Letting go of someone we love can be one of the most difficult human experiences to endure in life. Most of us at some point, on some level are faced with the challenge.
This challenge can take you to a dark place, however when viewed with a bird’s eye perspective, the darkest places are necessary tunnels pushing you through to the other side where a better version of yourself lives.
Physically ending the relationship where you are not “together” anymore and letting go are two very different things. You can tell yourself you’re over it and appear to be moving on, but that doesn’t happen on an emotional level until you really WANT to let go and are willing to do the internal work it takes to do so. Sometimes it’s easier to just stay in that state of limbo than to barrel through the darkness of the tunnel. I’ve seen some people stay here for years.
Staying there can bring consequences to ourselves and other people through destructive behavior with things that numb your pain including starting relationships with someone else when you are not really available. It doesn’t mean you don’t generally care for the new person, but to quote Thich Nhat Hanh, “To love without knowing how to love wounds the person we love.”
Whether indulging in a destructive behavior to numb the pain or trying to cover it over with affections of another, or both at the same time, before you’ve actually let go keeps the spiral of heartbreak alive and possibly drags other people’s hearts through it as well.
How do you learn to let go when you are still stuck in the emotional attachment?
For starters, you can look at the attachment itself vs. actual love.
With attachment you are usually idealizing the other person and/or the relationship you had with them. You are holding them on a pedestal with an unrealistic image and also idealizing the relationship into a fantasy of how great it was, when it may not have been. In real love you accept the person as they are, as we all are, with faults and imperfections and you are able to recognize these aspects and love them anyway. You also remember what wasn’t good about a past relationship and are able see those aspects without animosity, but instead with the knowledge you don’t want to experience those things in your next relationship. Moving forward, you are capable of a non-romantic kind of love and respect for the person and a sense of gratitude for the time you spent together.
If your attachment seems impossible to break, whatever you find yourself intensely attached to may not necessarily be only in the other person; rather something you feel is missing within yourself.
In order to be fully capable of loving someone else, you need to genuinely love all parts of yourself. If you feel you are lacking something, you need to cultivate it within yourself instead of looking to fill the void with another.
Not all relationships are meant to last forever. As the spiritual text A Course Miracles says, “two people are brought together to bring out their wounds in each other.” There are relationships in which wounds are healed and you stay together and there are relationships in which wounds are healed and you move apart. The key is being able to accept the difference.
Emotional pain and suffering are the greatest catalyst for change in our lives. There is no more vulnerable time to dive into the deepest places of your own psyche than when in the throes of heartbreak. But the suffering is only necessary until it isn’t any more. Once you get to a certain point , you have the option to stay in agony or to move forward with peace.
Through pain the pain of losing someone else, you are able to learn so much about yourself. Your strengths, your weaknesses, your standards, your limits, your blind spots and most importantly how you can improve and become a better person. Or you can simply refuse that amazing opportunity for growth and stay in the pain.
You can to let go with grace or to hold on with attachment. The choice is yours to make.