I have a client whose husband died over a year ago, and she still has his cigars in the freezer. She still has his belts in the closet. She still sees his books on the bookshelves.
I recently spoke to her about the need to let go. She knew that every time she saw his possessions in the house, she was dragging her energy back into the past. She was avoiding the necessary grief that needed to take place if she is to claim her life in a new way.
Yes, there are lovely momentos we want to keep when someone is gone. But I’m not talking about those. I mean the objects that you know deep down inside are ways of tricking yourself into not facing the loss.
This woman came to me for writing coaching, and you wouldn’t automatically think that writing has anything to do with cigars and belts. But it does.
Writing brings meaning to our lives. So does love. Sometimes we cling to the past because we fear the meaninglessness that comes with letting go.
But in order to birth anything in this world, there must be separation. A cutting of the cord. The empty place within where life once grew.
The good news in all of this is that letting go is a creative act. In the tender vulnerability of loss, we touch the bruises within our spirits that allow us to express the fragility and beauty of life.
And this is your gift to others. The expressions of our lives are not just for us alone. They are meant to be shared. They teach and guide and comfort and enlighten others on their own paths of loss and recovery. And in this way, we continue the cycle of regeneration and meaning-making in the world.
What can you let go of today? Old letters? Unused gifts? Food from your pantry? Poems from your journal? The anger in your heart?
Try letting go of one thing, and when the impulse to cling comes up, dive into it. Feel it fully. Like a newborn baby, let yourself cry as loud as you want in the shock of this separation. Let it speak to you and speak back to it. Let your voice help create a new life for yourself. Put words on it. Share it.
Your grief is a service in this fragile and lovely world.
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a writing coach with 20 years of experience teaching at the graduate and undergraduate levels in universities, as well as in diverse community settings. She specializes in working with women in academe.