Letting go is probably hard for most people. Or maybe that’s just what those of us who struggle with it believe. Likely, some things are easier to let go of than others for almost everyone. As summer draws to a close, a whole slew of parents will face new levels of letting go. Some kids will be starting school for the first time. Other kids will be moving away from home for the first time. Each of these are about independence and new roles. For sure figuring out best ways to let our kids go to grow up and be more independent can be challenging. What is the “right” mix of staying connected and allowing them to be on their own? How much of the parents’ feelings should be known to the kids? What does a parent do when it’s the kid who isn’t sure about the next phase?
Although letting go of our children as they grow up is hard at times, most of us know it’s coming and prepare. What about the things in life that cause challenges that aren’t so easy to prepare for? I’m guessing that almost everyone has had someone has do them wrong. It can be hard to figure out how to let go of the negative feelings that go along with such an experience. Clearly some wrong doing is much bigger than other types, life changing even. For those situations, letting go will have to work hand in hand with forgiveness too.
Other types of letting go might be about control. Maybe it’s around a bad habit that needs to go away. Sometimes the letting go is of people. Depending on the reasons why, that type can be really challenging for people. Grief due to a death is a different ballgame than letting go of relationships that don’t work anymore.
The most important HOW is to first allow yourself to feel the feelings of being stuck. Most of us don’t like being stuck so we fight it. Whatever we resist, persists, however. So start by letting yourself feel. Feel the anxiety of not knowing what’s next. Feel the need for control or the discomfort of not having it. Feel sad when there is a loss. It’s normal to be angry when someone wrongs you. Allow yourself to be in discomfort as things change.
Another important piece is understanding what even can be controlled. Many times control is not real anyway. It just makes us feel better to believe we have it. For those places where control is possible and good things come from taking it, go ahead and take control. One example might be when someone is treating you badly. If it’s a pattern, you can stand up for yourself and take action to stop it.
Once you have identified what you can or can’t control, next you have to find methods for the letting go process. This is likely going to be very individual. Some things work better than others depending on the person. Journaling is a practice that helps many people. It’s a way to work through all the feelings at different phases of the letting go process. For other people rituals work best. One example of a letting go ritual might be symbolic, such as sending a representation of the problem up in a helium balloon. Other times burning up something is a ritual of letting go.
Meditation and visualization work well for other people. Sometimes people might imagine the problem just floating down a river. Deep breathing and intentional relaxation often go along with the meditation or visualization. Both of these things help change inner tension. Prayer is an important letting go tool for many people.
Ask yourself what it means to you to let go. Often it’s what letting go means to someone that keeps them from being able to do just that. Does it mean something about who you are in the world? Does it mean something about your value or worth? How do you KNOW that’s what it means? Are there any other possibilities? What could be better once the letting go happens? What might be the fear about what could be worse?
It’s common that letting go happens a bit at a time rather than all at once. Allow it to be a process. Be patient with yourself. I like to think of it more like a dimmer switch for a light rather than simply an on/off kind. Just a bit at a time. Acceptance tells you that you’ve arrived.