Missing Someone: a Painful Void

Missing someone is more than just feeling nostalgic. Sometimes, the weight of an absence creates a lasting wound. It can become an immense void that you might not know how to deal with and that limits your ability to feel happy.
Missing Someone: a Painful Void
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 15 November, 2021

Missing someone is like having a void in your heart, one that’s hard to fill. Some absences hurt more than others. They can weigh on your memory to the point of creating a void that your hopes and dreams and even your quality of life can escape from. Missing someone goes beyond just longing to see them again. In many cases, it isn’t easy to relieve the painful wound an absence causes.

Here’s something curious that you’ll find within clinical practice. People tend to describe themselves not with what they do, not with what’s in their life, or with those people that define them. Rather, they often describe who’s missing. Many use phrases such as “I lost my mother when I was 12” or “I’m nothing since my partner left me eight months ago”.

Absences somehow define us. What you miss leaves a deep mark on your very being. Therefore, it isn’t easy to live when you’re constantly conscious of missing someone. You may feel a persistent barrier that prevents you from seeing beyond the loss and that takes away your opportunity to view yourself differently, as a person capable of creating a happier and more satisfying reality.

“The worst way to miss someone is to have them sitting right next to you and know you can never have them.”

-Gabriel García Márquez-

A leaf in the sunshine.

Missing someone: why does the void hurt so much?

Missing someone absent is an essential part of being human. Moreover, if there’s something your brain is just too good at, it’s looking in your mental rear-view mirror to feed feelings of nostalgia about the past.

Many studies, such as the one conducted at Duke University by Dr. Lawrence Jones, indicate that the brain is inclined toward being more nostalgic than proactive. In other words, we tend to spend more time conjuring up memories than focusing on the here and now.

Of course, something that can be normal in some situations can also be unhealthy in others. In this article, we’re talking about where missing someone becomes constant and obsessive, to the point of not being able to concentrate on something else apart from that absence. Longing for someone can sometimes be so painful that it even makes you psychologically vulnerable.

Furthermore, experts on the subject, such as Dr. Donald Catherall of Northwestern University in Chicago, point out that two circumstances tend to be more traumatic when you’re talking about loss.

Losses during childhood: eternal absences

Losing a parent during childhood creates one of the deepest emotional injuries a human can experience. Not only death leaves that traumatic mark on a person’s memory. Abandonment also has the same effect. Both situations make the child emotionally vulnerable, and it isn’t easy to recover from that.

In fact, it’s very common for people to reach adulthood still bearing that same mark left by an absence. The void left by a father or mother creates a wound. But it also leaves an almost constant impression where the person always feels that something’s missing. This experience can often lead the person to make attempts to fill the void, either with dependent relationships, substance abuse, or eating disorders.

Missing someone can be a painful void.

Missing a loving partner

Missing a lost love is definitely a common reality for many people today. This type of pain has many faces, and they all have one thing in common: suffering. You may long for the happiness you experienced in the past. You miss your lover, your friend, the person who was your confidant, and who you had given your whole life to.

The relationship’s breakdown means you have to leave behind all those parts of life that you miss so much. Those areas also defined you. Why? You were a part of someone. Out of the blue, you’re forced to let go of all of that and reinvent yourself without that person. Of course, reinventing yourself isn’t easy when you feel weighed down by longing and nostalgia.

There’s another thing you may do in a case like this. What is it? You may start to idealize the person who’s no longer with you. You may  be feeding a false image, which further complicates your ability to detach yourself from those memories and stop being captive to the past.

What can you do to ease the painful void of missing someone?

Alfred de Musset, a 19th-century French playwright, used to say that both absences and time cease to matter when you love yourself once more. Of course, we aren’t saying that the only answer to stop missing someone is to look for a new partner. Actually, there’s something simpler you can do: look for new passions and meaning to your life.

What should you keep in mind? You’ll never stop missing someone you once loved. Whether they were a family member, a friend, or a partner, you’ll never forget them. Your memory of them will still be there. Rather, your goal is to leave the pain of the memory behind.

Behind the void of missing someone absent, sometimes you’ll find a longing or need to regain what once made you feel happy and secure. Therefore, you must assume that what you’ve lost can no longer return as it once was. It isn’t healthy to dwell on nostalgia. Happiness feeds on immediate realities and you should promote them. You need to shape new hope by keeping your eyes on the here and now.

Missing someone isn’t bad. However, excessively longing for something you once had is harmful. Therefore, put new meaning into your life and look for new motivation and goals. That way, you’ll be taking your eyes off the past and will be able to embrace the present. Why not try it out?

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Jones, L. (2008). The Future of Nostalgia. Common Knowledge14(1), 164–164. https://doi.org/10.1215/0961754x-2007-050
  • Levy, D. (1937) Primary Afect Hunger. American Journal of Psychiatry . 94: 643-652.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.