Sunday, November 25, 2007

How to Let Go

Letting go. Sounds simple, doesn't it? You can't read a book about grieving without tripping over this admonishment at least once. Isn't letting go the whole purpose of the funeral? I mean, she's already six feet under — how much further do I need to let her go? Eight feet? Ten?

Of course, we're not talking about physically letting go, although for those of us who still sleep curled up with their loved one's favourite sweater or robe, the understanding is certainly that, at some point, this physical reminder will need to be released. Part of the reason we feel so terrible in the first place is because of this physical separation, and our cold-turkey withdrawal symptoms do dissipate in time.

No, when reading or hearing about "letting go," we understand that there's a lot of mental, emotional, and spiritual releasing that we need to do. But are any of us so well-versed in managing our emotions that we can get on with the necessary releasing unaided?

Especially for us guys, if you ask us how we feel, you'll likely encounter a similar response to that which you'd receive if you had asked us about our preference for chartreuse or fuschia — huh? Guys aren't supposed to have feelings; we think, not feel, right? If we as widowers are a bit more in touch with our feminine side, we still probably don't understand why we feel as we do. And widows don't seem to be any better equipped to release all these deep emotions either. If anything, the data suggests it takes women longer to release their dead spouse than it does for men.

So, where do we go from here?

A major tool in my grief recovery toolbox is The Sedona Method, a book I can't speak highly enough of. It is also available as a course in audio and video formats. The subtitle says it all: "Your Key to Lasting Happiness, Success, Peace and Emotional Well-Being." Peace and emotional well-being — that is something I homed in on. To me, I desperately needed that key to unlocking these two elements so totally lacking from my life.

Peace and emotional well-being. Two concepts totally antithetical to grief, yet the very objects of our desire. How can a book promise on the front cover to deliver the very essence of what we seek?

The Sedona Method is not light reading. I'm still reading it a year and a half after I bought it, and I have found it to be immensely helpful, not just in unraveling my grief, but in every aspect of my life. It has helped me to understand what motivates me, why I feel what I feel, and how to let those feelings go.

A critical turning point for me was understanding that I am not my emotions. I had always felt as one with my emotions, that they were a part of my identity. The very notion of letting go of my emotions seemed to suggest that I give up a fundamental part of being me. The following excerpt from The Sedona Method [pp 36-7] illustrates how I was able to let go of this idea:

Let me explain by asking you to participate in a simple exercise. Pick up a pen, a pencil, or some small object that you would be willing to drop without giving it a second thought. Now, hold it in front of you and really grip it tightly. Pretend this is one of your limiting feelings and that your hand represents your gut or your consciousness. If you held the object long enough, this would start to feel uncomfortable yet familiar.

Now, open your hand and roll the object around in it. Notice that you are the one holding on to it; it is not attached to your hand. The same is true with your feelings, too. Your feelings are as attached to you as this object is attached to your hand.

We hold on to our feelings and forget that we are holding on to them. As I stated in the Introduction, it's even in our language. When we feel angry or sad, we don't usually say, "I feel angry," or, "I feel sad." We say, "I am angry, or, "I am sad." Without realizing it, we are misidentifying that we are the feeling. Often, we believe a feeling is holding on to us. This is not true... we are always in control and just don't know it.

Now, let the object go.

What happened? You let go of the object, and it dropped to the floor. Was that hard? Of course not. That's what we mean when we say "let go."

You can do the same thing with any emotion — choose to let it go.

Now, there's obviously a lot more to the method than this simple example, and there's a reason the book is 415 pages. However, if the passage above gave you even a glimmer of hope, please do yourself a favour and grab a copy as soon as you can. You'll be very glad you did.


obakesan said...

perhaps you will give me some reasons, but what if I don't want to 'let go'

I loved my wife with all my heart. Neither of us had married before because we could not find the right person. We both believed in similar things and had a similar world view.

That she was snatched so suddenly and unexpectedly from me is dreadful. However I feel that I don't want to stop loving her. I feel that I don't want to 'let her go'.

Instead I feel that I want to learn to live my life in a way that I can go on, be functional and achive things, but yet keep her in my heart.

Perhaps that's not possible, but its worth a try.

Anonymous said...

This seems relevant.