What does it truly mean to let go? I have come to learn through my own grief journey, helping guide other in theirs, and all of my studying that letting go is an art and that art is created by the individual griever and no one else. It's a masterpiece of tears, pain, and newfound gratitude.
Does it mean to forget? No.
Does it mean to delete memories? No.
Does it mean that you no longer love the person that died? No.
Is it easy to let go? No. We fight to hang on. We fight to hang on to every morsel of what we have left of our grief and of our loved ones earthly belongings probably in the hopes that this will in some way return them to us. At least, this is the way that I have personally felt on my own journey through grief. I have fought like hell to hang on to my husband and I have let go.......over and over and over. Each time in a different way and on a different level.
Now I am no expert on letting go.......Is there really an expert in this area? I don't believe there is. This is why it's important to share our stories of loss, so that others may use our road map to build their own.
But for me and what I have experienced, it means to slowly untie the strings of suffering. Letting go means to actively find ways to heal your own heart.
I have been on a journey of letting go for 594 days.
On Day 15 I wore his boxer shorts, t-shirt and wedding ring to bed. I did this for days and it comforted me. And when it didn't any longer on day 29, I threw out his underwear in my outside garbage can all while sobbing. Sobbing because he was never again going to do funny dances in those underwear in our kitchen to make me laugh. Sobbing because it felt necessary and sobbing because it hurt like hell. It hurt like hell to throw out underwear.
On Day 30, I shut off his cell phone. Never again would he call me or send me a text from work.
On Day 42, I bought new sheets for our, now my, bed.
On Day 57, I put away his toothbrush and on Day 59 I threw it away proceeded by rivers of tears and talking to myself. "Holy shit, I'm crying over a damn toothbrush! Did you hear me Ryan? I am crying about your toothbrush. I'm such a freaking mess."
On Day 93, I went through his clothes, packed away a few, and donated the rest. His work boots will forever be lovingly packed away in my garage. Packing up and donating those clothes was so necessary for my personal healing but it was so, so painful. I held each item and remembered where I bought it, remembered each time I washed it, remembered every time he wore it, and almost threw up at the thought of someone else owning it.
On Day 180, I took off my wedding ring and lovingly packed it away.
On Day 182, I put my wedding ring back on and on Day 183, I packed it away again. I haven't worn it since but I often feel my finger for it.
On Day 300, I let go of the me I was before my husband shot himself in the heart. I wasn't that girl anymore and in so many ways I didn't really want to be. I left her standing at the end of a trail one day when I went out hiking to heal my soul. I haven't seen her since.
On Day 365, I opened my heart and let some of the suffering break free. This was the one year anniversary of his death. I screamed until I fell asleep.
On Day 410, I let go of the future I had envisioned for myself when I was married. And on Day 411, I met the me that I am on the journey of becoming. She just showed up one night and she never stops feeding me hope.
On Day 500, I rearranged my bedroom for probably the 10th time since he died. I am constantly trying to re-wire my brain. To find how all of my new goals and dreams fit into this home that we lived in together for 12 years.
And today, on Day 594, I went for a hike and climbed a bluff with our children. I'm not sure what I let go of today but I do know that each day that I continue to befriend my darkness and also bathe myself in my own inner light...........I free myself a little bit more. I heal myself a little bit more.
Have I forgotten that man? That boy I met so many years ago? That boy who evolved into a man within all those years that I melted under his touch? No. He changed my life. He helped me find myself. He broke my heart so incredibly that I healed parts of me that have been oozing with pain since childhood. He contributed more to my life than I can put into words. I keep the beautiful memories of him in my mind and all of my love for him in half of my broken heart. He's forever mine and no one can take that away from me. That isn't something that has to be set free. But slowly my suffering is flying off on the breeze. And that is the true art of letting go: to be able to figure out how to keep the memories and the love and let go of the binds that tie us to our pain.
My words for you who are reading this? Be kind to yourself. Don't let anyone rush you in your grief....not even yourself. Letting go is like every single other part of healing grief, it's up to the griever. There is no set timeframe or framework for grieving. There is not one book, therapist, exercise routine, or course that is going to fully heal you. Like my mentor Louise Hay says and has a book about, "You can heal your heart."
Time doesn't heal all wounds but within those days of your grief you will find ways to let go of your suffering a bit more each day, each month, each year.
You will figure out your own art of letting go.