One of the hardest things to reconcile when a relationship ends is our longing to stay connected to the other person. First there is the shock: how can this very important person in my life suddenly be gone? But then there is the litany of fears. We fear that if we move on, we will never be with that person again, that they will forget about us, that letting go someone means that the relationship didn’t matter or wasn’t real. We know that we need to let go, but this knowing stirs tremendous anxiety.
When we allow ourselves to let go, we show up fully to our own lives, as they truly are. We actually get to reconnect to ourselves and come to notice all the ways that the relationship impacted us, making real its value in our personal unfolding. If it is meant to be (or if it isn’t meant to be), then it will be (or it won’t), so we can move on with confidence, knowing that it will circle back (or not). We don’t have to make anything happen. We don’t have to control it. And if someday in the future that person comes back, then maybe we will consider being with them again and maybe we won’t (because letting go allows us to change into who we truly are, and to notice how our needs sometimes shift). And if they come back and we’re with someone else, then we’ll be fine because we’re with someone else. And if they don’t come back, we won’t even notice, because we’ve moved on — and into — our own lives. Letting go only ever helps us. But grasping on holds us in a liminal state of tremendous suffering.
As true as this may be, the letting go can never really happen until we are ready to release our grip. As a kind friend once said to me — when I lamented during a period of grief that I didn’t want to let go — “What if you don’t have to let go until you’re ready?” Somewhere between these two two poles — of knowing we need to let go and knowing we don’t have to until we’re ready — lives the heart of compassion. It is safe and wise to nestle your weary head there.