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The tune “Let It Go” from the film Frozen has become one of the most iconic Disney songs ever written. It has won many awards and gained international recognition. The music and lyrics of this bestselling song reeled us in, but perhaps it was the theme that hooked us.

Losses can never be judged or measured by any source external to one’s own heart

The phrase, “let it go” has become an anthem of relief. It represents the freedom from the constriction of pain. When hearing another’s suffering, however, we often respond cavalierly, saying “Oh, just let it go!” But letting go is far easier said than done. Whatever “it” is that the person feels is caught in a confusing web of loss and despair. This pain is then replayed relived and reinforced until everyone around them becomes fatigued hearing about it. It is often at this point of frustration when the phrase “let it go” is deployed as the universal silencing solution. It is shortsighted, however, to hope that a single action will take the pain away, and presto—relief will be felt!

“Letting go” is a strenuous and deeply challenging process of grieving our losses that happens over time, but it is highly effective. Losses come in all shapes and sizes and can never be judged or measured by any source external to one’s own heart. We must be vigilant to never minimize what we may be tempted to label as a “minor” loss. One loss can never be compared to another. All losses must be felt to their fullest and honored individually. The non-profit organization, Mental Health America,  provides helpful, gentle and practical suggestions for coping with loss.

The process of letting go, or grieving our losses, is a dynamic and rigorous one. This experience can feel like a wild and unpredictable journey, moving us without notice from the raging, white water rapids of shock and anger to the swiftly changing river of sadness, disbelief and confusion. Over time, the world, as we knew it, prior to the loss, continues to fade. While the acute, searing pain of loss can decrease; feelings of loss do not disappear completely. We do not “forget” the pain or the experience of that empty place that once was full.

Eventually, however, a new normal emerges. The grief process teaches us how to gradually accept, honor and integrate our loss, as we continue to move forward with the task of living.

In her book, Kitchen Table Wisdom, Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen writes, “The way we deal with loss shapes our capacity to be present to life more than anything else. You grieve because it’s of help to you. It enables you to go forward after loss. It heals you so that you are able to love again.”

Ancient cultures expected and welcomed the grieving process. They created tribal rituals in order for it to be a shared experience. But in our culture of rugged individualism, our society often encourages and applauds the method of enduring in silence. We retreat into isolation, in order not to burden others or expose our vulnerability. Unfortunately, this is the very time when we most need to be cradled, comforted and companioned.

In the grieving process, there will certainly be times when we need pockets of solitude and privacy. But we are ill advised to leave one another alone there for very long. Gathering with others, in order to speak and listen without judgment to each other’s suffering, is how we ease the constrictions of the heart. This is where we learn that it is safe, in the company of trusted others, to begin to let go of the pain of the inevitabilities that we must face.

Support groups can be a modern day approximation of the restorative gatherings of times gone by. These places of healing came in the form of a tribal circle that gathered nightly around the campfire or in the cozy inclusiveness of a communal quilting bee. Our own dinner table can be a place of gentle respite for sharing nourishing food and compassionate conversation. These are not meant to be circles of fixing. They are “come as you are” sacred places of welcome. Their message is, “So very glad that you are here. Let’s listen to each other’s hearts. That way, we can hold on together”.

Grieving is unbearable when we attempt to carry it alone. How cruel it is to think that our pain could ever be magnified with invisibility. The next time we are tempted to reflexively say to ourselves, or to another, “Oh, just let it go!” may we first pause, have reverence, and take responsibility for the magnitude of what we are implying. May we remember that “letting go” is one of our most rigorous experiences. It will require the courage and patience over time to love ourselves back to life. Grieving can be a more merciful journey if we allow others to love and support us tenderly.

When you have experienced loss, what has helped you through your grieving process?

 

Contributed by

Mimi O' Connor
Group Support Specialist

Hearts linked, together we heal…

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