No matter how much we care for someone or how hard we work to keep them around, they move, they hide, they quit, they run away — and sometimes they die. One of life’s hardest lessons is that most of the people you know will only be in your life temporarily.
Even if your relationship was a hello/goodbye type, the warmth, humor or openness touched you in some way, and you decided that this person could be an acquaintance or even perhaps a friend. If someone leaves, it only makes sense that you may feel a little emptiness or a loss.
It is interesting how just a casual relationship with someone you walk past on a daily basis can have an emotional effect on you. The person filled a space in your psyche, and that’s enough to make him or her a small part of your life. If that person is no longer in your world, you will have a reaction. This is quite normal.
If the person who has left was very important to you, the wound will be larger and take longer to heal. This only makes sense, but trying to understand the whys and wherefores can send you into a tailspin or even depression. That’s why I think it’s important to remember that loss is something life hands us along with love and connection.
If you really want to live fully, you have to be able to appreciate the people who touch you while they are here. From empty nesters to those who have lost a mate, the feelings of vacancy in your heart means that you do feel love. What would it say about you if you didn’t feel the loss?
Making friends with those emotions is much more difficult than forming a good relationship with someone. But if you really look at the circle of life, you will comprehend that this is how it is for all of us. People leave. It will be true forever, and the only thing we can do about it is to prepare.
I recently ran into a couple whom I had counseled a decade ago, who told me that their children are now in college and that the cacophony that they were upset with back then is something they now miss. They are even considering another child because the quiet is now so disquieting. I know many couples who feel this way.
We get used to the noise, emotional ups and downs, and the space our kids take up, and the adjustment to them leaving can be difficult. Regular visits, communication and video chats do help, but the empty space within the heart is still there. And that is as it should be.
There was a lot of loss in my world over the past year, but there have been also a few new people who have filled that space and one who has made my life better than it ever has been. So you see, the holes do get filled.
Barton Goldsmith, Ph.D., is an award-winning therapist and humanitarian. He is also a columnist, the author of seven books, and a blogger for PsychologyToday.com with nearly 27 million readers. He practices in Santa Barbara and is available for video sessions. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears Sundays and Tuesdays in the News-Press.