08/28/2013 01:07 pm ET Updated Oct 28, 2013

On Grief, Grieving, Rebounds and the Like

I know a thing or two about loss.

When we lose something, we begin to grieve. Depending on how close it was to us, this process goes somewhere from "Well, that sucks..." to "I think I may literally die from the pain I am feeling right now." If you cared at all, you're going to feel it. It might be a light tugging at your heart. It might pull at you so hard it feels like it's going to tear you into irregular pieces.

What you are experiencing is the feeling of your soul being stretched as it stays in one place while the world keeps turning. And it hurts. The more you care, the tighter the grip your soul has on the place you were, the more it stretches and tears and hurts. But that world keeps on turning.

Everyone knows that when someone (or something) important leaves your life, it hurts. And everyone talks about how that leaves a void in your life. And if you've ever lost anyone or anything close to you, you know that one of the very first things you do is attempt to fill that void.

In relationships, it's the rebound relationship.
In death, it's mourning and activities and fulfillment of the person's dying wishes (stated or not).
In jobs, it's job seeking.
In athletics, it's rehab, or coaching.
In all cases, it is sometimes coupled with copious amounts of alcohol, food, weed, and whatever other vice takes your mind off the pain.

One of the things no one EVER talks about is that the void sucks both ways. It's not just the person's role in your life that is now void, it's your role in theirs. Your mission is over. Your job is now redundant. Your skills, unneeded. Your routine, disrupted.

My father loves telling the story about how he quit smoking. He used to smoke 3-4 packs a day. He says that the hardest part wasn't the actual smoking. He just decided he didn't want to do it anymore and voila, never had another cigarette. He says that part was actually easy. The hard part? Figuring out what to do with his left hand, because it always had a lit cigarette in it.

That's us. We don't know what to do with our emotional left hands. Everything you used to do, you don't do anymore. You're idle. So the rebound relationship, or the volunteering at the homeless shelter, or becoming a Big Brother or Big Sister, or any other role fulfillment starts.

If you want to know the secret to dealing with loss, there it is. You won't be okay until you figure out what to do with YOU. No one else can fill that void. You have to fill it with you.

Sure, you can use other people to do it. I know a few people who had "rebound" relationships who have gone on to get married. I know people who started volunteering with the elderly after the loss of a parent. I know people who career hop from job to job and claim happiness.

That's all well and good. I don't hate on it and I don't disrespect it. I just believe that it's treating the symptom, not the illness. It wasn't until I started working on myself that any of this became clear to me. And now that I have, suddenly, all these things I wished had come my way months ago to "fix me" show up. And you know what? I don't need them. And that's a lovely feeling. I get to choose what I want to be a part of now. I'm not trying to stuff someone or something into a hole in my heart to patch it. I have a heart that is becoming whole that, should I choose, I can give to anything I want. And it's my total heart, not just the part that was leftover when I got hurt.

That's not just good news to me, it's good news to whomever or whatever I give it to. Because it's not compromised or partial. It's me. All of me. My writing, my friendships, my relationships, my workouts, my talks... All of them, better now than they were a short while ago, because there's more me in all of them. And there will continue to be, because I figured that one piece out.

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