Saturday, March 5, 2016

post estrangement: misconceptions about letting go.

Memes are often posted about topics like "letting go". I find most of them over simplified advice and they really do very little to address the challenges of actually making such a transition in life after a traumatic event.  

Often people will post memes about letting go and then make statements about how hard it is.  What is really needed is a discussion about what are the steps that contribute to the action of letting go. 

The act of "letting go" is not an instant decision as implied by those memes.  Letting go of an emotional state is not the same as opening a hand to release a string.  If it were that simple then no one would remain stuck in the hurt filled stage of suffering through grief and sorrow. 

Letting go is a journey, it is not an event.

It is not a single decision rather a series of decisions, a commitment to a progressively changing thought process, a turning away from through conscious effort.  The effort of moving in a new direction post trauma is more like building a new road than letting go of a string.     

The problem with most memes on this topic is that they imply it is a choice made in one moment and then the action is done / complete. This leaves those struggling with the concept of moving forward, letting go, feeling like they are failures for somehow not getting over it through the simple action of letting go.  Or in the above meme, even worse is the implication that if you don't "let go" it is because you are not courageous enough!  So you are left not only facing the sorrow of the grief, you are now facing the thought that the fault lies with you, that you are somehow defective, because letting go is difficult for you. 

How much kinder it would be if instead we were encouraged to understand that the reality is that the process of letting go is an action that happens every time you consciously remember what you have lost and then choose to turn your thoughts to other things, such as what you can do now in this moment to build a foundation for your pathway toward a new and very different future. 

Even more hurtful is that the above meme also implies that it takes courage to let go.  I feel that courage has rather little to do with letting go.  Courage is what you use to face something that causes fear and yet you do it anyway.  

Letting go of expectations in relationships that have been broken is not about overcoming fear, it is about overcoming sorrow.  There is a need to overcome the sorrow for lost relationships and lost innocence and lost possibilities.  

I think it is wrong to say you face sorrow with courage.  You face sorrow with grieving and then with healing.  You don’t overcome sorrow with courage; rather, you face change with courage.  

I believe that a more accurate way of expressing healing after estrangement is to say;

“We face with courage an uncharted future, by slowly releasing the grip that sorrow has upon us.”

I welcome your thoughts and feedback. 

Renate Dundys Marrello 
2016 - 03 - 05 

Link to my Facebook Reflections Page

My journal blog entries are copyright.
I love when you share my page to spread the word.
If you want to quote me I kindly ask that you please provide a link back to my page. 


  1. Excellent essay Renate. There are a number of powerful, truthful, statements within it. To me, the strongest I read is the simplest: "Letting go is a journey, it is not an event".

    1. thank you for your feedback I appreciate it very much.

  2. I wasn't expecting something this profound in my random google search. You are very right.

  3. Yes having experienced estrangement you are always holding out that some day all will be the way you will it to be that this is some sort of bad dream. It is a process and each person has their own timeframe in that process. Sometimes two steps back sometimes one step forward. But the pain never really resolves it just Becomes dull.