Letting go is a tricky phrase, concrete in its imagery, but abstract, in its practical application. It’s easy to envision letting go of something tangible and benign— setting a butterfly free, for example. As a spiritual and emotional practice, though, it’s harder. How do we let go of things that are internal and intimate—feelings, relationships, even people?
We urge each other and ourselves to “let go” of all kinds of troubles.
For minor grudges, anxieties, or guilt, this might be reasonable advice; it only hurts us to hold onto such things, like gripping a hot coal. But to someone who is actively grappling with complex and tender concerns, like trauma and grief, the admonition to “let it go” can feel like an insensitive cliché that only serves to comfort the one saying it.
To the one who is struggling, it rings hollow; to “let go” of something so personal feels about as possible as letting go of one’s own heart.
Perhaps, expectations of the outcome of any situation, positive or negative, should be the focus of our release, freeing us to accept what is.
I have learned so much about this practice from the members of our newest support group, Living Beyond the Loss of a Spouse. I have the honor of facilitating meetings where people who have lost their life mates, recently or years ago, can share their journeys of loss and new life. They help each other shoulder the weight of grief.
Strength and Hope
I am a guest in this group, for I have not yet experienced this unique and all-encompassing grief. I feel honored to be welcomed into this sacred space of raw pain, transcendent connection, and healing. In it, I hear fairy tales that don’t have happy endings: trips not taken, grandchildren not met, dreams not realized, beds left cold, and chairs left empty. I also hear an incredible amount of strength and hope.
Sweet souls who attend the monthly gatherings carry their wisdom and vulnerability. They let go of pretense—the need to appear better than they feel, the suit of armor they must wear to shield their tender, broken hearts from a world that expects them to “let go” of their grief on some arbitrary timeline.
It’s an unfair expectation, really. How do you let go of a hole in your heart? How do you let go of a void in your day-to-day life?
Leaning in and living on
The answer that emerges from the group’s collective wisdom, time and again, is that you don’t. You learn to live with it. You let go of your old vision of what life was to be like, and you carry your grief/despair/anger/confusion with you as you proceed, day by day, into your life as it is. This means leaning into pain, surrendering to uncertainty, and having faith that we will come out the other side different, but whole.
Let go of what should be and accept what is. Just as a lotus grows in mud, we find new growth out of our suffering. What a sacred gift that is.
Living Beyond the Loss of a Spouse is one of our many support groups which meet monthly at All Souls. Spiritually-centered care giving is at the heart of our church and is conducted through our many Pastoral Care Teams. All Souls members have access to pastoral care 24/7 every day of the year.
Living Beyond the Loss of a Spouse
2nd Tuesdays | 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.If you have lost your life mate please join a group for those who are learning to live beyond their losses.
Join us at All Souls on every Sunday in March 2019 to explore the theme of Letting Go. We are celebrating Women’s History Month with special guest speakers and musicians in our services. We’d love to have you with us in-person or online, together in community and covenant. Live stream services are at 10:00 a.m. CST for our Traditional service or the 11:30 a.m. CST Contemporary service. Listen to all our services, including the Humanist Hour (Sundays at 11:30 a.m.) on our weekly podcast, too.
Steven L. Williams serves as the Pastoral Care Chaplain of All Souls Unitarian Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Steven is a regular contributor to BeyondBelief.online and is the author of our feature story, The Humanity of Difference.Cover Photo: mindandi – www.freepik.com