As a semi-recovering perfectionist/control freak with a tendency toward anxiety and worry*, I am amazed to be sharing tips on letting go. Living with chronic illness for two decades has certainly taught me a thing or two about the subject. However, witnessing four deaths in two months has made me an unintentional expert on loss. [*I’m not as scary as I sound, I swear.]
My Dad’s passing last week was something I had feared since I was a little girl. My family wasn’t religious, yet as a child I would often pray to God to keep my parents alive and safe. It is ironic that my prayers for Dad in the past year have been for his spirit to leave his uncooperative body. Witnessing his steady decline for seven years at the hands of Alzheimer’s disease has taught me that sometimes the most loving choice is to let go.
Although my loss as of late has related to death, “letting go” pertains to accepting many of life’s challenges including losing a job, ending a relationship, or experiencing illness. Loss is universal. We all must experience it, and though we feel it in different ways, the following 7 tips and tools can be helpful in lessening the pain.
All things must end – the good and the bad. Embracing that truth allows us to loosen our grip and relax into life. Although we tend to see surrender as a form of weakness or giving up on something, it is actually a very courageous act. Surrendering painful thoughts or emotions, and giving them to God (or releasing them in any way that feels most comfortable) is not easy. Surrendering can be active, as in consciously changing your thoughts and feelings about a situation, or it can be passive, as in simply deciding to let the Universe bring whatever is meant to be. However you choose to surrender, the ultimate result is peace. When I first heard of my Dad’s passing, I went numb. And, I gave myself the time and space to do so. I took that evening and the next day to drink wine, lounge in bed, watch a movie, and just let myself be without judgment. It was a very healing and important time.
2. Look for Inspiration
I’m amazed by the manner in which God prepared me for my Dad’s passing. The weekend before it occurred, I had been online meditating and reading quotes that inspired and uplifted me. The day before he passed, I had an appointment with a yoga instructor who decided that rather than movement I needed the healing power of reiki and shiatsu massage. After sensing my energy, she suggested I “open my heart chakra,” advice that proved helpful in dealing with my family’s grief. As I’ve mentioned before, when I lost my cat Pip many messages and miracles were present. Inspiration and assistance is available from a variety of sources. Some are obvious such as family, friends, spiritual teachers, nature, and self-help books. Others are rather surprising, as in helpful Facebook posts, online forums, and animal messengers. When life is difficult and you find yourself clinging too tightly, all you need to do is look around; sources of inspiration and kindness are everywhere.
3. Actively Release Emotions
Emotions are meant to keep moving, that is why “motion” is part of that word. Illness and loss stir up many emotions – sadness, anger, fear, grief. All of these feelings can become trapped in the body, manifesting as sore muscles, high blood pressure, depression, and a host of other dis-eases. It is important to be aware of how our bodies and minds are holding on to painful emotions, and to consciously work on letting them go through action. Grief and sadness can be soothed by tears, or countered by laughter. Anger can be eliminated through screaming, punching the air, or vigorous exercise. Fear can be eradicated through love. Many activities can help in releasing emotions and encouraging relaxation including Qigong, Journaling, Yoga, Energy Healing, Tapping (EFT), Homeopathy, Aromatherapy, Meditation, Massage, and more.
4. Lose Yourself in Laughter
Laughter can definitely fall under the previous category, but it is such an amazing tool it deserves its own bullet point. Our culture sees death and loss as a time of mourning. We are told to dress in black and keep a somber, stiff attitude. I think that’s ridiculous and completely unhealthy! My Dad was always laughing and smiling, and I am lucky to have inherited that trait. Because Dad was so silly, every time I think of him a funny memory pops into my head. When my sister Cheryl and I flew to Florida to be with our Mom in our time of grief, none of us expected the visit to be fun. Yet, we laughed constantly, reminiscing about all the crazy situations our family got into and silly stories and jokes my Dad always told. It felt amazing to be able to appreciate the joy Dad gave us. Crying, feeling sad or mourning in the traditional sense is completely contrary to how my Dad would want us to feel. Keeping that thought in my mind made the tears pass quickly. If you experience loss that makes humor hard to come by, watch a funny movie or a cartoon, or surround yourself with friends who know how to lighten the mood.
5. Find Comfort in Touch
I was somewhat amazed at how many friends and loved ones upon hearing of my Dad’s passing said they were sending hugs, because quite honestly that was what I missed most about losing Dad’s physical presence. He gave the best hugs, so filled with love and a feeling of safety. Other forms of gentle touch work as well, to both give and receive love. As a little girl, I would caress my Dad’s arm as we watched the Muppets together before bedtime. After Dad became ill, I realized that nothing could soothe or calm him better than a gentle touch. Just massaging his shoulders or squeezing his hand always helped him to relax. There are lots of healing modalities that use the power of touch including Healing Touch, Therapeutic Massage, Accupressure, Reflexology, Animal Therapy, and many more. Find the one that feels most comfortable for you.
6. Soothe the Soul with Music
What better way to let go than to belt out a verse of “Let it Go” from the movie Frozen. Singing is a natural form of release. I have always been a bit partial to The Full Monty’s version of “Let it Go” because it adds a dose of humor too. Aside from being cathartic, simply listening to music can be very relaxing. I used a playlist filled with loving songs to help calm my nerves on my flight to Florida. I have also regularly used Sound Healing and Healing Sounds from Qigong to help rebalance my body. My friend Harry listened to Metallica to help work through his grief. It all works.
7. Embrace the Love around You
When we lose someone or something it may feel like the world is getting smaller. The truth is loss brings people together and opens up space for new experiences to come in. Friends and even strangers start to extend their kindness and compassion in many ways. When you are open to receiving it, the love just keeps magnifying. My husband’s Uncle has been through several tragic losses in the past few years. When he learned about my Dad, he called to offer his condolences and share a piece of advice. He told me to pay attention to what was happening around me. He said people would share love and advice in ways that would be surprising. His call was poignant, and just one example of the many words of wisdom, love, and hope that rapidly came into my life to fill the void that had been seemingly left. My Dad had been a well of support and love. My Mom always told me he was my biggest fan. When he passed, I initially felt a sense of horror that the love was gone. Yet in his absence, I have never felt more loved or supported than I do now. I understand that love is infinite. It doesn’t die. It doesn’t ever leave us.
Over the past week and a half, I have felt myself getting stronger every day. I keep reminding myself that we never know how strong we are until strong is our only option. Letting go is a process and it gets easier with time.