The Necessary Pain of Letting Go

Being hurt is a fundamental part of the human experience. Regardless of where we come from, what we’ve been through, and what we choose to do with our time, we have all felt emotional pain on some profound level. Some of the deepest pain we will ever feel will stem from some kind of loss – the loss of a loved one, a cherished pet, a relationship, a job… it is essentially impossible to make it very far in life without losing something significant. Yes, loss is a feeling we can all relate to. Unfortunately, the commonality of loss does not make it any easier to undergo. It still hurts. It still lingers. It still feels as if a piece of your soul has been ripped from your body; as if nothing will ever stop the hollow, throbbing ache. Fortunately, when it comes to emotional pain, we are given two choices. We can choose to ruminate in a place of fruitless sorrow, replaying the anguish over and over and attempting to drown out any uncomfortable feelings in a bottle of booze (or pills, or whatever it is that temporarily anesthetizes). Or, we can embrace the pain, accept the pain, and truly begin healing from it.

The Blame Game

The first thing that we will be inclined to do upon being hurt is find someone to blame. If we can find a definitive source of our suffering, then we will have somewhere to direct our pain – our anger, our resentment, and our present state of internal chaos. The problem with finding somewhere to place the blame is that it can backfire, resulting in even more profound feelings of helplessness and uncertainty. If we come to someone or something expecting an apology, we will (more likely than not) be disappointed. Our feelings may be invalidated by the other party, or we may come to find that our feelings of indignation are more than disproportionate to theirs. Rather than seeking out someone to blame, we are better off doing what we can to let go. It sounds like it should be relatively easy, but anyone who has experienced deep emotional despair knows that letting go is often a long, trying, and messy process.

Making a Commitment to Healing

So how do we do it? How can we let go of pain in the most effective and prompt way possible? First of all, consider the fact that letting go truly is a conscious decision; one that must be backed by action. Once you decide to let go, you allow for the healing process to begin – while simultaneously tackling any potentially self-sabotaging behaviors that would have ultimately prevented you from moving forwards. Making a commitment to yourself is a great first step, but it will do little good if it is not backed by logical action. I say logical, because we may be inclined to engage in dramatics when we are feeling particularly heartbroken or anguished. Rather than drag all of your ex-girlfriend’s mementos onto the lawn, douse them in flammable liquid, and silently sob as they burn (for example), try blocking her social media accounts so you aren’t tempted to scroll through her Instagram 50 times per day. Rather than sell all of your personal belongings and buy a one-way ticket to Tibet after your unexpected demotion, try actively looking for new jobs (maybe even new lines of work).

Living in the Present

It is essentially impossible to move forward in life while clinging desperately to fragments of the past. However, in order to let go of something, we do not necessarily need to forget it in its entirety, or work to mentally block it out. It takes ample practice, but we can learn to honor past memories while expressing gratitude for the present moment. We can learn to look back on the good times with fondness and appreciation, while doing what we can to pave our ways for a more contented and fulfilled future. And the quality of the future will depend almost wholly on our ability to keep both feet planted firmly in the present. Take several moments to learn a little bit more about yourself by writing down the following:

  1. Your core beliefs/values
  2. Your life goals
  3. The actions that you are taking in pursuing those goals

Do your core beliefs and life goals align with your present actions? If not, something must change. You can alter your goals to match your current actions, or you can begin working harder towards what it is you hope to accomplish. Again – the choice is yours!

Learn to Self-Soothe

Practicing self-care and learning to self-soothe will be absolutely essential as you let go of painful past memories. Grief is hard on the body and the spirit, and we are usually tempted to curl up in bed, draw the blinds, and avoid eating, sleeping, and sunlight. While there is nothing wrong with resting more than we normally would, it is also important that we take care of our bodies, and work towards repairing our emotional health. Nutrition is very important – although the idea of eating might make your stomach turn, try going out with a group of friends to your favorite restaurant. Exercise is also important, regardless of how mild it is. Try going on a walk around the block, or take a yoga class with a close friend. (Yoga is a great way to work through painful emotions – read more about the benefits of Yoga Nidra here.) Every day, challenge yourself to get out and do something that will benefit you in some way. Wallowing in despair will drag out the grieving process – challenging yourself to continue living your own life will facilitate healing and ultimate happiness.

Self-Love and Untapped Potential

Just as important as self-care is the practice of self-soothing. Self-soothing tends to be easier when you believe that something greater than yourself has got your back at all times. Everything is unfolding just as it is meant to, and if something is meant to be it will inevitably be, regardless of any hiccups or setbacks. Go with the flow and avoid forcing things. Try to have faith in the universe, and remember that you have made it through emotionally strenuous times at other points in your life. You have always bounced back! You are resilient.

Give power to positivity. Smile, laugh, and try to recognize that behind every painful period of life is immense personal growth and previously untapped strength. Loss hurts, and hurt is painful – but letting go will prove to be far more fruitful than holding on, and will open up an entirely new world of opportunity, achievement, and bliss. You’ve got this.