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The Process of Letting Go

By Thea Iberall

In 1967, I was having a philosophical difference with a new friend about how to live our lives. We were 18 years old and freshmen in college. I said one should laugh through life, looking for the good things. She said one had to be wary about the bad things. It was a question of the glass being half full or half empty. We couldn’t resolve which was the better way to live at that young age, and so, we made a pact to review the question when we turned 72 years old. Today is my 72nd birthday. I have thought about this day for 54 years as I pursued the ups and downs of my life. What lies heavy on my heart, though, is that my friend passed away six years ago. What started as an attempt by two young friends to understand how to live has become, for me, a heavy weight. For the last six years, I have been in great pain around the circumstances of her death. Over the years, she became a recluse and it killed her. I tried to stay in touch with her, but not hard enough. I could have been a better friend. I hold myself responsible for her death. Some pain is so great that it is necessary to hold onto it in order to give it the importance and significance it deserves. Anything short of that would trivialize the pain; it would put the pain on par with stubbing my toe or banging a knee. If I let it go, then obviously, it wasn't that bad. Instead, I want to hang onto this pain, rub my face in it, beat myself up over it, tear my clothes, wear a hair shirt. I let her down. What will it take for me to let go of pain like that? What does it take to let go of the guilt? I woke up this morning wondering if I walked through the seven valleys of Attar, could I release this pain? Attar says I must see beyond what I was brought up to believe, to see beyond what reason tells me is true, and to see beyond what I think I know. As a young adult, I believed I wasn't safe and she was my lifeline. I've always cherished our connection and being afraid of losing it, I stay loyal to it. Even if reason tells me she is gone. We created this pact as a way to say let's be friends forever. I am holding myself in pain because of my loyalty to her memory. I am holding on to her death as a bad thing. Attar says to detach. I am grateful she was in my life. I am whole and I create my own safety. I accept the choices she made in her life. I want nothing for myself and I can see she needed to not be bothered by people’s needs. I detach from my sense of loyalty and move into gratitude. I detach from feeling guilty over her death and move into expectancy. Attar says there are no opposites. My joy of knowing her led to my grief of losing her. Grief and joy are the same. Loyalty and disloyalty are the same. Love is not about possession. Love is about honoring a person's choices. There is connection and no connection at the same time. The pact has no power. It was all true. The glass is half full and half empty at the same time. Attar says to expel all that is not me. The essence of me is my love. So, today, in front of you all, I choose to release this pain and guilt. Loyalty to pain is not my answer. My answer today is the freedom of being in the essence of love.

Participants’ Reflections:

  • I know the deep pain you are talking about and it’s excruciating. Thank you for sharing.

  • A year ago, I would have quickly responded to what you shared by telling you five things to do to help yourself. Today, I want to say you made a wonderful commitment to each other all those many years ago, and circumstances intervened.

  • On the issue of friendship, I am at best a quirky person. I have never once hung out in a bar, and never had a real friend until this last year. Now, I’m surrounded by great friends who I feel such a strong heart-connection with.

  • I love your readings. Every time someone in the group cries, I start to cry too. My heart goes out to all of us when there is pain and suffering. I thought about regrets and wishing we never had to feel the pain. I have learned so much from this group in terms of letting go and letting go of regrets. I feel so strong about everything I am learning.

  • What really changed my regrets was to change them all into gratitude.

  • When we stand beside waters that are deep and we know they are deep, we do have trepidation. I so felt your trepidation in going into this deep water today. I’m thankful you are part of this group and very much a leader and a communicator for us. The deep waters that you have lived through, we all get to swim in at different times. You are a teacher of deep truths. When we go to very deep places in our lives and suffer deeply and love deeply, there is wisdom that comes in giving of ourselves. Thank you for your depth of thought and heart. Thank you for your words.

  • I’d like to acknowledge the courage it took to do this today. I’m hoping you find relief. You faced your fears and did it anyway. It’s easy to get enveloped in the pain. Often this pain interrupts our ability to think clearly because it takes so much energy to endure the pain. Grieving through this takes energy as one navigates through all the encompassing layers. Sometimes the reason we’re grieving is to get through it and be on the other side. There is life beyond loss. It’s part of the process. I want to acknowledge your bravery walking through this process.

  • I learn a lot in this group. I acknowledge the work we all do as we explore the use of the tools we share here in order to let go of pain of the past and fears about the future.

  • As an observer and witness of your journey, it’s all about letting go, something I am working on as well. It’s such an inside job. Something that happened so long ago has been living in you, having its way with you as you live around the memory. You grew enough over time to feel the depth of the pain, thus making it be less dominant in your heart. It’s remarkably wonderful and painful to walk through this process of letting go because it’s freeing you and freeing her on some level. It takes courage to move through things, no matter how one does it, because even kicking and screaming is movement as long as you don’t hurt anybody, including yourself.

  • Thank you for sharing your heart today. Everything in this group is so inspiring. It’s synchronistic. Yesterday, I actually attended a webinar with David Whyte. Something he said stuck with me. He said, “Let yourself alone so you let others alone.” Then he asked, “Who would you be if you left yourself alone?” I’ve been thinking about this a lot.

  • Get off your own back. Accept yourself as you are. Attar says the first thing is to have patience with yourself.

  • Thank you for joining us today in this continuing adventure in authenticity. I hope you all enjoy your day being gentle with yourselves and letting go.

Photo credit: Cloisonné pendant by Linda Lundell

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