While walking my dogs this morning, I was reflecting on the fact that I have acquired a wonderful set of girlfriends who are kind-hearted, intelligent, generous and fun.
Nothing unusual about that, you might think? Lots of girls have great girlfriends. However, just over a year ago, this was not the case. I was lonely, feeling a little lost and reeling from the loss of two great friends who had left the area, another who had moved back to England and the fact that a dear friend and I had had a bust-up and were no longer talking.
It’s funny how situations such as these can pull the rug right out from under your feet. Perhaps it’s because I lost my mom when I was 21, which means that these female friends are even more important to me. Or, perhaps it’s because we grieve (albeit in a different form) whenever we lose someone who we are close to.
I remember the first six months following these losses, which, incidentally, all came around a similar time. I felt pretty numb. I didn’t even realize how much it was affecting me until I went to a yoga class where the tears streamed down my face as I realized just how empty the space was inside my heart.
And that is the problem, right there. The emptiness. You really can’t do anything to make it go away, and, because we humans aren’t too fond of emptiness, I found myself doing what many of us do: trying to fill it! I started looking for new friends;, joining groups, smiling more at the others in my yoga class and chatting to them when the opportunity arose. I worked harder.
No one to socialize with? Stay home and work instead. That was my motto.
However, none of this led to much happiness, and a few of the people I started to hang out with turned out to be “not my kind of people.” So I surrendered, remembering that nature can only do one thing with a vacuum: fill it. It wasn’t up to me. Fate, destiny, god, the universe, the fairies at the bottom of the garden, would eventually provide, and sure enough, it did.
Here I am, approximately 18 months later, with a wonderful group of friends. And I’ve reconciled with my dear old friend who I didn’t speak with for a year, and my other great girlfriend came back from England again!
What I realize, in hindsight, is how important it is when you are grieving to be OK with the emptiness. To know that “this too shall pass” and that the space that the absence of one person leaves in your life will eventually be replaced by someone or something else. Trying to force it never works. It means you’ve stuffed up the space with a filler rather than waiting for nature to bring you something special. How do you know when the right person has arrived? You just do. There are no doubts.
As an ex-pat who lives 6,000 miles away from home in an incredibly transient city, these seemingly small losses are almost a part of everyday life. What made this most recent loss so hard was, I believe, the multiplicity of it.
Losing one person takes a while to recover from, losing three, four or five, or your entire community in one go is a different beast alltogether. Because it’s not a death, it’s perhaps even harder to comprehend that you are in fact grieving, it’s certainly something that family or other friends may find hard to appreciate.
If you are like me and your reaction to such events is to numb out, then I recommend yoga, reiki or massage as a way to put you in touch with your feelings. If you are wandering around in a dazed state knowing something’s not quite right, then this might be right route for you.
Another therapeutic approach to put you in touch with your feelings is to write. Not at a computer but freehand, in a journal which you keep in a private space so you don’t have to worry about prying eyes. Expressing your pain is a powerful way to move towards healing. And remember, it’s OK to feel empty for a while.
Life has its ups and downs. Grief will slip in and out of your life over the years. I am certainly appreciating my newfound friendships all the more for having this stint of loneliness.
Gemini Adams 2011