Letting go is a choice that takes a lot of courage because it requires that you release your attachment to someone who you may still love. If you are widowed, you want to maintain your relationship with your partner, even if it is through grief. If you are divorced, your partner was your home and family. Even if your spouse deeply hurt you, he or she is still a part of you.
The concept of letting go is frequently brought up in the context of forgiveness. In letting go of our suffering over past wrongs, we are released. This, in part, is why it is so difficult to let go. Subconsciously, we are scared of being released. Without a new relationship identified or a new dream to move toward, what are we being released into?
Even if we are attached to someone in a very negative way – through anger – we are connected. Anger, like love, is a powerful connector, and this is why there are many people who are physically divorced, but emotionally remain attached.
Neuroscientists now believe that attachment is such a primal need that there are networks of neurons in the brain dedicated to it. Our first attachment – with our primary caretaker – not only stimulates brain growth, but affects personality development and our lifelong ability to form stable relationships. So the idea of detaching is alien and feels unnatural.
If you are struggling with the concept of letting go, be gentle with yourself. But acknowledge that until you do, you won’t have the space for new joy to enter your life.
What Letting Go Feels Like
In the case of divorce, you can talk with your ex without feeling your stomach seize. Each time you think of him or her, you don’t feel rage bubbling up. You no longer feel the need to blame them, nor do you secretly wish that they would return and plead for forgiveness.
In the case of death, you can hold your loved one in your heart, realizing that they didn’t abandon you by dying. You can allow yourself, without feelings of guilt, to make space for new joy to enter your life. You realize you aren’t abandoning them by being happy.
What It Takes To Decide
It takes intention and commitment. Start with setting an intention to let go. You may not be ready to in this moment, but in setting the intention, you are creating space in your life for growth and possibility. Then, commit to your future. Even if you don’t yet have a vision for what it looks like, commit to creating a vision.
What does a life well-lived look like for you, in terms of family, community, career, spirituality? If you go out ten, fifteen or thirty years, what do you want to see?
Regardless of what you are letting go, acknowledge its passing and grieve. Grieve for your dreams, your old self, the person or the relationship that you lost. Then release yourself to life.