Why are we so desperate to hold on to things that cause us pain and suffering?
Why do we have a difficult time letting go? All our life we are asked to release ourselves from things. Letting go begins at birth when we leave our mother's womb. We must let go of the familiar and launch into what will be our life. We are asked to let go of what we perceive are parts of us. From weaning off the breast or bottle, to toilet training and learning to share our toys as toddlers, to asserting and claiming our independence as teens and young adults, our human development is a continuous journey of learning, letting go, and transformation.
These early lessons are the foundation for the bigger acts of letting go — the ones that carry meaning, the ones that have to do with how we think about the world and ourselves, the ones that make a difference in how we live our lives.
There are infinite sayings and platitudes, all reminders that we need to move forward. Let go of relationships that are unhealthy and toxic situations that make us unhappy. Let go of anything that doesn't serve our highest good.
But the question is: how do we let go?
Everything begins with love. What if we loved ourselves so much that we did not allow ourselves to be in any situation that made us feel unworthy and unstable? I believe that is the first step. We must value and love ourselves enough so that we don't permit anyone or anything into our lives that isn't healthy, productive, and loving for us. We must live! Living is about experiencing our world, exploring and enjoying each and every day and adventure. And to do that, we must feel good about ourselves. We must possess self-respect and self-esteem, self-knowledge, strength, and self-love. Our lives then open up to infinite possibilities when we feel the power of love and self-belief.
It is easier to think about letting go when we pair it with grace, defined as “the divine assistance given to humans for their regeneration or sanctification.” Deepak Chopra notes that “Grace is the benevolent, powerful, unwavering energy of the universe that guides you to the best version of yourself.” How wonderful is grace? It affords us a path where with spiritual guidance, we have the ability to purify and restore ourselves, where we can achieve the best of ourselves. Grace is also defined as the simple elegance or refinement of movement. Could we then let go and with gentle elegance move forward, leaving behind all the pain, sadness, fear, and any negative energy holding us back from experiencing a full and empowered life?
We all have things and people that we should or are forced to let go of.
In my experience I've come to believe the process of letting go and moving forward is much like the process of mourning and grieving one goes through when experiencing any deep, profound loss: for someone who you love, a friend, a place, a job. But what we are really grieving and mourning is the part of ourselves that accompanies our sense of loss. We must process this new reality and come to the understanding and acceptance that a part of our life is over.
Megan Devine of RefugeInGrief.com said that “Grief is the natural response when someone you love is torn from your life. It is a natural process: a process of the heart being smashed and broken open, of reality shifting and hurling in place. It cares nothing for order or stages.” I have heard that before, that there is no linear progress with grief, that each of us has our own unique timing and experiences and that the stages of grief are fluid. And within that fluidity of stages, at different times the simplest most innocent things will trigger an emotional response.
With any profound change, there is a continual shifting and adjustment required of us each day.
Elizabeth Kubler-Ross notated five stages of grief: denial — where we might imagine an alternate reality; anger — realizing that THIS IS the reality and how could that be; bargaining — a negotiation or obsession about what could have been done differently; depression — where we begin to realize and feel the true sense of loss. It is the feelings of depression that ultimately lead us to acceptance — where there is a calm, emotionally stable retrospective view of things, one that brings us to understanding that the experience and the loss will always be a part of us, but we are ready to move on.
We must grieve the parts of us, the aspects of our lives that are not in our present.
We must mourn those relationships and feelings. What we really need to do is loosen our grasp on whatever it is that we must let go of, and gently pry ourselves from that emotional place. It takes work, practice, and self-love. And each day we must recommit to all of it, easing that grasp and moving forward. It is necessary to let go in order to make space for new experiences and relationships. Dr. Therese Rando wrote, “Grief is the process that allows us to let go of that which was and be ready for that which is to come.” Dr. Christina Hibberte further commented that, “That's the purpose of grief work — it helps us move on.”
So I urge you, myself, us all, to find that divine spark, the self-love that will allow us to begin the process of releasing that which does not serve us. Let's let go of the pain. Let's let go with courage and strength, knowing that there are wonderful things awaiting us. Trust the process — of mourning, of grieving the pieces of ourselves that we must leave behind in order to grow. Trust that we can release and step forward. Trust that in the grace of letting go and the power to move on, that you will find peace and love in your heart and soul.