The number one question readers ask me is: “How do I let go of the past?” The good news is that letting go doesn’t have to involve a long, drawn-out good-bye scene! Detaching and healing from your past may be painful, but it doesn’t have to involve intense long-term suffering.
How do I know? Because when I wrote 75 Ways to Let Go of Someone You Love, I interviewed life coaches, counselors, and grief coaches on letting go. I know how shocking, confusing, and heart-wrenching it is when you’re forced to let go of a loved one. It’s devastating – and it can forever change how you see yourself.
But changing how you see yourself doesn’t have to be a bad thing! In fact, if you take it a step further and allow God to shape and change your identity – if you learn how to see yourself the way He sees you – you will Blossom into the woman He created you to be. These tips for letting go of the past are about rediscovering your passion and identity and embracing a new season of your life.
Here’s why it’s so important to learn how to let go of someone you love; this is an email from a reader called Karen:
“Laurie, I can’t express how thankful I am for your How to Let Go of Someone You Love e-book. It has put into words and perspective the feelings and emotions that I have never been able to explain or express to anyone, let alone myself, or even in prayer. It has triggered a better understanding of what is happening in this “relationship” and a search for more answers about how to come out of this a champ. Again thank you, this is one of the best gifts I could have received this year. Karen.”
If you really want to let go of the past, you have to start doing the work it takes to heal. The best way to proceed is to stop thinking of it as a “long good-bye”, and starting thinking about a new season of your life.
Embracing a new season involves putting the past to rest. For example, what do you know about yourself and your past that you don’t want to face? I know I ruminate and obsess about my mistakes and regrets. I’d rather hang on to the pain and shame than let go and be healthy. If you’re the same way, then you’re setting yourself up for a long good-bye that will be needlessly painful.
It’s time to Blossom.
Letting Go of the Past – Without a Long Good-Bye
Here’s what one reader says in How to Emotionally Detach From Someone You Care About:
“I can’t handle the stress, emotions, and heartbreak anymore. The only thing is, I’m in a relationship where I feel too bad to leave, and I know letting go of the past will be too hard for me. He has nothing. We rent a room and split rent, his family isn’t there for him, and he just lost his job.
How can I leave him? I care so much about him. I try to leave and end up giving him more chances and it keeps happening over and over. I blame him for how I’m acting and it’s messing with us both emotionally. How do I leave when he has nothing?”
The Long Goodbye is about holding on to the past because you haven’t decided or chosen to let go. Choosing to try different tips for letting go of the past is more difficult, which is why we fall into the trap of The Long Goodbye.
It’s time to get out of your way
Sometimes we refuse to let go of the past because it’s comfortable and familiar. It’s easy to stay stuck in the past than to do the work it takes to move forward. That’s the first reason I call it “The Long Goodbye” – because we draw it out longer than it needs to be.
The second reason it’s The Long Goodbye is because healing takes time. It’s hard, and it requires us to put effort into healing. Letting go of the past is a choice you can make, or an option you can ignore. If you find yourself holding on to the past, you’re normal! Our tendency is to fight for what’s comfortable, even when it’s painful and not good for us.
“Letting go is indisputably one of the hardest things I will ask you to do,” writes Rachel Sussman in The Breakup Bible. “Although I know you are desperate to recover from your ordeal and move forward, we do tend to hold on tight to our pain, our memories, and our old love feelings out of familiarity and habit. Saying goodbye to that mindset can be very scary.”
But, practicing healthy ways to say good-bye – even when it hurts – will help you discover how letting go helps you heal.
Be deliberate about letting go of the past
Sometimes people hang on to their pain, their disappointment, their anger, their misery. Have you ever met someone who was bitter and infuriated about something someone did to them 10 years ago? I have. Its called choosing not to let go of the past because it’s easier to stay put. Sometimes we choose to ignore our options for healing.
“Letting go enables you to explore the world from an entirely different perspective and see how vast and exciting it truly is,” writes Sussman. “It prepares you to rediscover yourself, and, in the process, determine what you really want from life.”
If you deliberately choose to let go of the past – and make The Long Goodbye shorter – you will rediscover yourself. You will figure out what you really want from life, and you will write your own script.
Explore different ways to make The Long Goodbye shorter
There are no quick tips on how to stop living in the past. But there are deliberate steps you can take to process the grief, ease yourself into a new stage of life and blossom. Letting go of the past is crucial to recovering from a breakup or loss in life. It’s something you need to do. It still may be a long goodbye, but it will be quicker if you actively work towards healing.
There are two keys to letting go of the past: 1) becoming aware of what helps you heal and what sets you back; and 2) trying different things until you find what works for you.
In other words, you need to actively explore different ways to make The Long Goodbye shorter. A few examples are journaling, exercising, reading self-help books, praying, volunteering, getting counseling, blogging, traveling, going back to school, decluttering, trying different types of therapy.
Learning How to Let Go of Someone You Love may open the door to a beautiful, fruitful, amazing season of your life! Instead of being a “long good-bye”, letting go can be a journey of self-exploration and discovery.
Letting go of the past is something you need to actively own and participate in. You can read a million articles on healing, but nothing will work until you try different things.
A question for you
What is one word that describes how you feel about letting go of the past? Maybe you’re scared, lonely, exhausted, or beaten down. I welcome your thoughts on making the long goodbye shorter and lighter.
While I can’t offer advice, I do read every comment. I encourage you to respond to other readers’ comments if you feel led, and to share your experience of The Long Goodbye. Writing often brings clarity and insight, and can help you process your feelings.
Your thoughts are welcome below! I don't give advice, but you can get free relationship help from marriage coach Mort Fertel.