When It's Time to Let Go
Letting go of something important to us may be the most difficult thing we ever do.
It may also be the most important.
Dear One, trust me when I tell you that beyond your grief, there is Hope.
I do not mean in any way to minimize your grief. Whatever you have lost – a parent, a partner, a child; a job, a home, a way of life; your health, your dreams, your self-esteem – I know that it was precious. I know that it was part of you. I know that perhaps the way you defined yourself was at least partially dependent upon it. And now it is time to acknowledge its time in your life, and consciously begin the process of letting go.
I know how difficult it can be to let go – I, too, have held onto things which no longer served me. But what I have learned is that it is not until I have let go of whatever I have been attempting to cling to that I can move through the process which will finally get me to Hope, and eventually, to the Something New that the Universe has in store.
When I was a boy, I learned to water-ski. It took a few sessions – days on Lake Summerville and the Ohio River when I would try to get up on the skis, fail, and try again. One thing I had to learn the hard way was that when I had fallen, I had to let go of the rope. More times than I care to admit, I was drug through the water, swallowing more of Lake Summerville and the Ohio than was good for anybody, before the little voice in the back of my head reminded me, “Let go! Let go!” And I would let go, and after a few moments of gasping for breath and coughing up murky water, the rope handle would reappear in front of me, and I’d try again. I finally got to where I could not only get up, but get up on one ski, and slalom fairly well. And even then, there were times when I had to remember to let go.
“Beyond your grief, there is hope.”
One time, many years later, I was visiting my Dad in Florida, and he took me skiing on the back bays near where he lived in Punta Gorda. It was a beautiful day, the water was warm, and we were having a great time. But then, at one point when he was turning the boat, and I slalomed around the outside, picking up speed, I realized I had run out of water. I was headed right for the shoreline, and didn’t have room to turn back. Thankfully, my conditioning kicked in, and I let go. As I sank, I only went down to my calves. I had gotten into shallow water, and had been in serious danger. But thankfully, I had learned to let go.
The Nature of Transition
These days, I do my best to apply those lesson to my life on dry land, sometimes with better success than others. There have been times, some in the not-too-distant past, when I had trouble letting go of something that was dear to me. And there were times when it felt like I was drowning. I know, my dear friend, that there are times in grief when we feel like we can’t let go, like letting go is a second loss, and something else for which we can blame ourselves, as if blaming ourselves for the loss wasn’t self-destructive enough. But what I want you to know today is this: it’s not your fault.
It's not your fault when people die or move on. It’s not your fault when the economy goes in the toilet, or the market no longer supports your special skill. It’s not your fault when someone else’s heart turns away. It is the nature of life to change. It is the nature of things to change. It is the nature of people to change, and it is our task as awakened human beings to learn to adapt to change; learn to let go of whatever has passed, no matter how precious; learn to celebrate, not mourn what was even as we make room for Hope in our hearts to prepare for whatever is next. And there is no reason for shame – no reason to blame ourselves because we let go of that which was, but no longer is. You must let go, in order to save yourself. And, precious friend, the Universe needs you to do just that.
In his book, “Finding Yourself in Transition," Rev. Robert Brumet (one of my instructors in seminary) describes the process of transition as Endings, The Void, and New Beginnings. Grief may be a constant companion at the beginning of the process, and is likely to re-surface throughout – even when we are pretty sure we were done with it. It has a funny way of coming back when we least expect it. But what we can’t do is keep clinging to it, as if it would protect us from The Void, which can be a scary place, indeed. And there’s no telling how big it is, or how long it may last. My first 12 Step sponsor used to say, “When one door closes, another one opens – but they never tell you about all that time in the hall.” But it is that “hall time”, that time in The Void where when we make the choice to let go, we can begin the transition from grief to Hope.
It gets better, my dear friend, it really does. And, one of the things that helps the most is when we get outside ourselves by being of service to others. But it all begins with a willingness to let go. “Let go, and let God”, as some of us like to say. It may seem trite, but when we let God – that is, when we give the Universe, a chance, what happens next may well be a Good beyond our wildest dreams. I know – I have lived it. And today, I invite you to join me in honoring the past, loving this now moment, and hoping for something miraculous to come next. It can and it will.