They say hard things happen in threes…
I can’t speak to all situations or circumstances, but as for the second part of 2020- this was true for me. I lost a boyfriend, roommate, and good friend in the span of about two months. YIKES. They did not leave this earth but they did leave my life. Add in a global pandemic just after a move across the country, which was a pretty hard blow. These experiences were messy and really painful, but if 2020 taught me anything, it is that there is extreme power in letting go.
Letting go is not easy and it is not linear. To “let go of” something or someone means to stop holding or gripping. When we hold on with clenched fists, it robs us of being able to step back, breath, and gather perspective. Sometimes we feel imprisoned by our own thoughts, self talk, and desire to relive the experience. The empowering part of this is that we actually hold the key to that prison- and that key is in the form of self love, compassion, and-you guessed it- letting go.
When we make space in our lives for love by letting go, we can get clear and intentional about who and what can fill that space in the future. Letting go can refer to many different things: habits, physical belongings, people, control over things we can not control, etc. While I am going to be focusing on ways to let go of people while still honoring the place they held in your life, this can apply to letting go of anything that is no longer serving you. Here are three tips for letting go that have helped me in my journey, as I hope they help you too.
Allow each emotion as it arises in you without judgement
There will be a plethora of them. You are allowed to feel them all. Take some time to allow yourself to grieve in whatever way feels natural. Write an unfiltered letter with everything you have inside of you and may never say out loud because you know some of it is not rational or fair. However, those feelings are still causing emotions that need to be felt. When we really allow ourselves to feel we can respond from being grounded rather than reacting from our pain.
We also have to remember that we are not just feeling the grief from this relationship, but are also feeling it in our brains through the pain points in our amygdala. This is a part of your brain’s limbic system, the place where you process strong emotions. The amygdala is also where emotions are given meaning, remembered, and attached to associations and responses. So when we feel strong emotions, we can experience what psychologist Daniel Goleman refers to as a “amygdala hijack” in his book, “Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ.” When this happens, the fight or flight response is ignited.
We are all humans and need to create space to be just that. We are all coming to our relationships with different experiences and pain points. You will find the most peace not in analyzing or trying to understand the process, but in your ability to become present. It is natural to feel intense emotions as you let go of people that feel incredibly important to you. Embrace your emotions without judgment. Breathe into them, feel them, journal about them, and get support if needed.
Trust that your life is upgrading
I am not a proponent of everything happening for a reason. I do, however, believe that there is growth and goodness that can come from all things. As you are feeling all of the feels, take this time to connect to hope in what’s to come. When we let go, we are making room for magnificent love to flow into our lives. And it will be that much richer because you know yourself better and you’ve done the work of healing.
When we lean into this trust and hope, it reminds us that there is beauty beyond all of this, which gives us the strength we need to work through the now.
If people were meant to be in your life, they would be. Rest in that.
When we have done all that we can, all we have is the trust that this person is being moved out to make room for something that can bring in even more joy and abundance in our lives. It’s these moments where rather than trying to understand or make sense out of all that is unfolding and becoming more and more confused, you are instead being guided to reconnect with the power that lies within you. And you are much more powerful than you realize.
Take this time to reflect on the kind of relationships you desire. Where are your lines in the sand? You deserve healthy, beautiful love, and letting go makes room for that.
Reflect and forgive
This part is the last point for a reason. It is important to not bypass the first two steps. These all play a role in getting us back to this place of emotional equilibrium. Once we are here, we can look at the situation with more clarity and honest reflection.
Once you have reached an emotional equilibrium, you are able to look more objectively at your own actions, as well as theirs. This is an important time to reflect and get really honest. If you realize there were areas where you have not yet owned your role, this part of the process is where you take responsibility for yourself and your actions.
The mere fact that we are complex humans means we are going say and do things we are not proud of. This is human and normal. It does not mean we are terrible people. It means we have reacted out of hurt. The important thing is to meet ourselves with compassion and take responsibility. This may mean making amends. If you need to send a letter owning just your part, I encourage you to do it. Taking responsibility for our own actions is a huge part of the work. This is not done from an angle of trying to rekindle the relationship but is actually a part of the closure.
Once you have taken responsibility and forgiven yourself if you need to, it’s important to extend forgiveness toward the person you are letting go of. This is important even if they never apologized. Ouch right? Yes, it is a large hurtle to get over. But hear me out.
Forgiveness is often misconstrued to be an act of saying something was okay or not problematic. Or that once you forgive, the relationship can be reconciled. When actually, it does not mean these things at all. Forgiveness is letting go of the power that person has over you. It is saying, this hurt me and I choose to let go. Forgiveness can be followed by reconciliation, but it is not a prerequisite.
It takes time to get to this place but I will tell you, letting go of unforgiveness will feel most likely feel like a huge weight lifted. Holding onto it is not actually hurting the other person. There is a saying I always think of: “holding on to unforgiveness is like swallowing poison and hoping the other person dies.”
We want to make space that’s not filled with resentment, fear, anger, and unforgiveness. We want a cozy, warm, spacious place for more love, and letting go is the best way to create this. While this process is not linear and happens in layers, it is worth it. And my dear, you are worth it.