Have you known for months or maybe even years that you needed to let that one person in your life go? But you hang on to hope that things will change and you can avoid the ache that comes from having to cut ties with a relationship that once meant so much to you.
I’ve been in your shoes one too many times. Whether it’s a significant other or a close friend, letting go of people can be one of the most painful life experiences. However, when you fully let go of that person, you are gifting yourself the love and healing that you deserve. And letting go can open the door to new opportunities and healthy relationships that fill up your cup instead of always causing it to spill over.
If you’re ready-and I mean really ready- to find the freedom that lies on the other side when you let that person go, then this article is for you. We will cover tangible steps you can take today to finally let go.
Why letting go is tough
When I have to let someone go, there are typically one of two feelings that I am afraid of.
One of those feelings that I desperately want to avoid is immense grief and the other is concern that I may regret the decision down the line. In reality, neither of these emotions are a good reason to hold on to someone when you know it’s not good for either of you.
Logic tells you to let the person go, but science has even found that after letting someone go the areas of your brain associated with sadness have increased activity. And no one likes to feel sad. This makes it terribly challenging to actually disassociate with the relationship.
And another study found that anxiety, depression, and sleep disturbances all increase initially after letting go of a person you love.
It’s no wonder that despite logic telling us to make one decision, we avoid letting go to try to stave off the pain that comes with loss.
The benefits of letting go
At this point in the article you might be saying, “So why in the world would I want to let someone go?”
It’s appealing to avoid all the potential pain and negative emotions that can come right after a loss. But the long-term benefits definitely outweigh the initial blunt impact.
Research indicates that unhealthy relationships have the potential to reduce the effectiveness of your immune system. This means that your unhealthy relationship could literally decrease your lifespan and increase your risk of developing a disease.
Not only does your physical health improve after letting go, but you also lower your risk for depression. A study in 2009 found that problematic interpersonal relationships in the work environment significantly increased the odds that the person would develop depression.
I don’t know about you, but I like it when my immune system does its job well and I certainly don’t fancy depression. When I’m tempted to hold on to someone I shouldn’t, I have to remind myself against my own better judgment that I will be happier down the road after wading my way through the initial suffering of the loss.
5 ways to let someone go
It’s time to grab your shears because we’re going to explore five ways you can cut ties with the relationships that no longer serve you and your potential.
1. Be clear about why you’re letting them go
Sometimes when we’re struggling to let someone go, it’s because we haven’t taken the time to clearly establish why we’re letting them go.
You can’t just give vague reasons like, “I know what my boyfriend and I have isn’t healthy.” You have to pinpoint exactly why it is that you need to let them go, so you have enough willpower to actually do it.
Towards the end of my 4-year relationship with a boyfriend, I absolutely knew that it was time to end things. But I tiptoed my way around breaking up for six months until my friend sat me down and forced me to say out loud all of the things that were not quite right with the relationship.
Saying it out loud and defining what was wrong made me finally take the plunge to end things. And after the heartbreak settled, I felt like a million-ton weight had been lifted off my chest and I could finally breathe again.
2. Distance yourself
This can be so stinking hard if you’re super close to the person.
And yes, this includes distancing yourself from them on social media. Because we all know that you won’t be able to resist the urge to creepily stalk your ex on Instagram for months on end if you don’t press that unfollow button.
If you don’t put physical and social distance between you and the person, you are bound to end up connecting again. And if you’ve made the decision that this person is not worth holding on to, you need to stick to your guns.
And it’s true what they say. Out of sight, out of mind. When you distance yourself, you make it easier to avoid falling back into old relationship habits and traps.
3. Let yourself feel your feelings
Of all the tips in this article, this is the one I personally struggle with the most.
I am the queen of distracting myself to avoid “feeling my feelings”. But when you let go of someone, you are in a sense experiencing a trauma.
And if you don’t allow yourself to feel the grief that accompanies trauma, you are bound to bottle it up deep down and this can affect your healthy relationships.
I remember one time after I cut ties with a good friend I tried to just stay busy and move on with my life. But because I never took the time to process my emotions, my close relationships started to notice I was distant when we would hang out.
Deep down, I was afraid that I would have to let go of them, too. And because I didn’t allow myself to process my emotions after the loss of that friend, it subconsciously affected how I was viewing my other relationships.
So take the time to get all up in your “feelers”. I really mean it. And if that means drowning in a pint of ice cream and cuddling your dog for a month straight, I won’t judge you.
4. Dig deeper into your healthy relationships
After you let someone go, it can be easy to forget that you still have so many incredible interpersonal relationships in your life.
And now that you’ve freed up some energy, it’s a great time to dive deep into your healthy connections.
I’ve always found that after the loss of a relationship, I grow closer to my loved ones. My relationship with my mother didn’t truly blossom until I went through a nasty breakup.
Through her support during that rough time, I came to know her on a deeper level and learned how her past experiences shaped who she is today.
There are always going to be people in this world who want to engage in meaningful relationships with you. Don’t let the loss of one bad seed blind you to all the good that surrounds you.
5. Focus on self-care
After losing someone you care about, it’s important to take time to invest in taking care of yourself.
The energy and time you devoted to that relationship can take a toll on your mental and physical well-being.
In order to give yourself the fresh start you deserve, you need to make sure your needs are met. The following are some of my tried-and-true forms of self-care that I rely on after the loss of a close relationship:
- Hot bubble bath with a glass of wine.
- Making sure I get 8 or more solid hours of sleep.
- Booking a vacation that I’ve been putting off.
- Making sure I get at least 20 minutes of sunlight daily.
- Watching cheesy movies to cheer myself up.
- Moving my body in whatever way feels good to me that day.
It really doesn’t matter what your self-care looks like. It’s just important that you put it into action after letting someone go so you can effectively heal and move on.
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There is no easy way to let someone go. If I could wave a magic wand to make the pain go away, I would. But if you follow the steps in this article, you can cut ties in a way that allows you to experience new freedom and sustainable joy in life. And when you finally let that person go, you can hold on tight to the people and experiences in life that matter most.
What do you think? Have you ever had to let someone go and found it extremely difficult? I'd love to hear from your experiences in the comments below.