My Grief Care

Misconceptions About Grief

12 Episodes

Episode 9 : Can You Fill the Void Left by the Death of Loved One?


Episode Notes

Filling the Void Caused by the Death of a Loved One

After we lose a loved one, we can experience a massive void in our life.  It’s that big hole that you are feeling in your heart where that person used to be, and we can rush to fill it in all sorts of ways.

One of the prominent feelings grievers can experience is emptiness. That emptiness creates a void. There is a quote by Aristotle from about 350 years BC, “Nature abhors a vacuum.” It could also be said that people abhor a void.

We like our lives filled in and complete. And, if a meaningful segment is pulled from our lives, we are very uncomfortable, and this is a natural feeling.

Maybe you sense that void at different times as you think about your loved one. You long to connect with them in the ways that you used to connect.

I’d like to share a brief example of my own. After being married for 30 years, I had developed automatic reflexes. Any time I learned something new, I’d make a mental note to share it with my wife. And that reflex, among others, remained with me for quite a while after she died.I would think, “Oh, be sure to share that with DeeAnn when I see her later,” only to quickly remember that I wouldn’t be sharing it with her because she was gone.

Each time that happened, it felt like a punch in the gut. Do you have any experiences like that? Have you felt the pain of emptiness and loneliness – a longing for the loved one you lost?

Let’s examine that. What is the natural human response to pain? We instinctively move away from the pain. We want the pain to stop. We want normalcy to return.

As a griever, you may wish to avoid or escape the pain associated with the void created by losing your loved one. And here’s where, consciously or unconsciously, you may find yourself trying to fill the void. Does that make sense?

There’s nothing wrong with seeking to fill a hole in your life. But we want to help you avoid using approaches that are more hurtful than helpful concerning your grief journey.

Let’s look at healthy and unhealthy ways to deal with your pain:


  • Numbing: Numbing is an effort to cover your pain and can include: excessive drinking, drugs, unhealthy eating, retail therapy, and many other things.  If you’ve tried numbing your pain, you’ve probably already figured out that doing so offers you no lasting relief. It relieves pain temporarily, does not promote healing, and typically leads to more significant problems over time.
  • Avoiding:  Avoiding your pain may involve filling your life with distractions, such as being constantly busy or escaping with endless reading, binging television, social media, gaming, and so on.You are trying to hide from your pain. As soon as you come out from your hiding places – the emotional pain you hid from will return. Avoiding prolongs the healing process. And, like numbing your feelings, avoiding pain will potentially lead to other negative life issues.
  • Replacing: Replacing means substituting someone or something to fill the void.  You might seek to replace your loved one with another person. But people are not replaceable commodities.

Even if you remarry, or adopt a child, or find a new friend  . . . . and even if that new relationship ends up working well, you cannot avoid the healing process through substitution.

Replacement could also involve moving to a new home, a career move, a big project, or a new pet. This type of replacement overlaps with avoiding because the replacement isn’t a new human relationship, but it provides a significant diversion. 

My friend, there is nothing wrong with making well-considered life changes, forming new relationships, taking on a project, or acquiring a new pet per se. It is unhealthy if these decisions are rushed or get in the way of the grief process you need to experience.

What is the healthy way to deal with the void?


  • Intentionally seek healing. For example, you are seeking healing by joining and using this online program. Stick with it and try the exercises we recommend in each episode.
  • Take your time. Don’t make any substantial life-changing decisions until you are pretty sure you are ready. If you think you are ready for a large life decision, ask yourself this question: Is your primary motivation to get away from your discomfort? Or are you moving toward something in response to a heartfelt passion for fulfilling a lifelong dream? If your motivation is moving toward something that will improve your life and you are going towards something, rather than moving or running away from pain, it is more likely worth pursuing.


    • Don’t try to numb your pain,
    • Don’t try to avoid your pain
    • Don’t seek any type of replacement
    • Do seek emotional healing and take your time.


  1. Consider this question: which of the unhealthy strategies we covered in this episode do you see yourself doing most often?
  2. If you identify with any of them, what is one step you can take today toward allowing yourself to grieve, rather than numb, avoid or substitute?


“You can avoid reality, but you cannot avoid the consequences of avoiding reality.”

Ayn Rand