Advice on Letting Go

Letting go has never been my strong suit. From my childhood, I’ve been a collector:  rocks, feathers, glass bottles, sea shells, trolls. I still have many of these collections in various old cigar boxes and zip lock bags around the house. In many cases, I can’t remember where I discovered these treasures. At the time, I thought they would be indelibly burned into my memory. But now, one sparkly rock tends to look very much like the next. Still beautiful. But  too bad I never thought to label them with their origin.

There is copious advice on how to let go of negative things: stress, past relationships, anger, toxic behavior. But I’ve found little help in letting go of things I don’t want to.  One of my favorite poems is Max Ehrmann’s Desiderata.  He says to “Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrending the things of youth.” I’ve tried to heed his words. Gone are the high heeled stiletto shoes (my back can’t take them any more), eating anything and everything filled with sugar, and the sky blue eyeshadow of my pre-teen days (thank goodness). But I still try to keep my youthful sense of fun. Our entire family recently had an all-out battle with Nerf guns. It was a blast — literally and figuratively.

The thing I find most challenging is letting go of people. Last week, we spent Spring Break driving hundreds of miles to visit colleges for our son. As each school got farther and farther from our home, I began to feel a squeezing of my heart, secretly hoping that he might not choose the college farthest away. But of course, that was one of his favorites. My husband reminds me that this is how it’s supposed to be. We raise our children to become independent adults, and letting them go is part of the process. I know he’s right, but I haven’t figured out how to do it yet. I’m open to all suggestions. But I’m still a Mom, and my children will always be my babies.

At the end of that week, I also learned that someone dear to me was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. This is letting go of a completely different sort. The news wasn’t totally unexpected, but it sets us on a specific path of action which includes learning as much as we can about the disease and how to make her life happy and comfortable for as long as possible. For her, the letting go is involuntary. Over time, she will be letting go of memories she has taken a lifetime to collect. And we will be slowly letting go of the woman we knew.

So instead of offering help in this post, I’m asking for it. Please post a comment on how you or others have learned to let go of things or people you love.

One Comment

  1. Phil says:

    Donna –

    There are two type of letting go – that which you can prepare for, and that for which you can’t. Unfortunately you’re up against both at the same time.

    As to Shaune, think of it more as spreading your net rather than letting go – you will still be his Mom, your house will still be his home (at least 4 months a year) and his laundry pile will still need to be washed 🙂

    As to your Mom, that’s the harder one. We’re never ready to accept “bad news” no matter how well prepared we are for it. Joan and I went thru the same thing with her Mom. While we were away on our first trip togther, she had a heart attack and did not remember that Joan had told her we would be gone for the weekend. We came to to multiple messages on Joan’s answering machine asking why she hadn’t been to the hosiptal to see her Mom.

    That was the start. For a few years an in-house aid kept everything together, but as time went on, her physical and mental condition got to the point that we had to find a nursing home for her. Cleaning out the apt was tough – so many memories built over a lifetime. And our last visit – the day before she died – Joan, Kyle and I spent time with her on the patio letting her know “what’s new”. I still wonder how much she understood. But I also wonder if she held on just long enough for us to see her one more time.

    Perhaps what’s most painful in the short term is that intellectually you understand the situation but emotionally can’t accept it. What may ease the pain is reflecting on the shared moments through the years that made you realize what a special person she has been for you, your Dad, your sister, Trace and the kids. Focus on those and the strength of your relationship overcome the pain of her condition. And we’re always here for you and the family.

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