Life has many challenges, and they will vary in impact, but deciding to and teaching yourself how to let go of someone you love is undoubtedly one of the toughest.
It can feel unimaginable to let go of someone and no longer have them as part of your life, but sometimes it’s necessary.
Sadly not everyone we encounter is meant to be with us forever. Sometimes, they’re only with us for a few months to help us learn something or grow into a better version of ourselves. In other cases, we have a time limit with a loved one based on the facts of life and death.
Regardless, life needs to move forward, and the hope is that you can do so as a better, healthier version of yourself. You deserve a great life, and although creating one may not include some of the original players you once had hoped for, that does not mean that their absence determines the result.
1. Identify why you need to let go of someone
You may be operating off a gut feeling, the perspectives of family and friends, or the guidance of a mental health professional, all offering practical advice as to why you need to walk away. However, you may still not know what that means.
The first step to gain clarity, you need to look to yourself exclusively. Outside support is essential and helpful, but the truth is, if you do not make the tough choices, they may not stick. Think about the factors and incidents that led you to consider letting go. A few common ones are:
- An abusive partner
- Substance abuse
- Endangerment of a child
- Deceit or betrayal
- A loss of self
This is certainly not an exhaustive list, and the reasons that you have do not have to be from this list; they may be based on your determination, that this is what has to happen so you can have a mindful and better life.
2. Seek help and support
Of course, there is always the option to seek professional help and treatment, but it is not the only option. It may also be an option to consider your inner circle.
After you have identified the cause of having to let go of this person, those who are nearest and dearest to you may be waiting to welcome you with open arms; perhaps they already saw that you are now open to accepting help.
If you decide to allow a friend or family member to be with you during this transition, do your best to still be in charge of yourself. Often those who are the closest to us unintentionally steer us in the wrong direction.
Never stop reminding yourself that your main focus is moving forward; if you get counter-intuitive advice, even if it comes from someone you care for and trust, listen to your gut or speak to a professional.
If you are sinking into a state of depression that you cannot manage, definitely seek outside help. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, there are things to know about women and depression and men and depression that can serve as guides to assess your own state of mind.
3. Establish actionable steps
Gathering up the physical and mental energy to create, and execute, a plan of action may take more time and strength than you realize, but you have it in you to dig deep and come out better on the other side.
Cut off contact
Arguably one of the scariest, and most difficult steps, is cutting off contact.
This can be an uphill battle because if this other person is someone you speak with daily, multiple times a day, lived with, etc., going to nothing can be jarring. Not to mention you can only control your side of the situation.
It can be a wise move to block this individual from being able to reach you in support of your mental health. Start with your cell phone, and from there, move to social media.
After tending to the digital aspects, be sure that the people in your support network know that you are doing this as well. Then if they are contacted, they know not to give out your whereabouts or information and that you do not want to hear about what this person is up to.
Accept what you cannot change
Even if you cannot come to terms with past events, you need to conceptualize that you cannot change them. Nor can you change or predict the future. You need to take action and make life choices based on the now and the evidence in front of you.
Once you accept the facts of what you cannot change, you can begin to go your own way.
It is also important to realize that you cannot stay for the sake of the other person. The American Psychological Association discusses what can happen from making choices based on the other person involved.
This can be especially true when you are dealing with an abusive partner. It is also important to note that abuse has many forms, and physical, although one of the most discussed, is not the only type.
Any type of abuse is unacceptable, and it does not matter who this person used to be, who you think they are, or who they promise you they will become. You cannot change how someone else actively decides to treat you.
Understand that you have no control
This can be another tough pill to swallow. We often like to tell ourselves that we are in charge of our destiny, and to an extent, that is true. However, there is much that we have no control over as well.
Even in a healthy romantic relationship, not everything can be controlled, so you need to understand that it is even more true in an unhealthy one.
The caveat to this, however, is that you can control yourself. You can manage your self-care by setting and asserting boundaries, you can identify what you need to move forward, and you can spearhead your journey towards moving on.
Lean on those around you, especially family and friends
You do not have to go it alone, and why would you want to. Making and living sustainable change is a process, and you should expect relapses, misjudgments, and restarts; these all come with the territory.
Allow a family member, or trusted friend, to be your safe place to fall. These are the people who love you unconditionally and take pleasure in helping and supporting you in the good times and the bad.
The need for support is not a sign of weakness, and in fact, in many scenarios, like difficult or dramatic breakups, holding back from your network can lead to a sense of secrecy that will set your healing process back.
Do not self medicate
The void that can be created due to not having a specific person in your life anymore can be significant, do your best not to try to fill it up with more toxicity in other forms.
Allowing existing bad habits to get worse or turning to unhealthy behaviors to try to avoid having to feel your feelings is a slippery slope.
Some common but unhealthy things that people turn to during the loss of romantic relationships are:
- Binge eating
As with our former lists, this is not complete, but it gives a good snapshot of things to watch out for during this time. If you find yourself engaging in out-of-character behaviors after being triggered by your sadness, spend time thinking if those choices are in line with your ultimate goal.
Dedicate yourself to self-care
This is a trendy phrase for something that we should all be doing, no matter where we are at in life, and that is being a crusader for our own well-being. This is going to take on many forms.
