by Tony Doherty
We are never more human than when we are grieving. A strange claim? Perhaps that statement even sounds a little harsh, unfeeling. Grief can be excruciating. It is almost always accompanied by pain.We try to avoid it – even avoid thinking about it. But stop and consider something deeper for a moment. Grief is the other side of love.
If we love deeply, it is deeply painful to let go.
And yet ‘letting go’ is an inevitable and continuous process in the journey of life.
We let go our childhood.
We let go our adolescence – with all its pimples and self-doubt.
We let go our single life – if we move into committed relationship.
We sometimes have to let go our work – with unemployment, and displacement
We let go our home – the place that has shaped us.
Then there are the biggies.
– to let go our parents – sometimes in death, sometimes into aged care;
– to let go our children from home – if they ever leave??
– to let go our spouses sometimes – with death or divorce
Then inevitably we let go our previous selves. Perhaps our sight gets a little blurry, our hearing a little less acute, our bodies a little less flexible. The changes creep quietly into our days and frequently with little notice. Ever heard the jokey observation? The three stages of life are – youth, middle age and ‘Wow, you’re looking well!’. Even our friends dodge the truth.
Letting go is hard. Holding on is harder.
Sometimes it seems to me life’s journey is a continual process of letting go.
Something like a long river of releasing one thing after another.
If that be so – we had better learn to swim.
It is a river that can have dangerous rapids and jagged rocks.
You don’t drown by falling into the water. You drown by staying there.
Given the accelerating pace of change, is there any surprise so many are gripped with fear of drowning.
One of the dramatic correctives to this merry-go-round-on-steroids culture, is the ancient wisdom -that we all grow ‘by subtraction’. The arithmetic of our culture is that ‘accumulation is king’. Consuming is the path to satisfaction.
Consider the opposite: perhaps the secret of well-being, of growing, of feeling free is: letting go.
Embracing the practice of letting go is a most difficult and daunting exercise. It can also be an exhilarating one. It applies to our emotions as well as our possessions.
Letting go of the desire to be in control; to be always right, to have the last word, to be better than others. It is only by stripping yourself of the useless, non-essential baggage of your life that you can live with a sense of well-being.
Perhaps the wisdom lies in swimming. Remember the day you learnt to swim.
Only when you allowed yourself to trust the water, let go the side of the baths, and realise that your body could float, did the marvel of swimming became real.
Letting go and trusting our life is one of the great lessons of this winding river in which we swim.
Read more of Tony’s wisdom at his blog “Breaking Bread Together”.
Tony and Ailsa Piper are the author’s of the wonderful book The Attachment.