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How To Perfect — And Master — The Art Of Letting Go

Here's help that will strengthen, rather than destroy, you.

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gif illustration of woman letting go of pink balloon
Celeste Barta
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Let go.

Let go of things and people that hold you back. Let go of expectations that are too high. Let go of fear and worry and anxiety. Let go of your need to control. Let go of your need to know the unknown. Let go of whatever is keeping you from being 100 percent in the moment.

Let go. Sounds beautiful, doesn’t it? Letting go, however, is so damn hard. I would say one of the greatest challenges I have ever faced is letting go of a person whom I still loved. Sometimes life or circumstances require we part ways with a loved one, and even when we know it is the best thing for all involved, we hold on tightly as we question: Why? What if? Do I have to?

When you know you have to, but you don’t want to, it’s time to practice the art of letting go. Whereas there is no blueprint for it, wisdom and experience are a good place to start. Here are some things to help you to let go of someone (or something) in a way that will strengthen, rather than destroy, you.

Name it as grief

“A breakup or cutting off from a loved one can feel like we’ve lost a limb,” says Tara McGrath, a therapist in San Diego. “So first, be kind to yourself. Even if you’re the one choosing to let go, or when you rationally know it is for the best, it is still a loss.” The thoughts and emotions that follow such a loss have a name, and it’s “grief.” As you navigate the five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance), remember that this is normal. It doesn’t feel good — and the range of emotions may make you feel crazy — but McGrath says, “Try to be patient with yourself as you take time to move through the difficult emotions. You’re not going crazy, you’re just grieving.” With time, you will indeed reach acceptance.

Embrace the pain

When dealing with loss, the natural human reaction is to do everything possible to end the pain. But here is what we know about pain: it is temporary, and it has a purpose. Naomi Murphy, a psychologist in Peterborough, England, makes a powerful metaphor: “Remember that what is painful always gets more bearable — like weight training, something that feels unliftable at one point can become something we can carry. We become stronger. Even if the pain never quite disappears.” You may not know the purpose right now or in a month or even in a year, but one day, I assure you, you will look back on this pain and see that, if nothing else, it strengthened you in some ways and softened you in others. It will always be a part of you. The pain is proof that the love is real.

Find an outlet for your love

In the early stages of letting go, you may be consumed with pent-up love. Giving love feels as wonderful as receiving love, and you are now faced with the loss of both. Cutting ties doesn’t mean the love dies, so don’t try to kill it. “If you feel tempted to reach out,” McGrath says, “write to them somewhere you can’t send it. Use the notes app on your phone, grab a piece of paper and pen, or open a Google doc and start typing.” While it’s normal to feel angry, Murphy points out the danger of feeding the anger. “There’s a lot of truth in the saying, ‘Seeking revenge is like drinking a cup of poison and expecting your enemy to suffer.’ Anger and vengeance can eat a person up.” Feel the negative emotions, release them, and choose love. YouTube has a variety of meditations that can help you redirect from anger and self-pity to love and peace. Try one that aims to open your heart chakra and let the love flow.

Let go (for real)

Have you heard the saying, ‘Let go or be dragged’? When you find yourself grasping way too tightly to that which isn’t yours, it intensifies the pain. Instead, take action, and create a letting-go ritual (or two) for yourself. Purchase a helium balloon (or a floating lantern) and actually let it go as you embrace gratitude (for the love you shared) and practice acceptance of the separation. Get a tattoo that symbolizes the person, the relationship or your commitment to let go. Find yourself a tear-jerker letting-go song, hop in your car, and sing it on repeat until you can’t drive (or cry) anymore.

Take a deep breath, exhale slowly, and say, “I let go” — even if you can only do it one finger at a time. Freedom will soon follow. And that love that you so badly want to preserve? It can live forever in your heart if you let it.

Have you yet mastered the art of letting go? How so? Let us know in the comments below.

Follow Article Topics: Relationships