you take inventory of what is around you. And perhaps most importantly, it is a place where the power of gratitude – for what was, what is and what can be – is boundless.
As for Brock and I, we will absolutely be welcoming a new puppy (or two!) into our home at some point. But before we do, we need to make sure that we’re at a place where we are moving from a desire to bring in new life, not from an attempt to displace the pain we feel now. We need to fully grieve our Tiger so that a new dog is not tasked with the impossible job of filling his shoes. And we need to take this time to reflect on all that Tiger brought to us and honor his memory and spirit.
Meanwhile, I need to be careful around PetSmart…