There is a craving that comes in the wake of a loss. That craving may manifest in
many ways, and it comes after the loss of any thing or any one that was important to us. That craving is that space in us once held by who or what we have lost. We have grown accustomed to that space being filled. The sudden ripping away of a dear one, a dear thing, a cherished idea or other mental construct–all leave us sort of gasping and wounded from that now open space within us that held something precious there. And we rush to do something about it–name it, soothe it, medicate it, replace it, ignore it, run from it, intellectualize it, rage at it.
Just a couple of months ago, our family had to take one of our family dogs to the veterinarian one evening. We knew that his time had come. The cancer that had been detected on his lung a few months before had taken him to a place from which we knew he would not return. In other words, he was not just having a bad day. He was confused, restless, and having constant trouble breathing. The veterinarian was exquisitely kind. She talked to us, examined him, took him to another room to prepare him for the injections that would end his suffering and his life. She brought him back to us in a comfortable room. We held him in my lap. She told us that we had all the time we wanted, and when we were ready, she administered the injections. He slipped away from us very quickly and gently.
And to this day, I can be going about any particular thing in my life, and suddenly he comes to mind, and there is that awful space that he filled for me and our family for 16 years. I immediately begin to question whether we did the right thing. Doubt, fear, guilt, sadness. They all pile on. And they are all distractions vying to fill the space and make my craving for our beloved dog go away.
There is a craving for this beloved member of our family, in the space of our hearts, that really can’t be anything else–but the space he has left. It’s not doubt. It’s not fear. It’s not guilt. It’s not sadness. It’s the space within me shaped like his beautiful little being. I know that there is only one thing to do and that is to honor his space in my life. It’s almost like a scar that I am proud of. Consider the alternative: if we thought of our lost loves and felt nothing, while that might give us some relief in the short term, wouldn’t that diminish us as human beings? We are capable of compassion and goodness in some large part because loss of loves leaves this space, and the craving, and what comes of it in the long term.
The craving changes–I am convinced–if we honor it for what it is in the meantime. Eventually, that space within us shaped like our lost loves becomes sacred ground within us and we become more holy ourselves–genuine, solid–the kind of people that others love, too. Loss is not on the list of experiences that we hope to explore. It comes anyway, and in its own strange way contributes to the golden threads of the interdependent web of all being–of which we each are a part.