Life Changes

(EDITORS?NOTE: At the request of Diane Langley’s readers, we have decided to republish this column that originally ran Sept. 2012.)

When people experience a loss, they often say “I feel like I have a hole – deep inside of me.”

It feels like nothing will ever fill that void again. It can also feel as if there’s no “normal” way of living anymore.

As life changes, loss is a dramatic (often traumatic) knock to our systems. By systems, I mean emotionally, physically, mentally, spiritually and socially. I become annoyed when I hear someone say to another, “Well, time heals all things.” I also become agitated when I hear the statement, “Whatever doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.”

Come on, where’s the compassion in those statements?

Yes, time changes things. It changes what becomes our “new normal” way of living. That “new normal” can take many years to discover and develop. Please understand that the goal of this column is to suggest a greater awareness of any holes you may want to address – and see what different path of transitioning, possibly healing, could be unveiled in your journey.

We have no power to undo what has been lost through death. Although we mentally understand that death is a part of our lives, it doesn’t make it any easier to lose a person – or pet – no matter the age. You may have experienced a hole (or holes) from other life events as well. The loss of health, being personally violated, abandonment, security, the loss of an important relationship and the loss of “identity factors” are other examples of life changes that impact intensely.

Holes seem to have anniversary remembrances too. Do you have them? Are they triggering uncomfortable responses? What do you do on those anniversaries? Are you frozen? Or do you find yourself evolving each year?

Some people see holes as wounds for healing. Others see holes as a curious phenomenon. I understand the reasoning for a number of various viewpoints. Yet for the most part, I see holes as a way to name something that has dramatically affected you.

For your consideration, I suggest you talk with a specialist. There is no shame in feeling what you feel. You can own your feelings without guilt. A professional may help you name and treat it as a root cause of an unending preoccupation, sleep challenges, anxiety and depression, stomach problems, illnesses, addictions or eating disorders – as well as other potential physical, mental, emotional, spiritual or social imbalances.

I know a number of people who choose to self medicate their holes through drugs, including excessive prescriptions, alcohol, food or the process of cutting. Some finally realized those actions don’t work for them, as nothing rebalanced or progressed to quiet their busy mind. Yet there are others that make these actions their “new normal”; to feel some sense of control.

I am not judging. I am however, advocating for your authentic wholeness in this life – whatever your choices may be. Some people jump into new relationships or responsibilities, again trying to fill a void. Be thoughtful as to what truly will take care of you as you make these decisions.

Other people consider suicide. Remember there is no age limit on this consideration. I worked at a number of colleges in my lifetime and compassionately tell you this was on many students’ minds. Most were a cry for help with not knowing what to do with these feelings. Know that their voices and mindsets seemed frozen in fear.

I believe there is a process of grieving and transitioning. I do not believe it is a time-stamped, limited journey of the head or the heart. There are a range of emotions that somehow benchmark the day – feeling like we move forward and backward.

Some people choose to become angry for the rest of their lives and isolate themselves from any potential happiness. I don’t say this lightly to those who are living it. I appreciate your pain – and yet wonder if there is a different way to live with those around you and for yourself. I believe we have losses and trials that give us a new depth of compassion. I believe they can humble us to our knees. I also believe there is a way to celebrate and honor people’s lives – including your own.

So today I honor your life’s story, and ask you to reach out for any support you need. Please keep in mind that my columns are meant to be a more personalized conversation with you about the possibilities as life changes – not to offer the expert counsel of those with appropriate credentials.

So I close with these thoughts:

In your own time and unique situation, may you privately consider the possibility that every hole need not be an abyss we automatically could fall into, losing sight of our light from within.

Instead, may some holes be honorable learning spaces, while others act as special places for those we miss immeasurably. May any survivor guilt be lessened by truly wrapping your head and heart around the fact that others would not want you to live your life with shame, blame or guilt. May we be kinder to ourselves from any self-expectations (or from others) that “we have to stand strong and tall,” when in actuality, sitting quietly with an open heart can be of more value. May you find the right people and profound thought processes to accompany you through your lifelong transitions. And may God bless you with his peace that goes beyond all understanding.

Langley is the author of the newly released book, “Life Changes … ” Her column is published the first Sunday of each month in the Lifestyle section.