letting go

When you are struggling to grow past a bad experience in your life and leave it behind you, everyone will have the same advice:

“You have to let go.”

“You need to move on.”

Everyone can tell you what to you, but nobody can tell you how to do it. How exactly does one “let go” of emotions that course through the body, saturate the spirit and even inform one’s identity?

“Letting go” is a difficult task that takes time as well as mental energy and physical resources, but it can be done. Whether you are healing from a love gone wrong, grieving over the loss of a loved one or struggling to accept big changes in your life, you can “let go”- here’s how.

1. Realize that you might not be ready to “let go” just yet. Some people get divorced and then are back on the wagon and dating in just a few months, while others may take several years to do the same. Everyone heals at a different rate, and deep wounds can take a long time to mend. Don’t let anyone rush you or make you feel like you “should” be dating again, or happy again if you are not – including yourself. You must allow yourself time to grieve your loss, whether it is a lover, a friend, a dream or a job.

2. Understand that “closure” is a lie. Many people spend many years searching for “closure” – an end to the pain and grief that a bad situation has caused. Those who have suffered great pain and grief will tell it to you straight: closure is bullshit. The fifth stage of grief is called “acceptance” not because you have accepted that this sad thing happened, but because you accept that the pain will forever be a part of you. And that’s okay. Welcome to the human race. If you are waiting for the day to come when the hurt is completely gone and the wound is totally healed, you will be waiting for a very long time.

3. Travel. The deeper the wound, the farther and longer you must go. Boyfriend of five months dumped you? Plan a weekend up the coast with some girlfriends. Husband of 10 years ran away with the nanny and drained your bank account? Book yourself a solo trip to New Zealand, Cambodia or the Cook Islands stat – maybe even pick up a work permit along the way and hang out for as long as you can. Completely changing your environment will do wonders for your mental state and will give you back some sense of control over your life, and nothing increases self-confidence like challenging yourself to travel alone and brave your wits against the world. You can do it!

4. Ask for help. Many people have a hard time admitting weaknesses, and this includes asking for help during troubled times. Your friends and family members care about you more than you know, and they are there to lend a listening ear, a pat on the back and a plate of fudge brownies. Embrace them, figuratively and literally, and let your loved ones help you. Going through very stressful periods of life with no one to talk to isn’t just bad for your health; it can change your very brain chemistry. Experiencing extreme personal stress for an extended time can influence certain genes to express themselves fully, which can lead to mental disorders and even physical disease. Lean on your friends, but if that’s not enough, do not be afraid to seek professional help from a therapist or psychiatrist. Your mental health is worth it.

5. Seek the sixth stage of grief. After denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance comes one more stage: Gratitude. Even the darkest cloud has a sliver lining, and once you are able to glimpse the shining shadow amidst a cumulonimbus of pain, you will know that you are well on your way out of your emotional valley. Urge this along by ruminating on all the positive things that the cause of your pain has sent your way, including the small and silly. Perhaps you lost your home in an earthquake, but at least you’ll never have to look at that tacky kitchen wallpaper again. Every time you laugh, the pain will loosen its hold on you and become weaker and weaker until one day you realize: You have let go.

image: Capture Queen