I admit it: when I'm sad or bored or writing, I eat. For me there's nothing like salty, crunchy, restaurant-style corn chips to fill the void of an aching heart. Somehow munching keeps the energy moving so I don't get stuck. And I don't even need salsa or guacamole. Straight out of the bag is just fine—with a Diet Coke to wash it down.
Needless to say, I packed on the pounds during the first year after my husband died. Part of it was mindless grief eating and part of it was because I was really hungry. Stephen had always planned our menus, so—to this day, nearly three years later—I still don't know what to feed myself.
I always envied the skinny widows—the ones who lost their appetite from grief. They may be sad but they look great in their clothes. I finally threw up my hands when I realized that my lumpy shape was dragging me down and making me look my age. I eventually enrolled in a weight loss program that was great because now somebody was telling me what to eat, how much, and when.
I lost 25 pounds, but I'm finding it difficult to keep the weight off because grief never really goes away. And those chips call to me from the grocery shelf like the siren call of the Lotus Eaters. Except now it's Tostitos.
I didn't mean to get off on food, but I did want to talk about emptiness because it's something we're not very good at in our modern world. It's like a certain woman I worked for several years ago who seemed allergic to white space in the printed marketing pieces she created for her conferences. Every inch was covered with so much type that the words got strangled, the crisp meaning lost.
That's the way we are with loss. We get nervous when confronted with a void. I teach this stuff and yet I still find myself getting anxious when life goes ambiguous in a new cycle of change. Instead of sitting with the interior space that change creates, I'm more likely to fill it with food or romantic comedy movies. I don't have a lot of addictions these days—at least not to what we think of as material addictions. But I do tend to look outside for solutions before I remember that all the really good answers I have ever received have come from within.
I am comforted by the understanding that wanting a quick fix is forgivably human. But that's just the first step in being gentle with myself as I walk this strange journey of loss and creating a new life. My sense is that grief calls us to be more than human, more than our justifications or addictions, certainly more than loss itself. It's the tricky "how" of that call that I'm still exploring.