Let go of what was
Surrender to what is
Have faith in what will be.
What painful stories are you telling yourself? Are you feeling stuck or powerless? Are you living in regret, guilt, or blame? Sometimes we hold onto past mistakes and negative situations, playing them over and over in our heads, justifying all the reasons we are terrible people, why others are terrible, or both.
On some level, our problems may give us a sense of identity or justify our behaviors—a secondary payoff. We may hold on to pain and allow ourselves to suffer. And there might be hidden benefits in this strategy:
- We don’t have to process our own feelings or acknowledge our true pain
- We are absolved of accountability (none of this is actually my fault, right?)—we get to keep thinking we are right and blame others
- We don’t have to summon our courage to face the unknown
- We get to play the role of the victim, to let others dote on us and make us feel important
This kind of morbid rumination is almost never helpful or productive—it is unhealthy in every way, causing stress and potentially creating serious health issues. And then we normalize the stress, the sleeplessness, our ill moods, the secondary illnesses, convincing ourselves that “it’s just the way it is.” Life stinks. We’ve been dealt a bad hand. Too often, we turn to our favorite addictions—whether chemical substances, food, gambling, shopping, getting lost online, in our screens—to numb ourselves and forget for awhile.
In these ways, our attachments and fears limit us and prevent us from living a fulfilled, happy existence. Our denial and avoidance skills may allow us to feel better in the moment, but are not effective long-term coping strategies.
Letting go is about acceptance and acknowledging the reality of the situation, facing the facts. Letting go is not about giving up; rather, it is about being willing to think differently, to release the ways we are causing our own suffering. We can’t change other people and we can’t change certain situations. Ultimately, the only thing we can change is ourselves and the way we think about, react to, and integrate circumstances. We must honestly assess: what is actually in our power to control, and what is not? And how are we going to cope with those things that are truly outside our sphere of influence?
The Serenity Prayer embodies this beautifully:
Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.
So we take responsibility and accept accountability for what we can, and give ourselves permission to grieve and let go of the things we can’t. When we let go of things that are weighing us down and holding us back, we create space for better things to enter our lives.
You truly can learn to let go, even if it feels impossible.
Depending upon the circumstances, forgiveness can be a crucial part of this process—forgiving others and forgiving ourselves. Forgiveness is not about pretending that another person did not do something wrong or bad—they very well may have done. Rather, forgiveness is letting go of your attachment to the anger, blame, and self-righteousness, and victimhood that can go along with holding a grudge. Forgiveness, ultimately, is for you—not for the other person.
Honoring Everyday Grief
We usually think about grief as it relates to the loss of a loved one. However, grief can arrive as a result of many different transitions and life events—both big and small, sudden and gradual. We shouldn’t discount the impact that normal, everyday losses can have, especially if we “stuff” them down and do not acknowledge and honor the feelings as they arise. For example:
- Your child goes off to college (or even kindergarten)
- A beloved friend pulls away emotionally
- Your brother and his family move across the country
- You or your partner lose a job
- A health challenge increases instead of improving
- A pet is lost
- A cherished family heirloom is broken
- Your home is robbed
And what about this one? You lose a patient in the E.R. or on the floor. Those in healthcare experience far more frequent and intense daily loss than most of the population at large. And these emotional incidents can accumulate in the heart when there is no appropriate outlet for expression.
“Time heals all wounds,” the old adage goes, and that can be true if you are conscious and intentional. However, if you are practicing avoidance and denial, the pain never truly goes away—it is just more deeply buried in the heart, the mind, and the psyche.
Intentional grieving and letting go can be healing and transformative. Some practices to help you do this might include:
- Allowing yourself to experience your feelings in the moment (yes—cry!)
- Talking about/processing emotions with a good friend, loved one, or therapist
- Honestly acknowledging and accepting the reality of circumstances, including how much they hurt
- Practicing forgiveness, of both yourself and the other person
- Asking for help and support
- Turning to your faith and spiritual practice
I want to acknowledge that many people face serious issues of abuse, illness, or trauma that can take years of hard work, deep courage, and good therapy to heal; my intention is, in no way, to diminish such incredibly difficult circumstances.
However, when it comes to our own happiness, personal growth, and emotional experience, we can take personal accountability. We can allow ourselves to honor and feel our normal human painful emotions, then let go and move forward stronger, wiser, and more resilient than before.
let it go
let it go – the
smashed word broken
open vow or
the oath cracked length
wise – let it go it
was sworn to
let them go – the
truthful liars and
the false fair friends
and the boths and
neithers – you must let them go they
let all go – the
big small middling
tall bigger really
the biggest and all
things – let all go
so comes love