Grieve the Loss to Let It Go

(Excerpt from my soon-to-be-published book, Just One Step: The Journey to Your Unstoppable You)

For the past few weeks I’ve been sharing an approach and process to letting go of people and things that don’t serve us. This week I’m wrapping up this discussion of letting go with the final two steps – grieving the loss and letting it slip away.

No matter how unhealthy a situation or relationship was, and no matter how negative your feelings are regarding a person, a relationship, a situation or an outcome, there’s nearly always something good in it that needs to be grieved when you let it go. There are situations and experiences in our lives that cause pain – sometimes the pain is in the situation or experience itself, sometimes the pain is from the loss of something or someone, and most often there is a combination of both. Too often, and for what can seem like good reasons, we seek to move on (to let go) before we have grieved the loss of the good parts of what was. While it can feel good to say, “I’ve moved on,” too often we have not moved on but rather just put away or compartmentalized what we want to say we’ve moved on from. Many people claim to be great at compartmentalizing, but I don’t buy it, and I don’t know anyone who has developed a leak-proof heart compartment. Even if you feel you can compartmentalize, I don’t believe that this is healthy. In fact, think about what compartmentalization is – the act of putting something in a compartment. It’s not at all the same as the act of removing something or, even healthier, moving on and letting go in a good way.

I’m not denying that you can compartmentalize things, but I’m rejecting the idea that doing so removes the problem. Whatever impact the past experience had continues to exist and even rot, but it only does so inside of you where others cannot see it (or so you think). So many times in my life I’ve heard people say that they have compartmentalized something and suggested that therefore they have moved on, but it’s obvious to everyone else that they have not moved on or let go. I know that you’ve seen it in others around you as well, and likely even with yourself.

Make sure to look for the loss to be grieved whenever you’re looking to move on and let go of something. Even if the circumstances are so difficult that you cannot imagine there being anything to grieve, look for and find that which you need to grieve. Otherwise, you’ll be seeking to let go of something (or some part of something) that you’ve not yet grieved, and that lack of grieving is akin to trying to let go of something while still having it tied to one of your fingers. It cannot happen.

This fifth and final letting go step is less a step and more like an awareness – an awareness that the process of letting go (and the ultimate act of letting go) usually isn’t a single moment, event or occurrence. It’s typically not accompanied by a lightning bolt or an in the moment awareness that you’ve let go. Rather, you go through many purposeful and intentional steps and processes to let go, never certain if you’ve really let it go. And then one day you “look down” at your hands and you realize that you’re no longer holding it (whatever it was), because it has slipped away over time.

Part of this awareness involves being gentle with yourself and being patient, not expecting that you’ll waive some type of magic wand and whatever you’ve been holding will be gone. Letting go usually doesn’t work this way. Rather than being a single act of letting go, it’s a process (as described above) that results in you releasing your grip, cutting the things and beliefs that were tethering it to you, and then letting the intention setting process work its magic towards letting go. 

So how will you know when you’ve really let it go? You generally will not know when it actually happens, and there typically isn’t even a moment of letting go. You’ll know that you’ve let it go when a situation arises and you no longer feel that tug or twist that you felt in the past. I’ve been asked how I knew that I’d let go of the hurt of a past relationship, and the answer was easy – when I saw pictures of my past partner on Facebook with her new love and I didn’t feel anything I used to feel. I didn’t feel loss, pain or sadness. I didn’t feel any tug in my stomach. I didn’t feel any regret or thoughts of what might have been. I only felt unconditional love for her and a sincere desire that she (and her new partner) live a life filled with love and joy. My only thought was to bless her and them, without any thought or feeling (conscious or unconscious) of what it meant for or about me. Don’t expect to know whenyou let it go, but you will most certainly know when it’s gone.

Remember this important point – when you let go of anything or anyone, it’s an act of releasing something or someone that’s holding you back, slowing you down or even tethering you. Just imagine the relief and lightness you’ll feel when you’ve let go of whatever it is that you’re holding on to. In some cases, what you hold on to feels like a rope or tether. In other cases, who you hold on to may feel like a burden or a weight. No matter what the feeling is like for you, letting something or someone go is an act of release, and it frees you up. Yes, freedom is the outcome of letting go, a freedom that opens you and your life up to more love, more passion, more connection, more influence and more impact. The question isn’t whether you can let go, but whether you’re willing to do the challenging work (and it is work) to move you from your holding on place to your letting go place, and then to your freedom place. 

What are you holding on to in your life? Are you prepared to do the work – the sometimes-painful work involved in letting go? Are you willing to be vulnerable and honest with yourself, and to ask others around you to do the same with you? Are you willing to take personal ownership of your acts of holding on and to thereby empower yourself to move through the letting go process? Most important of all, are you willing to believe in yourself enough to let go? If your answers to these questions are clear, then I invite you to begin the journey toward letting go with the most important first step – admitting that you’re the one who is holding on! If you’re ready to let go – it all begins with Just One Step!

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