“Letting go doesn’t mean that you don’t care about someone anymore. It’s just realizing that the only person you really have control over is yourself.”
– Deborah Reber
Perhaps the most important thing we can learn from maturity is that grief alone is not reason enough to take action. Often times we feel overwhelmed by loss, stricken by sadness, or consumed by longing for a past lover, friendship, idea, or goal. However, just because we feel something doesn’t mean we should do something. Perhaps one of the greatest hallmarks of maturity is understanding the difference between feelings and actions. Perhaps acceptance indicates growth, especially when things do not go in your favor.
In a previous post I wrote about one of the greatest love affairs of my life
that just so happened to be with a woman. I haven’t seen or truly spoken to her in years, and yet every so often I find myself dreaming of her. When this happens I experience a stressful influx of grief. It is not unusual for me to spend the following day or two in a puddle of nostalgia and bittersweet tears, ruminating and revisiting old correspondence. It is not uncommon for me to reach out to her and to try desperately to mend the silence once more, begging to rebuild for the umpteenth time. The truth is as much as I miss her, I admire her for staying away.
Like a moth to a flame I just never wanted to give up on her. Perhaps because our relationship was deeply fruitful and unique. Perhaps because we shared countless interests, hours of laughter, movies and entirely too much chocolate. Perhaps because her friendship circle became my own and so my loss was greater. Perhaps because she challenged and loved me simultaneously. Perhaps because I finally found the accountability
she had been screaming at me to take for all those years, and I wanted to show her. Perhaps because she always made me laugh. Despite our ability to turn a perfectly good ladies night into a verbal anger match, no one could ever understand me quite like she did. Perhaps no one ever will – and I’m learning that that’s okay.
Acceptance does not necessarily mean failure. Sometimes it just means acknowledging your emotions and being strong enough to feel them without acting on them. Accepting her absence in my life has not been dissimilar to grieving the death of a loved one, but I’ve learned to fill the hole with unconditional love. Maybe one day she will change her mind and reach out. Maybe enough is enough. I can admit that I sometimes self medicate in an attempt to toss and turn a little less when grief creeps up my spine, but the truth is as soon as the risk begins to outweigh the benefit, it’s time to let go.
The art of letting go has been a reoccurring theme in my decade old stack of therapy notes. This focal point was a reflection of my incessant need for control. This need manifested as control because control mimics safety. As a child of abuse and trauma, safety became a suitable priority in all areas of my life, so I became preoccupied with avoiding harm and abandonment through dangerous control attempts. My opportunities for control were found in abusive relationship dynamics, eating disorders, obsessive compulsive behaviors, even senseless manipulation and chaos creation. By no fault of my own, I found dysfunction to be the natural state of things rather than the unnecessary uproar that it is. Somehow, the maladaptive behaviors I had learned as a child became problematic as an adult, and yet they comforted me because they were familiar. This is self-sabotaging behavior and more importantly, the concept of true control is a fallacy. The truth is children do better when they know better.
I had to learn to accept healthy loving dynamics and reject mistreatment. I had to learn to fall in love with myself independent of relationship reflections. I had to learn to find joy in the mundane and avoid the impulses of boredom and excessive discomfort. I had to learn to stay present long enough to acknowledge, accept and process pain without fighting or fleeing.
Those lost live on in my memories and my ability to continue loving them in the retelling. I am no longer bound by the guilt of the agitation I experienced as a result of my lost sense of control. I now understand the value of staying in the presence of pain, thinking before I speak, and disregarding actions attached to thoughts or feelings. While not entirely free from self-loathing (also a control dynamic), I no longer harm myself and instead aim to empathize.
Whether you are freeing yourself from pain or people, it is only when you can let go that you can truly possess.
**If you’re a mental health survivor or mental health provider and want to tell your story – please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!**
For more excellent insight and entertainment through a collaborative approach to all things mental health, including a guest post from yours truly, visit the Blunt Therapy Blog by Randy Withers, LPC!
For additional perspectives on suicide prevention from master level mental health providers visit, 20 Professional Therapists Share Their Thoughts on Suicide!
In collaboration with Luis Posso, an Outreach Specialist from DrugRehab.com, Deskraven is now offering guides on depression and suicide prevention to its readers. For more information on understanding the perils of addiction visit, Substance Abuse and Suicide: A Guide to Understanding the Connection and Reducing Risk!
In addition, for a comprehensive depression resource guide from their sister project at Columbus Recovery Center visit, Dealing with Depression!