Holding on. Many of us are holding onto something. Why do we hold on? And what do we need to truly let go?
I think, no matter what person or notion we are holding onto, what we are really holding on to are dreams. Dreams of the future, dreams about recreating past moments of happiness, kindness or joy, perhaps. When something comes to an end, we have to accept the loss of a dream. Sometimes we can accept that and sometimes we can’t.
So we hold on, until, eventually, we realize that we have to accept a mini-death.
Listening to clients over the years, I think the most pain comes from heartbreak. To experience great love, then having to let it go, and accepting that it has to end — that is a truly painful process. Heartbreak is the thing that drives most of us crazy: the ups and downs, the all-night crying sessions, or having the same conversation with your friends over and over again as you try to understand what happened. We do whatever we can to stop the hurt we are experiencing.
No one can see heartbreak. It’s a silent pain. Nobody really knows unless you tell them. Most of us have experienced heartbreak so we can empathize, but it’s different for everybody. We find ways to cope, to distract ourselves until one day we wake up and notice it doesn’t hurt as much, and we can breathe a little easier. That day we can finally look at the day with a little light and know that it’s going to get a little better. We may notice there are moments when we are laughing or smiling. Then maybe we think it’s the beginning of starting new dreams.
Someone once told me that with every death there is new life, we just have to be willing to accept the death so we can start the journey to embrace new life. When we hold on to the past or our past hurts we truly can’t move forward.
Sometimes we hold onto the pain because we are scared to let go and we are afraid that if we let go then that part of our life is truly over…or that dream has been lost. The day we wake up and the pain isn’t as strong, is a relief, but it can also be scary. Embracing our fear instead of letting it control us is one of the bravest things we can do. The day we wake up and can breathe again and face that fear we realize our strength and the new life that is embracing us. When we stay stuck in our fears or we choose to stay in that painful place we can never really move forward. We stay stuck, for some people that is “easier or safer” than creating a change. Everything we do in life comes with risk; we can chose to stay risk-free but is that really living? How do we heal? How to do we move forward? How do we create new dreams if we are stuck? We have to walk through our grief, and our fears, to start new. We have to let go and stop holding onto something that is already gone.
In Don Miguel Ruiz’s book, The Four Agreements, he talks about everybody being afraid of dying but most people’s real fear is the fear of living. When we get hurt or heartbroken, we become afraid. We are afraid of being vulnerable again, afraid of getting hurt again, afraid of not being accepted and afraid of rejection. So we close ourselves off and don’t let anyone in our lives or keep them at arms’ distance. Is that really living?
I say live, as hard as it is to pick yourself up, live and allow love in your life. I told someone once, love is the thing that makes life work living. I believe it. In most books you read about struggle, pain or overcoming obstacles in your life, but love is what gets you through. There is even research by Dr. Sue Johnson that supports this notion; the more we have a secure loving relationship the more we grow and can really be the best we can be. Dr. John Gottman says, that loving is worth the risk, once you have been hurt or have lost trust, try again because it’s worth it. When we live and we experience love, we thrive.
So in heartbreak, grieve. Experience the loss and the darkness that comes with it. Then the day you wake up feeling just a little better, make a decision to live and face the fear of living. Fall in love again and experience a life where you smile and breathe a little better and a little easier every day. And remember, love is the thing that makes life worth living.