Spiritual Platitudes, Grief, and the Art of Letting Go
Updated: May 22, 2020
More and more I am less and less moved by the spiritual platitudes that crowd the corner of the Internet and social media that I tend to wander around in. Maybe I’ve just heard them so many times
over that they’ve lost their ability to move me, or maybe its that they are so overused I’ve gotten tired of their presence with lack of practical application. Take the variations on the “let go” mantra. Let it go, let go let God, let go of the past, let go of the familiar, forgiveness is letting go, trust and let go, give yourself permission to let go, etc. Letting go is definitely in the top five of the spiritual mottos of our time. While it’s widely overused, it has merit. But its one of those things, much like “just love yourself,” that sounds great in theory but no one is fully clear on how to follow through and actually do it.
What does it even mean? It has many meanings and interpretations depending on who is using it and what the act of letting it go is about. For me, at it’s core, it's an unbinding of yourself from whatever might have its hold on you or what you might have your hold on. Some examples:
You lost someone and can’t move on.
You think something in your life should have been or gone down differently than it did and you’re stuck on how it was supposed to happen.
You’ve locked yourself into an identity or role that isn’t your truth but you haven’t been able to stop being that person.
Someone hurt you and you are still thinking about it, talking about it, and living your life defined by it.
You want something badly and you keep trying to figure out HOW to make it happen instead of allowing it to happen the way it wants to.
You have legitimate worries over health, finances, work, etc and feel like this black cloud follows you wherever you go, never giving you space to relax.
You are engaged in relationships that you hope will get better but just aren’t.
Whatever it means to you in the moment, one thing to consider, which I find missing in the usual conversation around this topic, is the emotional component of letting go. This is where I believe the how to of letting go comes in. Letting go is about acceptance and the emotional process that gets us there is grief.
Why grief? Well, Grieving frees you. It unlocks you emotionally and that process of grief is the key to creating space where there wasn’t any. Really, letting any emotion flow freely will create inner space but grief has a particular quality to it and a natural progression needed in letting go. It could unlock long held emotion which has been sitting like a heavy weight internally. In the space that clears within, other things begin to rise up and create themselves. The process of grieving is a surrendering to what is and a release of what was. Going through the stages of grief brings you to a final acceptance and then life begins to flow again.
How do you grieve then? You open the door to grief when you go to the depths of what you don’t want to feel by telling yourself the hard truths about your life. You admit to your feelings instead of trying to run and hide from them. You admit to yourself (and maybe someone else) finally that whatever that thing is for you isn’t actually what you want it to be right now. You’ve hoped and hoped and stuck with it, but it’s not happening. I heard Joe Dispenza say “hope is a beggar” and it struck me. As I thought about it I realized that hope keeps you waiting instead of creating. So, admit whatever it is to yourself, stop getting stuck in hope, grieve, and then you’ll be in a more powerful space to create and energy can flow freely through you. That’s how you let go.
So tell yourself the hard truths. It might hurt to face it but it will get you unstuck. Once you tell that truth you have something to work with: the emotional process of grieving.
Give in to the grief that comes up when you fully face that things haven’t worked out the way you thought they would. Feel how painful it is to let the dream be dead. Face the thing that happened long ago that you don’t ever talk about because you got good at tucking it away out of your own sight. Share it even. Let yourself break wide open in full body sobs and see if you aren’t clearer after that. Whatever your dream was didn’t happen the way you thought it would but try trusting that a part of you needing expression could only find it’s way by things playing out the way they did. Whatever happened to you just wants air to breathe. Grieve your innocence and the version of you before that moment changed you. Grieve what you get from continuing to be the limited or less expressed version of you, so that you’re more willing to leave it behind.
Once you come through to the other side of proper grieving and you’ve moved into acceptance, you’ll find you cleared a way for something else. Different from what you had imagined maybe, but most likely way more amazing and perfect for you. Grieving gets you out of the way and it completes the process of death so that rebirth can happen. So that the you who was there beneath it all can see the light of day again. The idea of the perfect “what could have been” has to be grieved so a new reality can take shape for you in that space. The only caveat is that you complete the grieving process by allowing all of what you feel a space to be felt, so that you can come to acceptance and peace.
I don’t find this process easy. I’m not sure anyone does. I’ve been at a point in my live where I’ve been experiencing a lot of grief. I cry a lot these days about things I can’t begin to articulate as I reflect on the totality of my life thus far. Everything that didn’t pan out in my plan, people that I’ve needed to say goodbye to, aspects of youth I miss, decisions I made that I admit I wish I’d done differently, traumas and losses, etc. It feels like it brings me closer to myself when I can let myself fully enter the feeling, and the release feels sweet and tender. I’ve learned to hold space for myself and allow the fullness of it all. I’m looking at it as a good sign of growth, as my tears nourishing the soil where new life can bloom.
Mourning is a torrential downpour Sweeping through my heart I am crying a river of change