As I watched him sitting in his favourite chair staring at the hundreds of books in his library, I felt the pain he was feeling knowing it would be time to let go of most of the books that reminded him so much of his wife and his two daughters.
This room, this special room, was framed with wall-to-wall books on every subject that mattered most to his family. There were history books, and science and technology books. One area was filled with just self-help books and gardening books. There was not a subject that defined the lives they lived that was not neatly placed on the shelves in this room.
I knew from our experience together that this would be one of the hardest rooms for Mr. Smith to sort. He had lost his wife to cancer only a few short years ago and now he was moving into another home, a new home, to start the next chapter of his life.
For him, the books were a comfort and they represented the stories of the life that he and his wife shared as they raised their two daughters. How could he possibly let go of his books? How could he possibly let go of the stories and the memories that this room held, that each book told in the story of his life?
As I put my hand gently on his shoulder, I stood by his side and enjoyed the view alongside him.
When he was ready, he looked up at me and we began to sort one book at a time, one shelf at a time. One story at a time. One memory at a time.
The question often comes up: “How do you let go of what means so much to you?”
Whether you are downsizing your home and moving to another, or decluttering and organizing the rooms in your house, or separating property after a separation, a divorce or a death in the family, it’s never easy to let go of the things that bring us closer to the people that we love and the times that mean so much to us.
So how do you do it? How do you let go?
1. Be gentle on yourself and those around you: Know that this is not an easy time for you and for others. There is no need to put additional pressure on you or each other by expecting you all to force yourself through this experience with bravado and good cheer. Take your time. Move through each object, each space, each room knowing that each step is a big step that is leading you all to the end result you seek. Be kind, be gentle and be patient with yourself and others. You are moving forward.
2. The object is not the person or the memory: We see this all the time. Objects become symbols of the people we miss and the times we long to relive. Knowing that an object is not the person or the experience itself but a representation of that person or experience will allow you to give yourself permission to let it go. You can take a photograph of the object and relive the experience or remember the memory by looking at the photograph rather than keeping the objects. Despite this being one major challenge that many go through, once on the other side, you’ll realize that it’s ok to let it go.
3. Let go of any shame you may be feeling or blame you have placed on others: Shame and blame often come up when we are working through physical objects that are being let go. Often there is a sense of having not been the person you wanted you or others to be, or should have been or could have been. There’s a tremendous heaviness of not having showed up, been good enough or caring enough that weighs heavily on families. Instead, know that you are did your best, as did they. Hindsight is always 20/20 and rather than turn against yourself, or others, let those feelings go with compassion and love for everyone involved.
4. Let go of the guilt you put upon yourself: Guilt can be very good as it allows us to see that we have done something wrong and we can make it better. However, when we are looking at the past, and often the distant past, we can sometimes feel like we cannot forgive ourselves or others and carry the weight of guilt with us. This is very damaging to you, to others and to the letting go process. Instead, choose the perspective that you can move forward knowing that the past experiences are here to help you and everyone involved grow and move forward.
5. Envision the new experiences that await: The positives that come with letting go are in creating space, literally and figuratively, for what is yet to come. By letting go you are giving yourself the opportunity to bring in the new, the exciting, the helpful and the loving. It may be hard to say goodbye to some things but knowing that what is yet to come will be most helpful and nourishing to you and your life, and to the life of others. Be hopeful and open to what is coming your way.
As with Mr. Smith and many of our clients, the letting go process brings up so many emotions, memories and experiences that are painful and challenging to get through. If you find that you or a loved one are having difficulty letting go of the things in your life, remember that it’s ok to give yourselves permission to stop, be gentle, let go of shame and guilt and look forward to what is yet to come. Acknowledge that it is a challenging experience and know that once you take the first step, and then another and then another, you will find that you are all moving forward and getting through it together.
Should you require assistance or have questions, please do not hesitate to contact us or call the office at 613-627-4438. You do not have to do it alone. I, we, are happy to help.