Letting go of relationships – whether a long marriage or a short friendship – might be the hardest thing you’ll ever do. These tips on how to let go of a relationship are inspired by The Parable of Letting Go, as well as my own experience with loss and healing.
In The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself, Michael Singer describes how to put an end to the habitual thoughts and emotions that stop you from being happy, healthy, and fulfilled in your life. You’ll learn how to dwell in the present moment and let go of painful thoughts and memories. And yes, you’ll learn how to let go of a relationship that is haunting you.
My most popular article on all my Quips and Tips blogs is How to Let Go of Someone You Love. Why? Because the loss of a relationship is a deep wound that never really heals. I’ll always carry a sliver of pain in my heart for the people I’ve loved and lost over the years. But I’ve learned how to heal from the overwhelming grief and obsessive thoughts of how much I want those relationships back in my life.
Learning how to let go of a relationship is both simple and difficult. It’s as simple as accepting reality, but it’s difficult because we let our beliefs control how we feel and see the world. This parable – The Parable About Letting Go – will help you see what I mean.
The Parable About Letting Go
Once upon a time there was a climber who was determined to reach the summit of a high mountain. After years of preparation, he began his adventure. He journeyed alone, because he wanted to prove he could climb the mountain by himself.
He began his ascent. As daylight faded, he decided to continue until night fell. Soon he was overcome by total darkness. The moon and stars were hidden in the clouds, and he could see nothing.
The climber was only a few yards away from the summit when he slipped and fell off a ridge, plummeting at a frightening speed. While falling, he could only see shadow-like figures in the darkness while he felt the tug of gravity sucking him down.
He thought death was near when suddenly he felt the tightening of the rope around his waist. He was jerked to a stop – his rope was caught on part of the rock wall of the mountain.
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In desperation, suspended in mid-air, he screamed, “God, please help me!”
A deep voice responded, “How would you like me to help you?”
“Save me!” the climber cried.
“Do you really think I can save you?”
“Yes, my Lord.”
“Well then, cut the rope.”
There was a moment of silence, then the man tightened his grip on the rope around his waist.
A few hours later, the sun rose and the mountain rescue found the climber. He had frozen to death, his hands clutching the rope tied to his waist…and he was suspended only two feet from the ground.
The moral? Let go when it’s time to let go, or you’ll die in place.
How to Let Go of a Relationship
In Letting Go of Someone You Love, I share 75 practical tips for moving on after a relationship ends. Here, I share what I learned this past weekend about breaking free from the hold past relationships often have on us.
Trust that something better is on the other side
If the climber let go of the rope – which was the scariest thing he could imagine – he would’ve lived. He could’ve kept climbing, and he would’ve experienced a joy and peace greater than he ever imagined! But he couldn’t let go because he was afraid, and he didn’t trust.
Why do you need to know how to let go of a relationship? Because clinging to the relationship is somehow comforting you. If you let it go, you lose something. What will you lose if you let go of the rope?
Put your grief, pain, and regret into words
“Writing about our worries and troubles helps us reconcile ourselves to them and understand them,” writes Sonja Lyubomirsky in The Myths of Happiness: What Should Make You Happy, but Doesn’t, What Shouldn’t Make You Happy, but Does. “Putting our emotional upheavals into words helps us make sense of them, accommodate to them, and begin to move past them. It ultimately prepares us to share those upheavals with close others.”
How does expressive writing help you let go of a relationship? By reducing your experience, making it smaller and less important. Writing helps shrink the pain and grief you feel, which dilutes it and helps you store it away more quickly and efficiently. When you can’t let go of the past, you need to process your emotions before you can move forward.
Find three good things about letting go of the relationship
Here’s what I wrote yesterday in church: “My sister telling me that she doesn’t want me in her life anymore more was the most painful thing I ever experienced. It was also the most blessed experience! It allowed me to reach out to others, offer them comfort and practical tips on how to let go of relationships. Above all, it showed me how Jesus felt when He was rejected by man, and how God feels when we turn away from Him.”
Are there any benefits of not having this relationship in your life anymore? You’ve been dwelling on the pain of letting go of the relationship…now, take time to think about how this change in your life is affecting you in positive ways.
Think about how you think
Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life by Byron Katie is a powerful yet simple way to learn how your thoughts affect your life. It’s taken me a couple of years to really integrate this into my life. What happens to me – the loss of any relationship – is simply an experience. It doesn’t have power over me, people don’t have power over me. The only thing that has power over me is my thoughts and beliefs about the situation.
If I believe that letting go of my relationship with my sister is the worst thing ever, then I’ll be consumed with grief and pain. On the other hand, if I stop fighting reality and accept that for some reason my sister can’t be part of my life, then I am free. It really is as simple as that! What is difficult is training your mind to question your thoughts and beliefs, and not let them control you. That’s why you need to read Byron Katie’s books and learn what The Work is all about.
If you are struggling with a breakup, separation, or divorce, read How to Be Happy Single. Katie Byron’s books offer better tips on letting go of relationships, but they may not be your cup of tea.
I welcome your thoughts on how to let go of a relationship – and The Parable of Letting Go – below. I can’t offer advice or counseling, but it may help you to share your experience. Writing can bring healing, clarity, and insight.
P.S. I also shared The Parable of Letting Go in my article about Dealing With Trust Issues in Relationships. Trusting means letting go and being vulnerable with people…and with God.