For some, taking care of oneself may mean eliminating certain foods from their diet. For others, it is one night a week spent unplugged and indulging in self-care routines, and for many, it is the continual, daily effort that they put towards creating the life that they want.
You may not feel ready for this or at this stage in your process. Fake it until you make it.
Going on a walk every day may not have some profound meaning on the surface, but if you dig deep, you may come to realize that a simple daily walk can be a great way to re-center, connect with your intentions, and have separation from the daily grind. Not to mention fresh air, sunshine, and physical activity are critical for overall healthy living.
Trust the healing process
Slow and steady wins the race. The initial let go is quick, but the overall process is not. You must trust the process and understand that instant gratification is likely to never happen and that the absence of immediate reassurance does not mean you’ve made a poor choice.
Think about if you spend more than twenty years involved in this entanglement; you cannot expect to move on from that significant period of time quickly.
Keep walking towards and working on developing your best life, and the payoff will happen. Some say that true growth comes on the heels of the times you felt most discouraged.
Learn true forgiveness
The only way to fully dissolve yourself from past mistakes is to forgive. Even if it’s extremely difficult, especially if you’ve been hurt by an abusive partner, learning true forgiveness is going to give you the best opportunity to heal.
You must view your other relationships in the rearview mirror and leave it there. Holding onto resentments and grudges will hinder your process.
You may have to spend a significant amount of time working on this. Additionally, there may be outsiders who you need to forgive and forgiveness that you need to show yourself as well.
Understand that there are layers to this, and as new things come to light, handle them with an empathetic and forgiving heart.
4. Learn how to grow from trauma
The fact is, separation causes grief, which can lead to trauma. The American Psychological Association suggests that resilience can be learned, which means growth after trauma is attainable.
Acknowledge the events
It may feel like going backward to acknowledge the events that got you here, but it’s the first thing you need to do. An acknowledgment of things that happened to you gives you the best opportunity to heal and move on in a way that is specific to your own personal traumas.
Identify and avoid triggers
Knowing what triggers you and how to avoid it is crucial. You need to pay attention to your feelings and how you react to specific people, places, things, and events. It is also important to note that these things may not trigger you forever.
For example, your first birthday after a devastating breakup may feel terrible, but that does not mean that all your birthdays moving forward will remind you of this past love.
Give yourself props
Speak encouragement into your own life. Give yourself props for not only pulling yourself out of an unhealthy environment but also remaining dedicated to growth.
Do not wait for only the big moments. You need to celebrate the little victories as well. Maybe cutting off contact was a really hard step for you; in that case, congratulate yourself for going 24 hours without the compulsion to reach out.
Don’t tell yourself things like ‘it’s only one day who cares.’ Instead, tell yourself, ‘I made it a whole day!’
This may have to happen a bit down the road, but once you have a handle on recovering from your own trauma, a great way to sustain it is to give back.
If something specific triggered your departure, like abuse or addiction, you can find community groups where you can volunteer to help people who are stuck in similar situations.
You have the personal experience and have a better understanding of the situation. Remember how you felt initially and how comforted the support of someone who has been there felt. Being that support for someone else is humbly satisfying.
5. Manage your expectations
While it is true that you don’t get a crystal ball to see for certain what lies ahead of you, here are a few things that you can expect from the dissolution of an important relationship.
Expect the pace of healing to be varied and not always set where you want.
If you get it ‘right’ on the first try, you are fortunate, but you should not expect perfection at all, but let alone immediately. And you should expect moments of humanity that set you back a little.
Sometimes walking out, or being walked away from, means that we experience other losses. Sometimes people leave our lives in solidarity, and other times, it’s a beloved pet that is a casualty of your breakup.
Reframing your expectations
If you live inside ‘how you always thought it would be’ and refuse to reframe your expectations, you are going to be stuck in neutral.
Instead, look at this as the chance to redesign your plan for your life in an incredible way you never thought possible under the constraints of your last situation.
Change in other areas
As your identity evolves, you are going to realize other areas of your life that you want to change, which can be exciting.
For example, exiting an unhealthy relationship may highlight for you that you have not been eating healthily or taking good physical care of yourself, and now you are on a quest to flip that script.
6. Look at the benefits
It is not all losses and heartaches. There is much to be gained from this experience.
You will get a chance to rediscover yourself as an individual and learn who you are, what you love, and your inner thoughts and feelings. You will get to be in charge of your own schedule and not have to consider the feelings or wishes of a romantic partner.
This can lead to more chances to reconnect with friends and family that perhaps fell by the wayside as a result of your choice to spend more time with your significant other.
Physical stress, and trauma greatly affects our bodies. Once stress is managed, you can expect:
- Better quality sleep
- Less physical effects of stress
- Increased emotional safety and security
- More energy
Nobody is saying letting go is not hard, or that it does not take work. Neither is it fair in this life to have to let go of someone you love.
There is no magic pill, and if you want positive things, you have to find practical ways to open up the possibility for them to enter your world. It can be a huge reality check when a relationship ends, and many people break down as a result.
If that happens to you, use this as fuel to be better, to do better, and to live better.
One person can impact your life, but they cannot define it. If you need to let go of someone for your own good, then that should never be something that you question.
It is possible to cherish old memories while also acknowledging that the person they are attached to is no longer a healthy element of your life.