How to Heal When You Can’t Let Go

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Letting go is a process of releasing someone or something that you love because it no longer serves you or it’s not available anymore. Anyone who has tried to let go knows how excruciating it is.

Whether it’s your child, a life partner or a close friend, we usually resist letting go. It’s an intense, process much like grief. Every day feels different.

This blog shows how to heal when you’re not ready to let go. This applies to relationships, jobs, painful memories, status, anything that has meaning for you. It’s not always a person.

Adjusting Your Expectations

First, it’s important to adjust your expectations. Letting go is emotionally draining so you’ll probably have less energy. So without practicing good self-care, it can definitely take a toll on you. You might have to go at a slower pace or get more sleep. This happens because letting go takes a lot of mental and emotional energy.

Releasing someone you love isn’t a quick task. In fact, being able to let go takes several tries before actually doing it. That’s how hard it is so be gentle on yourself. Letting go is one of the hardest things you’ll ever do.

In fact, many addictive and self-destructive behaviors start because of an inability to accept what’s happening and move forward. This isn’t a moral judgment. The feelings attached to letting go are unusually intense so resisting them at first is to be expected.

Embrace the Resistance

Remember that resistance happens with change. Letting go can feel like you’re starting over. You might find yourself imagining the worst case scenarios in your head. The fear creates negative thoughts like;

“What if I never find someone to love me?

“No one will want me because I’m too _____ ( fill in the blank ).”

“How am I ever going to live without _______ ( fill in the blank ).”

Assuming that you’ll never find love again makes it hard to let go. No one lets go when they’re in fear. You’ll become willing when the pain gets too much or you have developed enough trust in your ability to survive it. 

When the resistance shows up, don’t judge it. Instead, allow the feelings to surface and sit with them. Otherwise, they’ll leak out in destructive ways. The goal is to accept where you’re at emotionally without judgment. Let yourself be perfectly imperfect.

Honor the Feelings No Matter What

Letting go triggers a process of grief that feels overwhelming. When you release someone or something dear to you, you need to feel the loss. When you haven’t grieved, the pain lingers and activates old losses that haven’t been dealt with yet. 

You need to be able to tolerate the emotions. This may sound obvious but embracing feelings does take effort. It’s easier to run away from feelings rather than face them head on. Feeling them requires a willingness to be present in your body which can make you feel vulnerable. 

Using substances like alcohol, food or marijuana alleviates the pain temporarily but it delays the healing. Bottling up these feelings keeps you stuck. People who can’t fully express the pain, hold onto it.

When there is a history of trauma or abuse, there might be years of hidden pain that’s hard to handle. Professional counseling can guide you through that process so you’re not alone.

Keep Connected to Avoid Isolation

Having enough support makes the process much easier. If you aren’t comfortable sharing with friends, check out alternative forms of support. A confidential therapy group or 12 step program can provide a safe space to work through these struggles with like-minded people.

To honor feelings, stop pretending you’re okay when you’re not. Being honest about your pain no matter what it looks like helps you heal. Depending on who you’re with, you may need some boundaries here.

For instance at work you’re not going to share your innermost thoughts, but when a close friend asks you how you’re doing - tell them the truth! Acknowledge the pain because when you let yourself be authentic, you are loving yourself through the grief.

Stuffing these feelings creates a lot of anxiety and stress that make letting go harder than it needs to be. Doing it in isolation never works.

Keep Telling the Truth

When you’re struggling, you might question if it’s really worth it. One minute you think you’re ready to let go, and the next, you scare yourself into not making any changes. This back and forth is an internal struggle that’s a normal part of the journey. No one lets go easily.

The task here is to keep telling the truth! Give yourself permission to express all those doubts and fears. Ask a trusted friend for support. Remember, letting go takes a lot of emotional energy. Some days you’ll be motivated and other days you will want to hide under the covers.

You might know logically that you should let go, but emotionally you need time to adjust. For more tips click here to read 10 Ways to Let Go of Someone You Love.

Final Thoughts

There will be times when you’ll want to keep things status quo. You don’t know what your life will look like if you let go. Feeling afraid is normal, but getting stuck in FEAR -  False Evidence Appearing Real (a popular 12 step slogan) can keep you from moving forward. Having a solid foundation of support becomes your lifeline when you want to give up.

On last thing, sometimes-  for whatever reason - you just aren’t ready to let go and that needs to be okay! No matter how long it takes, stay present to yourself and the journey ahead. There is no wrong way to let go. Just keep telling the truth and you’ll get there.

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