Written by Heather Hans and published by YourTango
The key to letting go lies in the strength you've built thus far in your life.
Letting go is hard. Letting go of someone you really love is even harder. Sooner or later, every one of us must experience releasing back into the universe the very person who was given to us to love, perhaps more than we’ve ever loved.
Parents, children, romantic partners, and friends, just like the property and circumstances we claim as ours, are on temporary loan to us. Life is a continuous cycle of birth, growth, sex or creation, death, and transformation, which is all the more reason to appreciate what you have in every moment.
Sometimes, we must let go of someone because they are toxic to our wellbeing, even though we love them.
Romantic partners often fit into this category. We may be attracted to them and care deeply about them, but the practical reality of day-to-day life is such that they inhibit our growth and happiness. Harder yet, is when the person who hinders our healthy development is a close family member.
Humans need a sense of belonging in order to thrive and our family provides the first and closest level of human belonging.
When we find ourselves in conflict with our need to belong and our need to grow and be happy, it’s no small dilemma. In these cases, the responsibility to choose falls exclusively on us and in those times, it’s important to get outside support.
Many people face pressure from their familial, cultural, or religious tribe to stay in relationships even if they’re unhappy. This tribal belonging is the most primal human need.
In the system of chakras (centers of energy located on the midline of the body that govern our psychological properties), tribe is the first, most important root chakra. In social psychology, the need to belong is an intrinsic motivation in order to be socially accepted.
By belonging to a group, we feel as if we are a part of something bigger and more important than ourselves. Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs shows the necessity for love and belonging at the center of the pyramid of human needs.
For these reasons, if you are pained by the need to part ways with someone you love, know that this response is normal and natural.
While it’s important to not get stuck in pain, honoring your experience and having compassion for yourself is the first step towards change. Sometimes we don’t have a choice and the need to let go of someone you love is thrust upon you.
Whereas in the previous examples, you are the one who decides to walk away from a harmful situation, in this case, that person walks away from you. Perhaps a loved one dies, a child grows up, or a partner or relative decides they need to walk away from you for their own personal reasons.
As with everything in life, there are pros and cons to this form of separation. You don’t have to muster up the discipline to walk away or worry about being judged or hurting their feelings like you do when you’re the one who walks away.
Conversely, being left by another can leave you feeling powerless and depressed.
Whatever the case and reasons, learning how to let go of someone you love is one of the hardest life challenges you will face.
I have experienced all of these scenarios — having to part ways with a toxic parent, leaving friends and lovers who were unable to truly love, losing many loved ones due to death, sometimes tragically, and now, the most bittersweet of them all, letting go of my baby boy as he transitions to a young man and prepares for his Bar Mitzvah.
I have also professionally helped many people who desperately struggled to let go of the inevitably fleeting people and circumstances of their lives. Some personalities are more adaptable than others, but human nature tends to fear the unknown and, therefore, cling to the past.
An unwillingness to let go of the past can lead to illness of the mind, body, and soul. It’s crucial that you learn skills to cope with the transition in order to live a happy and successful life. After all, life is one big transition.
Whether the loss was due to your decision or it was thrust upon you, the key to letting go lies in the strength you’ve built thus far in your life. So often, people discount all they’ve gained from their positive and negative life experiences and instead just see the challenge right in front of them.
From this perspective, one feels weak, self-doubting, or even powerless. No one wants to look up at a steep mountain every single day! There must be days to enjoy the peaks, as well.
If you must let go of someone you love because they are toxic to your growth and well-being, consider all the ways they’ve burdened and oppressed you in the past. Recall the pain, agony, and suffering that got you to the point of having to make this very difficult decision.
Now, you may face a double hardship by having to deal with the criticism that may come your way by leaving. Yet, you’ve had the strength to endure it!
Recognize that if you can get through all of the anguish, pain, and suffering that has brought you to this point, then letting go of that toxic person really isn’t that hard!
You just need to focus all of your energy on what you truly want, without distracting yourself with thoughts of that person and what they and others might think of you.
If you must let go of someone you love due to death, reflect on the gift that person was in your life; the ways they enriched you; and how you are a stronger, happier, more love-filled person because of them. The virtues you gained from your loved one don’t go away simply because that person passed on.
Instead, they are meant to help you now! That person helped make you more complete and gave you strength so that you could not be broken. Even their passing helps you to learn how to let go, which will serve you forevermore.
By shifting your perspective to see the gift rather than the heartbreak, you keep them alive with you as you continue to grow.
Finally, if you must let go of someone you love because they need to separate from you, such as a child growing up, or a friend or partner wanting to end the relationship, take a twofold approach:
1. Be thankful that they were in your life.
Similar to the death of a loved one, realize the gift you were given by having them in your life. So many people in this world long for someone to love. You’ve had that experience, which is life’s benevolence at its finest.
Focusing on the ending, while understandable, is not gracious and detracts from your good fortune.
2. Show selfless love.
This is the most essential way to let go of someone you love who needs to separate from you is to embody the highest form of love that exists.
To truly love that person is to support them in following their own path. Trying to control them, shelter them, or make them stay with you when they need to leave is not love at all.
If you really love them, you want them to grow and be joyful, even if that means separating from you.
If you find yourself in this last category of having to let go of someone who no longer wants or needs you, it is because you have come such a long way in your ability to love, that you are now at the final test. You are prepared, via all of the ways you’ve expressed love to them in the past, and now you are at a finish line of sorts.
To exhibit your fullest capacity to love, you must show release them into the world where they can experience new love, additional levels of growth, and further forms of happiness. Of all the ways you’ve shown them love in the past, letting them go, if that’s what they need, is just one more way.
You can do it!