One of the thrills of aging is being told by my dentist that an old filling needs to be replaced. I usually say something lame like, "You mean it won't last another 50 years? Can't you just plaster a little something on top?" We both chuckle, then I set the appointment with a sense of dread. I hate the process. Drilling out the old, then putting in the new. Shots of Novocain along the way. YUCK!
Now it's done and it feels pretty good. Not as good as the original before it had a hole, but better than an unfilled or growing cavity. Even as I sat there today, barely tolerating the drill buzzing away in my head, I realized how dealing with significant losses is a bit like this dreaded dental procedure.
Death of a loved one and other significant losses leave a hollow place, a cavity, but it is not possible to fill it with what was once there. Slowly, over time, we must find ways to fill the empty space with new thoughts, memories, and meaningful activities. These new fillings can never replace what was lost, but they can help us continue in a healthy way with what is left. It's important to prevent the hole from getting bigger.
A reader shared with me recently that her child and grandchild had died in an accident years ago, and that the poems in Rays of Hope helped her feel normal and less empty after all these years. She said the loss is always with her, but that she'd tried to fill the void with an overloaded calendar, which only seemed to leave more of a hole in her spirit. The poems helped validate feelings she had tried to escape, especially when the initial numbness of the early stage of grief had worn off.
As much as we object because we hate the hole left by our loss, when we allow little fillings along the way, it eventually eases the pain and discomfort. And sometimes, we need to discard what had once worked effectively as a filling, finding new ones to replace the old that no longer fits. This is what my kind and gentle dentist calls "preventative care" and I have to admit, I'm grateful for it!