Learning to Let Go

For all too many years, I have pondered the question as to how to let go, when in reality, I had already done so. Perhaps not in the terms that a trained mental health expert would prefer, but in my own way. It was the only approach that made sense to me.
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"In the process of letting go you will lose many things from the past, but you will find yourself." -- Deepak Chopra

"In every life, a little rain must fall," an old adage that seems of late to apply to my family. Over the past weeks, the collective group has suffered what I often term as the "tsunamis" of life. The great waves of pain that seem to keep pounding down until the events escalate and there appears to be no reprieve from the damage that is left in their wake. Over these many years, I have come to learn that every household has its days filled with joy and each has its time of sorrow. In some ways, each of us is familiar with the torrential rains that pour down unbearably. There is no control, no rhyme or reason. And sometimes, after the storms have subsided, there are those remaining questions that lead one to wonder, "I should have or could have." When these burdensome events arrive, life seems to become overwhelming and all too unfair.

Recent days have gathered my family once again to rally around an elderly aunt who was hospitalized. After falling in her home, she suffered a broken hip that required surgery and an extended stay in the hospital. In the first days of her recuperation, I sat with her daughters as she moved in and out of awareness. Not only was she unaware of her current circumstances, but of her life and those around her. I watched as her fears became insurmountable in her mind and the anxiety threatened her ability to heal. As my cousins sat there worrying about their mom, I saw a transformation take place -- one that I had not been cognizant of since the time of my own dad's illness. It was an awakening to the realization about the cycle of life. Of birth and death and the effects on those individuals who are an intrinsic part of one's life. As I sat in that chair watching an ailing loved one, I silently pondered, how do you let go of the people and things you most love? How is it even possible to say goodbye to someone who rendered so much comfort throughout a lifetime of trial and tribulations? In my dear auntie's heart, I found a solace that only those connected by the spirit understand. She was my refuge and a place to run in the storms that raged throughout the better part of over 50 years.

Some 20 years have passed since my dear dad left this earth, yet as I observed my aunt struggle to regain some sense of balance, the memories of Dad's suffering surfaced in my mind's eye. There among my loved ones and the surroundings of the hospital room, the recollections of time played out across the thoughts from long ago. I realized I had not let go of the emotions attached to my father's illness and death. I recall that when Dad became ill, my initial reaction at his cancer diagnosis was that of fear. The panic attached to what the illness meant to him and his survival became a paramount part of daily living. I realized my family's patriarch, guardian and mentor was no longer able to keep watch over his children. Instead, his daughters and sons became his caretakers and the keepers of all he needed. It was now our place to provide for him as he had once provided for us. And in the months that followed, a wave of great sadness entered into all of our lives.

In the years I spent serving in the law enforcement profession, I learned many lessons relating to the arrival of negative circumstances and the manner in which they are handled. There is no set design in the response of emotions or resulting behaviors that are attributed to the situations. Nor are there any clear answers about the right or wrong way to address such events. Despite all of this experience, I was not able to digest it as it applied to letting go. For in reality, I felt that if I let go, I was giving Dad permission to exit this earth -- a sort of permission that allows for a loved one to leave their place in time and enter into the space of a cherished memory to be sustained forever more. In my need to retain all that was comforting, I spent a great deal of time pondering the concept of letting go. Two simple words that possess great meaning. Two words that have taken me a lifetime to understand and practice. When I realized that letting go not only means of emotions, places and items, I came to terms that it more importantly means to let go of significant persons, too. Not only in the sense of circumstances such as a death, a divorce, employment lost, or a ruptured relationship, but in providing permission for a loved one to peacefully drift away to the hereafter. For in the letting go comes the release for all involved. This consent does not imply that the grief is gone. Nor does it misrepresent the extreme sense of loss. What it does portray is a movement of evolving. Evolution is a primal practice. The cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth. In my father's death, I found no initial release from the hurt inflicted by his passing. The lingering questions remained a part of my being. In reflecting now, it has become apparent that his mortality was a reminder of my own. A thought that did not provide any solace to my already damaged psyche. Instead, it perpetuated the concept that each of us has our time in the sun.

For all too many years, I have pondered the question as to how to let go, when in reality, I had already done so. Perhaps not in the terms that a trained mental health expert would prefer, but in my own way. It was the only approach that made sense to me. The letting go of the frozen emotions and the stilled frames of memories cascading across my mind had somehow found a way to allow my heart to free itself. And like any expert surfer who skillfully rides the mighty waves, I have learned to just move with the motion of the powerful source and ride it with the capability of the collective wisdom now acquired. What letting go now means to me is finding a new normal. A balanced approach to the factors that have altered life. Not a closure or a forgetting of the individuals or events, but more importantly the learning to move away from the anger and the pain and find the joy in each relationship, each experience. It is staying focused on the present moment and the dawning of each new day.