When You Can’t Let Go of the Past
What do you do when you’re stuck and can’t seem to move on? Here’s what to do when you can’t let go of the past – whether it’s a relationship, job, person, or even a pet – inspired by the Parable of the Serene Queen.
In The Myths of Happiness: What Should Make You Happy, but Doesn’t, What Shouldn’t Make You Happy, but Does, Sonja Lyubomirsky shares where happiness is really found. This is a fantastic book for people who want more out of life, who need practical strategies for letting go of the past and creating a life that is meaningful and interesting.
The majority of my comments here on Quips and Tips for Love and Relationships are about being stuck in the past. We tend to want what we had, and we don’t what to do when we can’t let go of the past. The tricky thing is that what works for one person doesn’t work for another. And, what might help you let go the past today may not be effective in a couple of years. That’s why I write articles such as 5 Ways to Fill the Void After a Breakup. When you can’t let go of the past, you need to try different things until you find that “sweet spot” of healing and freedom.
My suggestions for letting go of the past are inspired by the Parable of the Serene Queen. May her experience and perspective inspire you to think differently about your own life…
The Parable of the Serene Queen
Once upon a time, there was a Queen who was happily married for 25 years. She had it all: a strong connection with God, a beautiful castle, loving husband, and a variety of children and grandchildren. She knew she was blessed. She wrote in her Gratitude Journal every night, and connected with God many times every day.
One day, a messenger brought bad news. “My beloved Queen,” he said, “I am grieved to report that your husband is having an affair with a princess in a neighboring kingdom.”
When the Queen confronted her husband about this rumor – for she had long ago learned never to believe anything until she had verified it herself – he confessed. He was in love with the princess’ beauty, youth, and energy. He wanted to go live with her in a different kingdom, and start a fresh new life.
The Queen’s people were devastated, for they loved her dearly. “What a horrible man, how could he do this to you?” they cried. “You should have him beheaded. He deserves to die for the terrible thing he did to you and your family!”
“Maybe it was terrible, maybe not,” said the Serene Queen. “I must admit that I have been sleeping so well since his departure. His snoring always kept me up at night, he complained a lot, and I didn’t have much time to pursue my hobbies and work. There are some benefits to living alone, and I am grateful for those. I miss my husband, but my emotional and physical health has improved. May he live in peace.”
A few months passed. The Queen’s messenger brought good news. “My beloved Queen,” he said, “I am thrilled to report that Storybrook, two kingdoms away, has decided to give you 10,000 acres of fruitful, productive land. The King and Queen are sad because your husband left you, and they want to show their support by offering you this valuable resource.”
The village people were overjoyed, for the land produced mangos and strawberries and kale, which their own land didn’t offer. “Aren’t you thrilled, my Queen?!” they shouted. “This is wonderful news!”
“Maybe it is wonderful, maybe not,” said Serene Queen. “We shall see what it brings – but I accept the land with gratitude.”
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Time passed. The Queen’s messenger brought bad news. “My beloved Queen,” he said, “It grieves my heart to report that the land was flooded and all the crops were lost. Several hundred people died, and there was no insurance. Recovering the land and helping the families of the departed will our entire our kingdom. We have lost everything.”
The Queen’s village people were devastated. “How could God let this happen to our beloved Queen, who was so faithful, humble, and compassionate (not to mention well-rested and happier than she ever was before)?” they cried. “Beloved Queen, this is terrible news!”
“Maybe it is terrible, maybe not,” said Serene Queen as she packed her belongings so the new King and Queen could move into her castle. “Let us gather together in the unoccupied territory on the other side of Storybrook, and see how we fare. I’ve been told it is a land of milk and honey, but I had no reason to explore it. Come, let us go see.”
What to Do When You Can’t Let Go of the Past
Dear reader, how do you think the Serene Queen fared when she and her village people lost everything? Tell me in the comments section below! This isn’t just a fairytale – it’s a parable of resilience, faith, and acceptance. If you can’t let go of the past, you are not putting your strengths into action.
If you can’t get over a breakup, divorce, or death, read How to Let Go of Someone You Love.
Figure out what really matters in your life
“There is only one thing worth being concerned about,” said Jesus. The secret of the Serene Queen’s serenity and resilience was her connection with God. She had faith, and she believed that things happen for a reason. She didn’t always know what the reasons were, and she got hurt by life. But she didn’t give up her faith because she knew what really mattered in her life. When you can’t let go of the past, it’s because you haven’t figured out what the one thing is that you should be most concerned about.
Find practical ways to rebuild your life
In 10 Tips for Building a Life Outside Your Relationship, I encourage readers to contribute to something bigger than themselves. If you’re having trouble letting go of the past, it’s because you’re too self-involved. Navel gazing. Selfish! If you want to move on, think about contributing to something bigger than you. You’ve heard how fulfilling and healthy volunteer work is, but you’re not doing anything to contribute to a worthwhile cause. Or, your volunteer work has become stale or meaningless. It’s time to put your talents and skills towards something you believe in! This is one of the best ways to let go of the past, even if you feel like you can’t.
Learn about resilience
Why are some people more resilient than others? The Serene Queen parable shows us that some people are more resilient because of their spirituality, but we know many spiritual people who just can’t recover from loss. There’s lots of debate amongst psychologists and counselors about how resilience is formed and maintained – but we won’t go there. Right now, you need to focus on why you can’t move on. You’re not bouncing back from this breakup or loss, and you don’t know how to stop ruminating about the past.
You can learn resilience – how to let go of the past and move on – but it takes time. You’ll need to put some effort into growing and learning. How? By reading books, getting involved in support groups, talking to a counselor, and trying different things that have helped other people let go of the past. There are no quick or easy answers. But if you put some work into your own growth, you will reap the rewards.
I invite your thoughts on what to do when you can’t let go of the past, but I can’t offer counseling or advice. If you want to finish the Parable of the Serene Queen, I welcome your creativity and imagination!
May the Parable of the Serene Queen inspire you to accept what happened to you, and surrender to the power of something greater.