At one point in my life, when I was much less mindful, I googled the phrase “how to let go.” It was a lifetime ago, so I don’t remember what I was struggling to let go, but if I was asking google, I must have been struggling.
The google search didn’t turn up much that was useful.
That’s because, as I learned in the years since, there isn’t a set algorithm to letting go. Yet, at some point, I must have figured out how to do it since I can’t even remember what it was that I was holding onto. Score for me!
What I have learned is that letting go is a process. Letting go is essentially mourning. And mourning isn’t something our society is particularly comfortable with. Whether it’s the death of a loved one, the death of a dream, or simply moving on to bigger and better things, the loss of anything requires acceptance of what is to fully move forward. The mourning process (Good ol’ denial, anger, bargaining, and depression.) moves us toward acceptance.
We have to embrace each of those five stages in order to move through them. The sucky part is that the stages come and go in no particular order. Sometimes we reach acceptance and then find ourselves right back at anger. Or some other stage. This might take days, weeks, months, or even years.
Letting go requires extraordinary kindness toward ourselves. Lots of patience. A crap ton of breathing. Intense exercise. Nature. Escapes from reality. Throwing temper tantrums. A bunch of art supplies or writing utensils. Support from others. Extreme mindfulness.
We all have our own way of grieving and it’s different every time. I say every time because we will deal with grief and loss throughout our entire lives. As human beings we love and we have hopes, dreams, expectations, but they don’t always manifest quite like we imagine they will. This leads to disappointment and pain. These are all the things that make us truly human.
I’ve spent much of this last year experiencing loss in a strange, new way. As my career has rapidly evolved, I’ve had to let go of many things to make room for the new stuff. I’m happy with the forward movement, but the irony is that any change requires loss. I’ve had to choose between multiple things I want to be doing, which means I’ve had to say no to things I enjoy. These are the best choice to have, but difficult to make nonetheless. I’ve said yes to some things I thought I wanted to be doing, only to realize once I got started that it wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be and I needed to move on. I’ve had to let go of clients I really connected with and who were/are doing great work on themselves. The mix of fear, sadness, and excitement has been overwhelming and exhausting at times.
I’ve navigated this period of mass letting go with as much mindfulness as I can muster (Sometimes none at all.). I’ve felt my emotions. Tried to listen to my intuition. Flipped coins. Told myself that all change is ultimately positive and if I make a bad decision, I can make a new decision later. I’ve cried. Screamed. Gone through who knows how many pairs of running shoes. Meditated A LOT. Laughed. Celebrated. Attempted to make peace.
And while I still haven’t discovered the ultimate algorithm to letting go, I am becoming more comfortable with letting go, and acceptance is easier to come by these days. So I can say, if you embrace the mourning process in all its messiness and are mindful of what you need in order to navigate it, you will find a new way of being and living that can be meaningful and worthy in and of itself.